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Socially Aware Blog

The Law and Business of Social Media

Social Links: Social ad spend soars; the FTC’s special message to “influencers”; LinkedIn changes terms of use

Posted in Advertising, Endorsement Guides, FTC, Terms of Use

A New York State senator has introduced a bill that would make posting footage of a crime to social media with the intention of glorifying violence or becoming famous punishable by up to four years in prison and fines.

Instagram hit the 700-million-user mark.

Brands spent 60% more on social media advertising in the first quarter of 2017 than they did in the same quarter last year, a new report shows.

But savvy brands will do more to leverage social media than just buy advertising, according to a columnist in Entrepreneur. Chatbots that can interact with customers on private messaging networks and in connection with in-app purchasing are the next big things.

And while we’re on the subject of private messaging networks, Tumblr is launching its own version, called Cabana. It encourages six friends to “hang out” and watch YouTube videos together.

Pointing out the inadequacy of many celebrities’ methods of disclosing their status as paid endorsers of the products they promote on Instagram, the FTC sent a letter to 90 high-profile social media users that provides some guidance on how to fulfill the endorsement guides’ requirement that sponsored posts be identified in a “clear and conspicuous” way.

LinkedIn has updated its terms of service and privacy policy, reportedly to make way for new platform features such as identifying when other LinkedIn members are in physical proximity to you, making available “productivity bots” to assist you in interacting with members of your LinkedIn network and allowing third-party services to display your LinkedIn profile to their users.

Facial recognition systems will soon be used to identify visa holders as they leave the United States, raising civil rights questions.

The U.S. population’s political polarization isn’t a result of the rise of social media, a new working paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests, because hyper-partisanship is most prevalent among older Americans who are less likely than other Americans to consume media online.

M&A Leaders Predict a Bullish Year for Tech Deals

Posted in M&A

Buniess hand shake2017 will be an even busier year than 2016 and 2015 for M&A deals in the technology sector, according to more than half of the dealmakers who responded to the semi-annual M&A Leaders Survey conducted by our colleagues at Morrison & Foerster in partnership with 451 Research.

These results are surprising given that there was higher tech M&A spending in 2015 and 2016 than there had been in several years, and there were 12% fewer technology company acquisitions in 2017’s first quarter than there were in Q1 of 2015 or 2016.

What accounts for the dealmakers’ bullish outlook? According to the survey, one key factor appears to be President Trump, with four-out-of-ten (41%) respondents predicting that his future economic policies will stimulate domestic dealmaking.

For other key findings, takeaways, insights and analysis regarding the coming year in tech M&A, check out Morrison & Foerster’s M&A Leaders Survey Results.

Limiting Statutory Damages in Internet Copyright Cases

Posted in Copyright, IP, Litigation

GettyImages-179131621-600pxOne of the most significant legal concerns for Internet service providers is the risk of exposure to liability for the copyright infringements of their users. The concern is not unreasonable. Because Internet service providers can be held secondarily liable for the infringements of their users, and because this liability can come with statutory damages attached, the service provider’s potential economic exposure can be significant, especially for Internet service providers engaged in the transmission or hosting of user-generated content.

Moreover, the principle of joint and several liability may further increase this potential economic exposure for Internet service providers.

Under Section 504(c) of the Copyright Act, which permits a range of statutory damages for each infringed work, the principle of joint and several liability can make a defendant liable for multiple statutory damage awards for infringing a single work. The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Columbia Pictures Television v. Krypton Broadcasting of Birmingham, Inc. two decades ago illustrates the operation of this principle.

The defendants in Columbia Pictures were three television stations that had directly infringed upon plaintiff’s copyrights independently of each other. Consequently, the company that owned the three stations was secondarily liable for their infringement. Relying in part on legislative history, the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to separately calculated statutory awards against each of the three stations as they were separate infringers, and that, with respect to these awards, each of the three stations was jointly and severally liable with their common owner. Continue Reading

Now Available: The April Issue of Our Socially Aware Newsletter

Posted in Copyright, DMCA, European Union, Litigation, Marketing, Mobile, Privacy, Section 230 Safe Harbor

03_April_SociallyAware_thumbnailThe latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this edition, we explore the threat to U.S. jobs posed by rapid advances in emerging technologies; we examine a Federal Trade Commission report on how companies engaging in cross-device tracking can stay on the right side of the law; we take a look at a Second Circuit opinion that fleshes out the “repeat infringer” requirement online service providers must fulfill to qualify for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbors; we discuss a state court decision holding that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes Snapchat from liability for a car wreck that was allegedly caused by the app’s “speed filter” feature; we describe a recent decision by the District Court of the Hague confirming that an app provider could be subject to the privacy laws of a country in the European Union merely by making its app available on mobile phones in that country; and we review a federal district court order requiring Google to comply with search warrants for foreign stored user data.

All this—plus an infographic illustrating how emerging technology will threaten U.S. jobs.

Read our newsletter.

Social Links: Burger King ad triggers Google Assistant devices; suits allege infringement of copyrights in content posted to social media; Twitter’s hidden “dislike” button

Posted in Advertising, Copyright, Free Speech, User-Generated Content

Without Google’s permission, Burger King ended one of its television commercials with a statement designed to automatically cause Google Assistant devices to read a list of the Whopper’s ingredients out loud.

Having passed the 1.2-billion-user mark, Facebook Messenger is now twice as popular as Instagram.

A lawsuit alleges Anheuser-Busch and one of its distributors impermissibly used a photo from a woman’s Facebook page in promotional materials for the brewer’s Natural Light beer. We addressed some of the legal risks in seeking to commercialize user-generated content in a Socially Aware blog post last year that can be found here.

And while on the topic of copyright law and social media, a much smaller California business is being sued in federal court by one of its competitors, Founder’s Creek Media, for allegedly copying a copyrighted promotional product video from a Founder’s Creek page on Facebook and using the video as an advertisement for its own, similar product.

Germany may fine social media companies up to 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to remove posts that contain hate speech.

A court in Egypt sentenced a lawyer who has represented torture victims to ten years in prison for criticizing that country’s government on social media.

Using the data it aggregates about its users’ whereabouts, Snapchat introduced a new feature that allows marketers to determine whether the Snapchat users who view ad campaigns on the messaging app actually wind up visiting the advertisers’ retail locations and venues (in other words, whether their Snapchat ad campaigns are actually working).

Unbeknownst to most of its users, Twitter rolled out a “dislike” button months ago—but the consequences of using it aren’t clear.

A Business Insider article identifies ten things prospective employers and recruiters should be able to tell about you immediately upon viewing your LinkedIn profile.

An eight-year-old in Ohio took his four-year-old sister for a ride to McDonald’s in his family’s van, apparently after watching driving instruction videos on YouTube.

Gloom Descends on This Year’s SXSW Interactive

Posted in Cyberbullying, Events

GettyImages-484516083_SMALLFor the third year in a row, Socially Aware co-editor Aaron Rubin and I attended SXSW Interactive, which arguably has become the premier annual gathering for the global tech community. But this year, SXSW Interactive had a very different vibe to it than in the prior two years.

In the past, a spirit of boundless optimism infused the event. A sense existed that there is no problem that could not be solved through technological innovation.

Indeed, at SXSW Interactive last year, President Obama—who was rapturously received by the audience—touched on this “can do” spirit in his keynote address:

“So the reason I’m here really is to recruit all of you. It’s to say to you as I’m about to leave office, how can we start coming up with new platforms, new ideas, new approaches across disciplines and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems that we’re facing today.”

What a difference a year can make. Perhaps it was due in part to the weather—overcast, wet and cold—but a pessimistic mood seemed to hang over this year’s edition of SXSW Interactive. Continue Reading

Overview of Ransomware Attacks

Posted in Cybersecurity, Data Security

In the most recent edition of his CyberSide Chat series, Socially Aware contributor Andy Serwin discusses ransomware attacks, including:

  • the reasons why ransomware attacks are becoming more common;
  • the types of ransomware attacks companies should prepare to address; and
  • the strategies that companies can employ to help guard against, and to help mitigate the damage arising from, these types of cybersecurity breaches.

Andy explains not only the defenses that companies can implement to protect themselves against a ransomware attack, but also the issues a ransomware-attack-response plan must address—a topic that another Socially Aware contributor, Nate Taylor, tackled in his Sept. 26, 2016 blog post 5 Questions to Help Prepare For a Ransomware Attack.

Check out Andy’s insightful presentation:

Social Links: Twitter sues U.S. government to protect account holder’s ID; Minn. court orders Google to disclose users who searched crime victim’s name; Facebook targets revenge porn

Posted in Cyberbullying, First Amendment, Free Speech, Privacy

Twitter is suing the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to void a summons demanding records that would identify the creator of an anti-Trump Twitter account.

Facebook has joined the fight against the nonconsensual dissemination of sexually explicit photos online—content known as “revenge porn”—by having specially trained employees review images flagged by users and using photo-matching technologies to help stop revenge porn images from being shared on the company’s apps and platforms.

Amid its own revenge porn scandal, the U.S. Marines Corps has expanded its social media policy to clarify how military code can be used to prosecute members’ offensive or disrespectful online activities.

A Minnesota judge has ordered Google to disclose all searches for the name of the victim of a wire-fraud crime worth less than $30,000.

Scientists are studying the use of emoji in human interactions, marketing campaigns and business transactions. Here at Socially Aware we’ve taken a look at the difficulty that courts have had in evaluating the meaning of emoji in connection with contract, tort and other legal claims.

Did the White House’s social media director violate the Hatch Act with a tweet?

In the interest of maintaining big-spending advertisers’ business, Google is trying to teach computers the nuances of what makes content objectionable.

The upcoming desktop version of the popular mobile dating app Tinder, Tinder Online, prompts users to talk more and swipe less.

One jet-setting couple with a combined three million Instagram followers is earning between $3,000 and $9,000 per post.

The New York Times’s Brian Chen walks readers through some of the most worthwhile apps and tech gadgets in the pet-care category.

N.Y.’s New Cybersecurity Regulations: What Financial Services Companies Need to Know

Posted in Data Security

GettyImages-538899668-600pxWith corporate data security breaches on the rise, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) has adopted rules requiring financial institutions to take certain measures to safeguard their data and inform state regulators about cybersecurity incidents. Intended to thwart future cyberattacks and protect consumers, those “Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies” (the “Cybersecurity Rule” or “Rule”) finally took effect on March 1, 2017. The NYDFS has released guidance on how to follow the Rule, it comes in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a summary of key compliance dates. Although the guidance is apparently intended to assist covered financial institutions as the clock ticks towards the first of the Rule’s phased compliance deadlines less than six months away, the guidance is unlikely to make the implementation challenges many financial institutions will face any less daunting.

The Cybersecurity Rule requires that covered financial institutions, among other things, adopt detailed programs, policies and procedures to protect Information Systems (which are defined to include essentially any computer or networked electronic system) and certain sensitive business and consumer information (“Nonpublic Information”) from cybersecurity threats.

The Rule is narrower and less prescriptive than the original proposal from September 2016 (and largely the same as the second proposal from December 2016). Nonetheless, covered financial institutions now have less than six months to establish compliance with the first of the Cybersecurity Rule’s requirements. This means covered financial institutions will quickly need to: (1) assess the current state of their information security programs and what modifications may be required based on the specific policies and controls required by the Rule; and (2) consider the new processes that may need to be created to meet the Rule’s reporting, recordkeeping and certification requirements. Continue Reading

Social Links: Instagram makes it easy to label content as “sponsored”; Facebook combats fake news; better firefighting through drones

Posted in Copyright, Employment Law, Endorsement Guides

A court ruled that a particular 98-character tweet wasn’t sufficiently creative to warrant protection under German copyright law.

Inspired by a recording posted to Snapchat of a physical attack on a 14-year-old boy, a California bill would make it illegal to “willfully record a video of the commission of a violent felony pursuant to a conspiracy with the perpetrator.”

Instagram just made it easier to identify sponsored content —something required by the FTC’s endorsement guides.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia now have laws that make it illegal to distribute sexually explicit photos online without the subject’s permission—content known as “revenge porn” or “non-consensual pornography.” This article explores the efficacy of those laws and other legal-recourse options.

A proposed state law would prohibit employers in Texas from discriminating against employees and prospective employees based on the political beliefs they express on their personal social media accounts (and in any other non-work-related place).

A drone helped New York City fire fighters to extinguish a building fire for the very first time.

As part of its crusade against fake news, Facebook teamed up with non-partisan fact-checkers including Snopes to flag stories that are “disputed.”

The Wall Street Journal interviewed industry experts about the challenges and opportunities artificial intelligence will present for businesses.

A Facebook Messenger chatbot created by 20-year-old helps refugees seeking asylum by asking them a series of jargon-free questions to determine which application they need to submit.

The addition of a live-streaming feature helped a dating app in China to generate $194.8 million in revenue during Q4 alone.

While we’re on the subject of dating, is flirting on LinkedIn a faux pas?