Thursday, 16 August 2012

Do you need a disclaimer for your institutional social media accounts?

These drugs are not real
Flickr CC image from Marcin Wichary

Day 4 of Twitter Week on the Toolkit blog: disclaimers.

Many library Twitter accounts tweet third-party content - in other words, they ReTweet other people or post links to things, which aren't actually library resources. This is all part of being a good Twitter account, and should definitely be encouraged - but do you need a disclaimer? In a worst-case scenario a patron or student could follow a link you Tweeted, then act on some advice contained therein, suffer some unfavourable consequences, and then claim they thought the library was responsible.

There are three main issues here - firstly do you need a disclaimer and secondly if you do, where do you put it? Thirdly, what should it say?

Here's my own disclaimer about this post: it's just my opinions here, and I'm certainly no legal expert. I'm approaching this from the point of view of someone with an interest in social media, rather than someone with an interest in the law... The information provided in this article should not be used as a subtitute for competent professional advice from a professional liability risk management consultant or a legal professional.


Who should have a disclaimer?

Every library has to make its own decision here but my instinct would be that most normal public or academic libraries don't need a disclaimer - we can trust our patrons to be sensible. That said, a disclaimer won't hurt - unless it's taking up valuable space in your profile. For more specialised libraries, particularly in the Health or Pharma field, a disclaimer would definitely be worth having. If it's something you're worried about, check out what your competitors or peers are doing.

Of course, if the wider organisation in which your library sits (University, council, govt, business etc) requires a disclaimer, this trumps whatever views you may have on the subject.

Where should it go?

So if you decide you need one, it can't really go on, for example, your Twitter profile itself. The 160 characters you get for your bio is too valuable to give over to disclaimers. So it needs to go on your website somewhere, ideally on the site linked to from the Twitter profile - or from a site linked to from the site linked to in the Twitter profile... Something on your homepage which says 'Find out more about our social media' and then goes to a page telling people where they can read your blogs, see your tweets, participate in your Pinterest boards etc - that's the ideal place to put the disclaimer in.

What should it say?


The point of a disclaimer in this context is to make it absolutely clear that your linking to content that isn't your own, and that said content isn't necessarily representative of the library's view on things. This shouldn't be too complicated to express. So something like:

The library's twitter account may broadcast third-party content, which is to say information, opinions and links which are not the library's own.  These are provided for information only, and do not constitute library advice, policy or views.
That said, if you wanted to really go to town, a more comprehensive disclaimer might read:

All data and information provided on the library's social media platforms [list them here] is for informational purposes only. The library makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. 

If you have any disclaimer related advice or tales you'd like to share, please leave them in a comment below. 

1 comment:

  1. This sure is an essential thing upon devising a disclaimer page on a product. I think several ideas coming from an assistant or a friend will of big help upon creating this kind of notion and account online, especially on social media where we usually see this kind of note.