Can you wipe your twitter ramblings, and should you?


In December of 2011, the Library of Congress and Twitter signed an agreement that will eventually make available every public Tweet ever sent as an archive to the Library of Congress.


While writing a blog post last week, I began  to wonder how long all my twitter postings would
be available and who could look at them. For the fun of it, I went back through approximately 6 months of my old twitter postings, re-tweets and replies (yes you can do it, it’s relatively easy and you can look at anyone’s).

I’ve been pretty good about keeping my twitter posts “business-like” and have steered away from personal stuff like “I just checked in to the Ramada Inn on route 11…can’t wait for the evening to begin!”, or “does anyone know how to setup an off-shore bank account?” or “those jerks over at Company ABC are a bunch of losers”.  But many tweeters aren’t so disciplined and have posted stuff that could come back to haunt them later. I could imagine a perspective employer reviewing a candidate’s twitter history or even worse an attorney conducting research for a case using the public twitter archives to create a timeline.

With that in mind, could you delete your twitter postings and should you? Twitter does allow you to delete specific tweets one at a time but as far as I can determine, Twitter does not give you the ability to delete your entire twitter history short of deactivating your account. From the Twitter website:

How To Delete a Tweet

If you’ve posted something that you’d rather take back, you can remove it easily. When you hover over your Tweet while viewing your home or profile page, you’ll see a few options appear below the message.

To delete one of your Twitter updates:

  1. 1.       Log in to Twitter.com
  2. 2.       Visit your Profile page
  3. 3.       Locate the Tweet you want to delete
  4. 4.       Hover your mouse over the message (as shown below), and click the “Delete” option that appears

Voila! Gone forever… almost. Deleted updates sometimes hang out in Twitter search. They will clear with time.

We do not provide a way to bulk delete Tweets. If you’re looking to get a “fresh start” on your Twitter account without losing your username, the best way to do this is to create a temporary account with a temporary username, and then switch the username between your current account and the temporary account. Please see our article on How to Change Your Username for more info. 

On December 30, 2011, CNET published a story titled “How to delete all your tweets” which highlighted a product called TwitWipe. TwitWipe is a free tool that allows you to delete ALL your past tweets in one fell swoop. This may be handy because you can clean out your twitter account and start fresh without changing your username and dumping all your hard won followers.

This is an interesting capability but I think the more important question is why would you use this drastic of a step? The four most obvious reasons one would want to delete all their twitter postings and start fresh would be:

1.       You went through an unfortunate period in your life that you would rather forget

2.       You were regularly conducting criminal activities through your Twitter account

3.       You are considering a run for the presidency

4.       For whatever reason, you don’t want your twitter postings archived and available at the Library of Congress

The ability to delete ESI can be dangerous if done at the wrong time, especially if civil litigation is anticipated. Deleting a single tweet or every tweet you have ever posted can be construed as destruction of evidence if those tweets could have been relevant in litigation. ESI, no matter its format or where it’s stored, is potentially evidence  and should be at least considered when protecting ESI for litigation hold. Attorneys on both sides need to include social media content like twitter postings in their eDiscovery plans and be sure to warn all custodians about deleting/editing  social media content once litigation is anticipated.

Advertisements

Companies Need a Social Media Policy


Reuters had an interesting article on social media policies on June 28 at:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLNE65R01920100628

The article pointed out that trying to stop employees from participating in the social media revolution is near impossible and is not the right strategy in any case. The article advocated giving employees some ground rules (via written policy) about what can be written and to always use a “professional” conduct.

In a perfect world…I would agree, but this assumes employees will follow your “general” policies.

The corporate brand is one of the most valuable assets the company owns with years of investment of money, time and goodwill. To simply give that over to any employee could be disastrous.  Let’s look at the problem from the lawyer’s point of view. Your attorney needs to protect the company from possible litigation and costly eDiscovery requirements wherever possible. Corporate social media needs to be managed just like any other marketing program.

All the social media venues I am aware of in one way or another record and displays thoughts, pictures, links etc for some period of time, sometimes forever. The fact to keep in mind is that if you put it in writing, it’s permanent and is out of your direct control from then on. Now, the first question you need to address is “is social media content discoverable (in the legal sense)? Depending on the case and relevancy of the content, the answer is of course! So do you want any employee “speaking” for the company? If your policy is you allow any employee to use corporate social media accounts or allow those employees to refer to the company in any way, then they could be seen as representing the company. Most successful companies I have worked for in the past have very specific rules around for example speaking to the media without prior approval or training. Why would an organization diverge from that strategy?

I know you can’t control what employees do away from work but companies do have a right to control their brand and that includes how they are represented on social media sites. For that reason, every organization should develop, implement and enforce a corporate-wide social media policy for all employees (because if you don’t enforce it, then do you really have a policy?).

Aspects of a corporate social media policy should include:

  1. A policy author with contact information in case employees have questions
  2. An effective date
  3. A definition of what social media is
  4. A description as to why this policy is being developed (for legal defense, brand protection etc)
  5. A description of  what social media sites the company officially participates in
  6. A listing of those employees approved to participate on those sites
    1. The fact that any and all approved social media participations will be done only from corporate infrastructure (this is to protect approved employees from discovery of their personal computers)
    2. A description of topics approved to be used
    3. A description of those topics not approved to be used
    4. A description of any approval authority process
    5. A description of what will happen to the employee if they don’t follow the approved process
  7. A direct statement that unapproved employees that mention the company, company business, other employees, company customers etc. in any social media venue will be punished in the following manner…
  8. A description of how these policies will be audited and enforced

Once the policy is developed, it needs to be communicated to all employees on a regular basis and updated by legal representative on an annual basis.

A side point is, for legal reasons, you should be archiving all approved social media participations much like many companies now archive their email and instant message content.

This type of policy will seem rather draconian to most employees but in reality the organization needs to protect the brand and always have a proactive strategy to potential litigation.

Manual Litigation Holds are Risky


In the case Pinstripe, Inc. v. Manpower, Inc., 2009 WL 2252131 (N.D. Okla. July 29, 2009), the defendant ran afoul of the litigation hold requirement by relying on a manual form of placing litigation holds, e.g. send litigation hold notices out to affected custodians.

The risk in this process is that 1. you have to send the notice out to all potentially affected custodians and 2. you have to be sure they read and understand the notice.

Many companies lose litigation before it really starts because they can’t effectively stop deletions of potentially responsive ESI.

The only way to insure you can stop ESI deletions when the litigation hold requirement is triggered is to take the management of ESI away from the individual custodians and centrally control it via an archive that captures and secures everything for some period of time.

With this strategy, the ESI can be managed and secured centrally which also allows for instantaneous placement of litigations holds on all potentially responsive ESI.

The key here is to use an ESI archiving system that captures a full ESI data set meaning for example not just email messages but also their attachments, calendar entries, task lists, contacts and attributes.

Also, for those of you that have SharePoint systems, be aware that SharePoint manages many more data type than just a record or document. Make sure you can capture and hold anything the eDiscovery request could ask for in a given ESI system.