WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Companies may use Facebook and other social media websites to share news, provided they first tell investors which sites they'll use, a U.S. regulator said.
"We do not wish to inhibit the content, form, or forum of any such disclosure," the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
"In fact, we encourage companies to seek out new forms of communication to better connect with shareholders," the regulator said in an eight-page report, which can be found at tinyurl.com/InvestReport.
The decision to consider a Facebook or Twitter post as legitimate as a news release or a corporate website posting also resolves an SEC investigation into a July Facebook posting from Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings, who said on his personal Facebook page the company's monthly streaming-video viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time.
Netflix had not issued a news release about this, and the information slowly made its way into the market through blogs and the mainstream media.
Netflix stock rose in price nearly 16 percent by the following day.
The SEC began a probe in December to determine if the post violated the SEC's Regulation Fair Disclosure rule barring companies from selectively disclosing information.
The 2000 rule requires all publicly traded companies to disclose material information to all investors at the same time so no group has an advantage over another.
The SEC said in its announcement Tuesday it wouldn't pursue civil charges against Hastings, even though he used his personal Facebook page, rather than the company's, for his billion-hours boast.
"We appreciate the SEC's careful consideration and resolution of this matter," Netflix said in a brief statement it did not post on Facebook or Twitter.
Hastings "views social media as an important method of communication and, consistent with the SEC's guidance in this area, will continue to do so," a Netflix spokesman said in an email cited by The Wall Street Journal.
A study by the Conference Board and Stanford University's Rock Center for Corporate Governance released last spring found 77 percent of companies said they used social media to communicate and interact with customers, but only 14.4 percent said they used the media to communicate with shareholders.