- Should we respond to false rumors posted on Internet message boards?
- Should we monitor chat rooms to see what is being posted about our company?
- Can we prohibit employees from posting messages on the Internet?
- Is it possible to identify people who anonymously post false or confidential information about our company?
[email protected]Jonathan Wolfman
[email protected]1 The day of the bogus announcement, both PairGain and ECI Telecom issued statements denying any such deal. Bloomberg News also put out a news story late the same morning saying that it had run no such article on its newswire.2 Adherence to this policy requires that the company respond to such inquiries or rumors with a statement to the effect that it is the company’s policy not to comment upon or respond to such inquiry or rumor. A statement that the company does not know of any basis for such a rumor, or is not aware of any pending transaction, is not consistent with this policy and, if inaccurate, such a false statement could subject the company to liability.3 For example, posters to the Franklin Resources mutual-fund Yahoo! message board were recently surprised to learn that a frequent poster (and ardent defender of the fund) actually turned out to be the son of the fund’s CEO. It appears that the son, who posted messages like: “[a]ttacking men like Charlie Johnson [the fund’s CEO] just makes you look stupid and uneducated,” was motivated by family loyalty and posted in response to recent “flames” against his father.4 Whether this policy could be enforced in all circumstances is another matter. Although a company could enforce a prohibition on posting with respect to confidential business or proprietary information, a company could not, for example, enforce it against employees who use the board as a means for organizing a labor union.
5 The investigator may also use “tracing” software that will display the electronic path used to access the site. This can usually identify the city in which the poster resides, and perhaps, even the company from which he/she is posting.6 America Online, as a matter of policy, notifies its users upon receiving a subpoena for identifying information, and will not act on the subpoena for 14 days. During that time, the user may attempt to quash the subpoena.