The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Social Media: Legal Issues

Reference Number: MTAS-1609
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: June 03, 2016

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Inaccuracies and Context
Employers should exercise caution when looking for information about a person online. Some of what is posted online is not controlled by the applicant or the employee. Additionally, there is always the possibility you are not looking at the correct person’s profile or that someone is impersonating an individual. A joke or comment posted on someone’s profile by a “friend” in bad taste may not accurately reflect the character of your candidate or employee. A remark taken out of context may appear much more severe than its intent. Most users protect themselves by setting their privacy settings so that their profile is not open to the public. While privacy settings are meant to protect a user’s personal information, the settings do not protect applicants and employees against fraud, impersonation, harassment, photo tagging, and photo editing. Employers must develop social media hiring policies that outline exactly how social media will be used in the hiring process. This information should be provided to candidates upfront and before an application is submitted. Again, employers should use a trained human resources professional to screen candidates based on social media policy. Only job related information should be forwarded to the hiring manager.

The following topics in this section include more details regarding social media legal issues.

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