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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Who’s afraid of social media?

Scott Jagow Aug 18, 2009

The NFL, the Southeastern football conference, ESPN, the Marines, J. Crew. The list of companies and organizations that are banning or trying to restrict the use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is growing.

The latest hullabaloo involves SEC football. The SEC said it was banning ticket-bearing fans from sharing information about live games. The policy’s language says a lot about the difficulty of the goal here:

“No Bearer may produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event, other than in speech that cannot be restricted under the First Amendment, in any form.”

I have no idea what that means, but I’m fairly confident the Supreme Court will uphold my right to tweet “He’s at the 10. He’s at the 5. Touchdown!” if I so chose.

The SEC is mainly worried about fans uploading videos, but the policy went way beyond that, and it sparked a lot of anger. The SEC got the message and is said to be tweeting (I mean tweaking) the language. From today’s Charlotte Observer:

“I know what’s being written,” said conference spokesman Charles Bloom. “The thought process is to get it loosened up a bit.” Bloom expects a revision to be finished in a day or two.

The SEC is trying to protect its $3billion, 15-year contract with CBS and ESPN, which have video rights to its sporting events. A restriction on fans posting videos is “tougher to move,” Bloom said. “The main concern is videos.”

So, can fans post photos to Twitter and Facebook from the games? That remains to be seen, Bloom said. He indicated that fans would probably be able to tweet from the stands. But he confirmed that, under the current policy, that is forbidden.

On the pro level, the NFL doesn’t have a social media policy, but it’s working on one. At least two teams, the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, have banned Twitter. From the New York Times:

Football coaches are a password-protected lot, preferring to dispense so little information that most days, they would struggle to fill 140 characters. They worry that the casual nature of Twitter could inspire the budding bloggers in their locker rooms to inadvertently disclose more than they should about injuries, game plans and what is said behind closed doors.

ESPN has a new policy too, and it’s designed to control the message. From CNET:

In the memo, ESPN tells employees that it is “currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously” on ESPN Web sites and mobile platforms, and it plans to roll out the modules this fall.

“Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted,” according to the memo. But, it says, “If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms(.)”

Of course, this issue goes beyond sports. Here’s J. Crew’s policy on social media:

Do not engage in blogging using any company resources.

Refrain from referencing J.Crew in any personal blogging.

Do not represent yourself as a spokesperson for the company, intentionally or unintentionally. Identifying yourself as an associate has the ability to confer “insider” status to your thoughts and opinions.

Information gained from work activities or company communications is confidential, and should be treated accordingly.

Do not defame or otherwise discredit the company, its products, services, associates, customers, and vendors.

Do not use the company’s logos, trademarks, proprietary graphics or photographs.

Guess how I got a hold of this? It was leaked by an employee to a blogger.

What do you think about these policies?

Uh, unless telling me might get you fired.

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