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January 5, 2011 / Brett Cohrs

Building an Online Community? Beware the Snark!

Web 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 and Social Media and Blogging and Chatrooms and Bulletin Boards and Online Communities.  There are so many ways a nonprofit can engage and grow their supporter and client base through online engagement.

But you know how people participate, right? They’re having work, eating a  sandwic, multi-tasking, stewing over a bad morning, reading some opinion that they disagree with, and then shoot off their own fiery retort.  The  Snark War then begins.  What if the sniping becomes libelous or slanderous?

Or what if someone from your organization posts false data in a chatroom or on a bulletin board that could potentially damage another individual or organization?

As an insurance man, I must tell you that you might not have coverage.

From the standard ISO CG 0011207 Commercial General Liability insurance policy:
2. Exclusions

This insurance does not apply to:

k. Electronic Chatrooms Or Bulletin Boards

“Personal and advertising injury” arising out of an electronic chatroom or bulletin board the insured hosts, owns, or over which the insured exercises control.

If you only have a General Liability, Professional Liability, and Sexual Abuse Liability policy, you are probably uncovered should some online libel, slander, or other personal injury lawsuit arises from the bulletin board or chatroom.

The beautiful thing (yes, beautiful) about insurance is that there is often another policy that will provide a pot of money. You just have to find it.  Three possibilities in this case:

  • Directors and Officers Liability: If you have a Nonprofit D&O policy, review it. Check to see if they include personal and advertising injury or extend coverage to online activities.
  • Cyberliability: This a relatively new insurance product (or one of those gaining traction). It can address anything from these personal and advertising liability issues to data breach (how many of our nonprofits carry medical or other confidential client information?) to inadvertent introduction of computer virus.
  • Specialized Endorsement Packages: Companies increasingly add back coverages to their base policies by endorsement (a fancy insurance term for ‘changing’). An insurance company might include a long list of additional coverages that are either included for no cost or added for a nominal fee. Check the list (they are ever-changing). You might find some coverage there.


Question: Do you have questions about any off-beat claim scenarios that we can include in a future post? Any particular covered/not covered curiosity?


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