Obligations of directors of professional bodies in the age of social media
Did you know that members of the board of directors (“BOD”) of a professional body (also referred to as a “professional order” in Quebec) are required to demonstrate objectivity, moderation, courtesy and solidarity?1 How do these duties play out in the social media age?
The world of media and communications has changed dramatically in recent years. Directors and organizations now operate in “real time” in a fast-paced communications environment. On social media, everyone has a voice: customers, employees, professionals and organizations are speaking up and being heard.
BOD members should be aware of the consequences of their opinions when posting on social media or any public forum. Their comments could be mistakenly associated with the position of the professional body, or constitute a breach of their obligation to act with objectivity, moderation and solidarity. These risks remain even if a director identifies him or herself as the author and solely responsible for his or her words.
Members of a professional body’s BOD should be aware of the advantages, disadvantages and risks associated with the use of social media. All new directors should make a list of the blogs and other platforms on which they publish content. Social media policies adopted by professional bodies should be broad enough to cover directors.
Directors would also benefit from being reminded of their responsibilities regarding ethics and professional conduct more extensively than just by signing an undertaking to comply with them.
Finally, while communications on social media may sometimes be considered private, directors should keep in mind that they could be widely circulated and become public. Moderation, caution and discretion are called for.
1 Articles. 4, 10, 11 and 19 of the Regulation respecting the standards of ethics and professional conduct of directors on the board of directors of a professional order. C-26, r. 6.1 – Regulation respecting the standards of ethics and professional conduct of directors on the board of directors of a professional order (gouv.qc.ca)