What is an external links policy?
An external links policy is a specialized disclaimer your company’s website can post that disavows any approval of or control over content on external websites which might be linked to by pages on the original website. Such policies allow website operators to link to content on other websites with little risk that some sort of objectionable content or other activity on an external website might expose them to liability just because their website linked to the objectionable website.
What should an external links policy say and do?
The main reason such policies are necessary is because website ownership and content content change over time. This means that while a website you include a link to on one of your webpages now might be very good or acceptable at the time you insert the original link, the content might change over time into something objectionable (e.g. illegal gambling, pirated movies and songs, child pornography, etc.), and it might be some time before you notice the change and address it by altering or removing your hyperlinks.
Typically a website operator will create an external links policy, which is essentially a short disclaimer letting their website users know that if they click on an external link the website operators have no control over the content or information on the external website and assume no responsibility for any adverse action that might occur as a result of a user clicking such a link.
It is becoming increasingly common for websites to both post the policy in one central place with other important website policies and at the same time have a webpage come up whenever someone clicks an external link alerting the user to the external nature of the link and the website operator’s lack of control over. Some websites also require users clicking external links to signify, usually by clicking or checking some sort of acknowledgment, that they understand the nature of the external link and that the linking website has no control of responsibility for the external website.
These relatively simple steps go a long way towards making it safe for websites to link to external content without fear of liability for changing external content beyond their control.
How do you get your own external links policy?
Does your company need an external links policy put together for your website?