Social media, the law and bacon all came together last Friday morning as Thomson Reuters played host to more than 120 social media aficionados and members of Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/St. Paul (SMBMSP).

This forum of bloggers from private and public sectors gather monthly to dish on topics over breakfast (always including bacon), and then settle in for a moderated panel discussion. This month the topic was Social Media and the Law.

It’s a complicated topic.

Guided by moderator Albert Maruggi, the panel included:

– Anna Berend, attorney, professional writer and author of the blog Motherly Law

– Teresa Thompson, an employment litigator/advisor and human resources social media advisor at Fredrikson & Byron

– James Quinn, an intellectual property attorney with expertise in trademark law, copyright and trade secrets from Larkin Hoffman

– Professor Jon Garon from Hamline University School of Law

Topics including how social media and employment law mix (or do they?), privacy and questions about liability for others’ harmful comments posted on your blog were covered.

When it comes to defamation, Quinn’s view was that traditional laws are good and apply to social media today.

“The beauty is you can defame someone faster now to a bigger audience in two minutes,” he said. “The mob mentality of tweeting and blogging as free speech is misguided.”

Garon agreed, but went on to explain that the real challenge in prosecuting a defamation case, today as in the past, is proving that actual harm has been done.

Moving on to major social media gaffes, moderator Maruggi cited the Detroit PR agency fired by Chrysler because an agency employee threw the f-bomb out on a tweet about Detroit drivers.

Berend also recalled a recent Red Cross tweeting issue, where an employee inadvertently tweeted about alcohol consumption on the Red Cross twitter account.

This time, though, a well-crafted mea culpa won the day: The Red Cross employee was not punished for the mistake and the named beer company helped drive more donations to the Red Cross.

Nearing the event’s end, moderator Maruggi asked the audience if the discussion might engender fear among bloggers or tweeters, or at least give them pause before hitting ‘send.’

But one attendee aptly summed up the feeling of the room by stating, “there is a difference between being prudent, and being scared.”

Check out or hash tag #smbmsp to re-cap the conversation of last week’s Social Media and the Law event.


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