New Rules of the Game: Watch What You Tweet

From pro sports to business, employers crack down on Twitter over sharing.

ByABC News
August 31, 2009, 6:18 PM

Sept. 1, 2009— -- Twitter users are often accused of providing too much information, but increasingly such over sharing could land tweeters in trouble with their bosses and the law.

The United States Tennis Association is the latest organization to ban its members from sending short digital messages using Twitter, warning players that tweeting about themselves, their injury status even court conditions could violate the game's anti-gambling rules.

Players – their coaches, agents and family members – attending the just kicked-off U.S. Open in Queens, New York, were reminded of the rules by signs posted in the players' lounge and locker rooms that read: "Important. Player Notice. Twitter Warning."

The signs say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches, but also caution players and their entourages that sending "certain sensitive information concerning your match or other matches and/or players should be avoided. Depending on the information sent out this could be determined as the passing of 'inside information.'"

Professional tennis is not the only organization – nor even the only pro sports league – with stiff rules about employees' use of social networks and Twitter in particular. Many businesses and the U.S. military have social media policies in place to limit sensitive or proprietary information for being released.

Keeping inside information from getting out, whether in sports or in business, is nothing new, but the popularity of Twitter and its ability to easily broadcast information to large groups of people makes it a dangerous tool to organizations that are trying to protect proprietary information, said Eric B. Meyer, a Philadelphia-based employment lawyer who specializes in corporate social media policies.

"Social networking differs from the phone, e-mail and face-to-face contact because it's viral. Information can spread to a huge group of people incredibly quickly. Once that post is out there is no controlling what happens," said Meyer.