The New Age of Social Media and Blogging – An Ethics Minefield?

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Activerain, RealTown, Trulia Voices, etc. provide a myriad of ways to connect consumers and colleagues alike with real estate info.  Blogs have proliferated in the last few years, people are writing them reading them and commenting all over the internet.  These formats allows for a free and open exchange of info, sometimes a little too free and open as commenter’s/authors occasionally forget that we, as Realtors, have numerous regulations and a Code of Ethics to abide by that covers all forms of communication, including “electronic” communication.  Read this excerpt from the 2010 National Associations of Realtors Code of Ethics:

Article 15

REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about competitors, their businesses, or their business practices.


Standard of Practice 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. (Adopted 1/07, Amended 1/10)


Standard of Practice 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. (Adopted 1/10)

Go back and read it again.  Take note that not only is it an ethical violation for Realtors to post false or misleading comments online, but  according to Standard of Practice 15-3 we have an affirmative obligation to REMOVE or REFUTE false or misleading statements made by others. 

I imagine that the intent is not to have Realtors policing the internet, but to have them be mindful of the online media they have control over.  While most would agree that it’s never a good business practice to attack people or make rude comments about other Realtors, by reading a few blogs out there in the wide world of the internet you will see plenty of folks doing just that. 

I personally think that one of the reasons why this happens is because Realtors social media and blogging platforms blur the lines between professional and personal lives so much that the lines simply no longer exist.  What you would say verbally, in a moment of frustration, venting your anger or in a heated disagreement with someone, all disappears once the conversation is over.  Online though, all those typed comments live on, for all to see, indexed and searchable, maybe even popping up when someone puts a completely unrelated search term into a search engine, they are forever linked to you.

Next time you have an inclination to comment in a thread where you agree with something a blogger/commenter says that is “negative” or you write an angry blog post, stop for a second and think, is this the impression I want to leave online?   Does what I am doing violate the Code of Ethics?  Do I have an obligation to correct any misstatements in this entire comment thread?  Do I really want to be associated with these thoughts and ideas?

As always, I’d like you to be part of the conversation, so if you like what you read here please comment, forward The Lancaster to your friends and subscribe! 

If you have questions, need real estate advice or want to buy or sell a home, you can call or text me at 717-371-0557, email me at or contact me at the office at 717-490-8999!

Your Friend in Real Estate,

Jason Burkholder

Weichert, Realtors – Engle & Hambright

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