Listserv, Forum, and Social Media Policy Checklist

Legal issues arising out of the use of listservs, online forums and social media sites can be addressed to properly manage the associated risks. This checklist covers the terms an organization should include in a social media policies.


  • The policies are in writing and appear prominently on the site, preferably located in the forum or social media site, or distributed by email to the listserv users upon subscription.
  • The policies make it clear that access to and use of the listservs or forums is specifically conditioned upon acceptance of and adherence to the policies.
  • The policies specify that violations could result in loss of access to the forums and listservs, or even termination of membership. (Check the association’s governing documents on membership termination.)
  • The policies state that the forums and listservs are provided on an “as-is” basis and may be temporarily unavailable or discontinued at any time.
  • The policies allow for the association to modify from time to time.
  • The policies provide contact information for questions and comments.
  • Content Rules – Intellectual Property and Antitrust
  • The policies reiterate the user-submitted intellectual property clauses in the TOS:
  • Content posted must be from the copyright owner, fair use, or the submitter has obtained all licenses and permissions in the content which allow for it to be posted and relicensed to the association and the other users of the listserv or forum.
  • The poster licenses the content to the association and to all other members in the listserv or forum. (See TOS checklist.)
  • The poster assumes all liability for the post, including liability for defamation and intellectual property infringement.
  • The association reserves the right to edit or delete posts, but does not create the duty to police forums.
  • Provides takedown opportunity for objectionable material. The takedowns are for objectionable material, and notice of infringement by a potential copyright owner.
  • No names, logos, or other trademarks be used in a manner that is likely to cause confusion regarding affiliation with that trademark owner.
  • The policies remind the poster that he or she may have confidential information that may be covered by a nondisclosure agreement or other duty to protect.
  • The poster assumes all liability for breach of employment agreements, NDAs, and disclosed trade secrets.
  • The Antitrust Policy is incorporated. The posters should view participation in the forums or listservs just as a physical meetings for antitrust compliance purposes.

Additional Content Rules

  • Rules create a positive environment for discussion.
  • No defamation, personal attacks/threats, or inappropriate comments about other participants.
  • No revelation of private information without permission.
  • No obscene, sexually explicit, or illegal content. No profanity.
  • No advertisements (if desired).
  • No pictures of children without parental permission. (May allow pictures of adults to be posted without consent as long as there is a takedown procedure for objections.)
  • Posts must be on-topic and intended for the group, not a response to a particular person.
  • No “hacking,” intentional distribution of spam or viruses, or abuse of the forums or listservs.
  • No impersonation or false claims of affiliation with any organization or person.

Special Rules of Listserv Etiquette

  • Special rules for improving communication
  • Each message needs a signature.
  • Post only to the listserv which best fits the subject matter of the post.
  • Label posts clearly in the subject line.
  • Only quote the portion of a previous message required in the response. Delete header material that is unnecessary.
  • Use common sense.

Special Social Media Issues

  • Users are reminded that it is a third-party site and governed by the social media site’s terms of service and privacy policy.
  • Disclaim responsibility for actions of the social media site.
  • Policy is posted inside social media site if possible; distribution by email if rules are not clearly visible in the social media site.
  • Access to social media forums conditioned on acceptance of rules.
  • Control access to the social media forum; noncompliant users will be removed. Other actions that the association takes if the policy is violated.
  • Right to modify the policy

Rob Sumner is a consultant and attorney with Sumner & Associates, P.C. in Atlanta. For more guidance on creating or updating web terms of service, privacy, and social media policies, contact Rob at rsumner@sumnerfirm.com.

Submit Comment