May 18, 2009
Potential Catch-22: New NAR Code of Ethics rules on false or misleading statements in social media for both Realtors and associations
18 May 2009
Posted by VAR
If you’re a Realtor blogger, you definitely need to be aware of this new rule.
At their Midyear meetings last week, the NAR Board of Directors approved amendments to the Code of Ethics affecting Realtors who participate in social media. Here’s an excerpt from a NAR newsletter distributed to Realtor association executives this morning:
Standard of Practice 15-2 was amended and a new Standard of Practice was approved to strengthen members’ obligations to refrain from making false or misleading statements about competitors, including in use of social media tools.
The new amendment includes the duty to publish a clarification about, or to remove statements made by, others on electronic media the REALTOR® controls once the REALTOR® knows the statement is false or misleading. For example, if you’re publishing a blog and someone posts a false or misleading comment about a fellow REALTOR® on it, it’s your duty to remove the post or publish a clarification when you become aware of it.
Separately, the board approved a change to the NAR Bylaws, imposing the same duties on associations and MLSs as on members to not make false or misleading statements against competitors, competitors’ business practices, or competitors’ companies.
(The actual amendments to 15-2 have not been made public on Realtor.org yet. If anyone has a copy, please contact me.)
UPDATE: I have been provided a copy of the updated/new sections:
15-2 The obligation to refrain from making false or misleading statements about competitors, competitors’ businesses and competitors’ business practices includes the duty to not knowingly or recklessly publish, repeat, retransmit, or republish false or misleading statements made by others. This duty applies whether false or misleading statements are repeated in person, in writing, by technological means (e.g., the Internet), or by any other means.
(Presumably 15-3) The obligation to refrain from making false or misleading statements about competitors, competitors’ businesses and competitors’ business practices includes the duty to publish a clarification about or to remove statements made by others on electronic media the REALTOR® controls once the REALTOR® knows the statement is false or misleading
Put simply: Once you become aware of comments posted to your blog about a competitor that are either false or misleading, Realtors (and their associations) have a duty to either remove the comment or post a clarification.
Here’s the potential Catch-22
And here’s the obligatory “I’m not a lawyer” disclaimer.
Deleting or editing comments posted to your blog could potentially open you up to legal action. You might be aware of Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code. This section of the Code gives Internet publishers certain protections against legal claims arising from content written by third parties (i.e. commenters).
As I understand it from this article on the Section 230 from the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the more Internet publishers take an active role in editing or publishing content posted by third parties, the more likely they are to open themselves up to legal liability.
The good news is, under these guidelines, you have a choice to remove or clarify false or misleading posts. I know what I will do.
Realtor bloggers: How will you comply with this new rule?