Many companies are joining various social media sites, but how many sites’ user agreements conflict with companies’ policies and requirements?

It may be simpler for a government agency to join a social media site than a corporation, thanks to the U.S. General Services Administration (“GSA”).  The GSA, representing federal government agencies, has negotiated amendments to the user agreements with Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and a number of other social media sites.  Those 62 amendments contain many terms that would likely be of interest to your company:

Among the changes that GSA has negotiated with social media sites are:

  • Record retention. Not only can social media posts constitute “federal records,” under the GSA’s amendments the social media sites can also be required to cause those “federal records” to meet the standards and formatting requirements of the National Archives.  The Pinterest amendment places the obligation to manage the federal records on the agency.
  • Ownership.  The Army has decided to avoid copyright issues on Pinterest by pinning only content that is public information or is fair use. The GSA amendment for Google+ states that Google can modify, adapt or remove Agency content only for “technical actions necessary to index, format and display that content.”
  • Ownership of user names. Federal agencies avoid potential consumer confusion issues by owning their user names.  Under the GSA amendments, both Google+ and Pinterest modified their terms “to reasonably accommodate Agency’s proprietary, practical, and/or operational interest in its own publicly-recognized name and the names of Agency programs.”
  • Indemnification. Under the GSA amendments, the indemnification provisions of social media terms are typically waived and instead the agency is liable only pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.  That result occurred with Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

Which social networks does your company currently have a presence on, or is it considering? How do the terms and conditions mesh with your company’s policies and requirements? Can you do anything about it? Even if you are not in a position to negotiate an amendment with a social media network, you may still be interested in seeing the terms the federal government has negotiated.


Sue Ross ( / +1 212 318 3280) is a lawyer in Norton Rose Fulbright’s US intellectual property practice.