Last week, LinkedIn released a preview of its new Terms of Service which will go into effect in May. As I read through the new terms, it got me thinking about the experiences I’ve had on LinkedIn and how they relate to LinkedIn’s new TOS — and of course about how these terms will affect my readers.
LinkedIn Messaging Violations Abound
Just yesterday, the following invitation request came into my LinkedIn account from the CEO of LawMatch.com:
Hi Brenda. As a member of legal industry I’d like to add you to my LinkedIN network. I’m the CEO of LawMatch where we make it a priority to support law firms and legal employers like you. I look forward to networking with you on LinkedIN.
In case it wasn’t clear, I am neither a law firm nor a legal employer, so whatever or whomever sent me that message (I’m assuming it was not really a personal message from the CEO) missed the mark big time.
Here’s another message, received from someone named Christopher Moore, “Manager at Machinery Trader”:
Thanks for connecting with me here on LinkedIn. I must comment that you are a very pretty woman…You’ve got this cute smile that can melt an iceberg.Hope you don’t mind my comment ? How is the weather in your city?
I’m not sure which one of these messages made me angrier. The first one appears to be generated by a bot, and, well, the second one speaks for itself.
At least both Sallie and Chris had the decency to write to me on LinkedIn where I am protected to some extent by LinkedIn’s Terms of Service. I can block and report both of them. In contrast, I have been completely unprotected when, on at least two occasions, I received messages similar to Chris’s directly in my regular e-mail inbox. These letters came from men explicitly claiming to have gotten my information from LinkedIn, but LinkedIn said they had no power over the users because the messages were sent outside of LinkedIn.
How LinkedIn’s New TOS Protects Against Unwanted Messages
I believe LawMatch’s message was spam generated by a bot, so I was able to report it. And I discovered as I was blocking Chris that LinkedIn has a new option allowing me to state that the message “makes me uncomfortable, threatened or harassed.”
Thankfully, LinkedIn’s Terms of Service say that both of the above messages violate LinkedIn’s policies. If indeed a bot was used on the first one, it violates the following rule in the Do’s and Don’ts:
DON’T: Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages.
The second “romantic” message violates several other agreements:
DO: Use the Services in a professional manner.
DON’T: Harass, abuse or harm another person;
DON’T: Act in an unlawful or unprofessional manner in connection with our Services…
Interestingly, LinkedIn does not make specific reference to the inappropriate use of LinkedIn as a way to harass women or solicit romantic connections. I hope they add something about it in their Professional Community Guidelines. I’m going to request that.
Both messages also violate the following current preclusions:
DON’T: Invite people you do not know to join your network.
DON’T: Use LinkedIn invitations to send messages to people who don’t know you or who are unlikely to recognize you as a known contact.
We all know how well those rules are going (pretty much everyone violates them as a network building method), and you will be happy to see that the violation has been taken off the don’ts list in the upcoming May 2018 revision of LinkedIn’s Terms of Service.
Also taken off the list of don’ts:
DON’T: Use or attempt to use another’s account.
If I’m reading it correctly, this means my assistant can log in to my account without fear that the account will be summarily closed.
There are some things you just can’t control, even if you’re LinkedIn. I’m happy they have acknowledged that people are going to invite and communicate with people they don’t know, and that people with businesses are going to get support to manage their profiles. Sadly, while LinkedIn might be able to stop the bots, they can’t prevent wayward users from abusing the privilege of access to LinkedIn’s huge professional network. I’m grateful for those blocking and reporting options, and believe me, I will continue to use them!
How about you? Have you experienced LinkedIn violations and how have you handled them? What do you think of LinkedIn’s new Terms of Service?
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