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Socially Aware Blog

The Law and Business of Social Media

Social Links: Will a fan-made Star Trek prequel live long and prosper?; California bans driving while Snapchatting; apps that facilitate infidelity

Posted in European Union, Litigation, Marketing, Online Reviews, Privacy

A federal district court judge refused to grant summary judgment to the copyright owners of the Star Trek franchise in the infringement suit they brought against the team behind a fan-made, crowdfunded prequel to the original Star Trek television series.

Strict new European Union privacy rules will restrict Internet companies’ access to consumers’ data.

Brands might soon be able to place video ads within Instagram Stories.

Driving while Snapchatting (or holding your cell phone in your hand for any other possible reason) is now illegal in California.

China is reportedly testing a system that assigns potentially life-altering “scores” to people based on their online activity.

How much about the future of the Internet do you think Bill Gates was able to predict 20 years ago?

The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee website’s privacy policy apparently contains language suggesting it was lifted from a casino website.  

A small neighborhood restaurant turned the tables on a Yelp critic.

Concerned about the post-mortem fate of your property, legacy and reputation? Don’t forget your digital assets. This New York Times article explains how to make sure your wishes are carried out.

If you spot these apps on your significant other’s phone, it might be time to worry.

A List of Lists

Posted in Uncategorized

Lightbulb sign with 2017 against concrete wall

Every December and January you can count on the trade press and the mainstream media to run lists of predictions for the upcoming year and retrospectives on the year past ranking the “best” and “worst” of everything from podcasts to memes. Social media users have even begun publishing lists of their own most popular posts. (Instagram users, for example, have been creating their own “best nine 2016 Instagram pics” posts using a web generator.)

At Socially Aware we’ve made an annual tradition of curating a “List of Lists”—an inventory of the roundups we think will be of most interest to our readership.

We’ll update this page throughout the month as additional pertinent content is published.

Happy 2017!

Technology & Social Media Law

2017: Predictions From Socially Aware’s Editors and Contributors

Top 10 Internet Law Developments of 2016

Cybersecurity Law in 2017—Predictions and Prognostications

Social Media (General)

5 Social Media Trends That Will Dominate 2017

The Top 17 Social Media Trends in 2017, According to the Experts

Five Predictions for Political Tech and Social Media in 2017 Continue Reading

Influence + Engage 2017

Posted in Uncategorized

InfluenceAndEngage2017This Friday, January 13, in New York City, Socially Aware will be co-sponsoring and attending Influence + Engage 2017, a conference hosted by The Social Edge that will explore the intersection of social influence and audience engagement.

With a keynote to be given by one of the world’s highest profile social media influencers, George Takei, the conference will include panel discussions on cutting-edge social-media-marketing issues such as how to manage the consequences of algorithms and filter bubbles and how to make sponsored content more authentic.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to best connect with audiences and build your brand’s voice on social media.

The conference will run from 10 am (registration to open at 9am) until 5 pm at the SVA Theater on 23rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. For more information regarding the event, click here.

2016: Our Greatest Hits

Posted in Uncategorized

"Top 10" on a screen. More>>

Last year we explained how companies could protect their social media currency and heed the FTC’s warning on native advertising. We examined court opinions establishing the criteria for enforceable website terms of use and defining the scope of protection afforded to website owners under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. We discussed courts’ struggles to interpret emoji and to determine whether “friending” a litigation adversary violates attorney ethics rules. We also explored questions such as whether ad blockers will kill online publishing and whether trolls are killing social media marketing.

We did our best to cover it all. But—of course—some articles resonated with our readers more than others. These were the most popular posts that appeared on Socially Aware in 2016:

  1. New Copyright Office Rule Creates Potential “Gotcha” for Blogs and Websites Hosting User-Generated Content
  2. Social Media Safety Guide for Companies
  3. The Internet of Things: Interoperability, Industry Standards & Related IP Licensing Approaches
  4. Don’t Worry, Be (Un)Happy: Does U.S. Labor Law Protect a Worker’s Right to a Bad Attitude?
  5. Augmenting Reality: A Pokémon Go Business and Legal Primer
  6. Controversial New Jersey Consumer Protection Law Creates a Potential “Gotcha” for E-Commerce Companies
  7. The Internet of Things: Interoperability, Industry Standards & Related IP Licensing Approaches (Part 2)
  8. #Trademarks?: Hashtags as Trademarks Revisited
  9. Mixed Messages: Courts Grapple With Emoticons and Emoji
  10. Clickwrap, Browsewrap and Mixed Media Contracts: A Few Words Can Go a Long Way

Social Links: AI displaces insurance company employees; revenge-porn victim seeks injunction against search engines; Wendy’s wins Twitter war against a troll

Posted in Cyberbullying, Litigation, Marketing, Right To Be Forgotten

Over 30 workers at a Japanese insurance company are losing their jobs following the company’s adoption of IBM’s Watson Explorer, an artificial intelligence system that will perform an important back office function at the company.

Medium laid off a big chunk of its team despite reporting impressive growth last year.

Snapchat is being sued by one of its former employees for allegedly terminating his employment and ruining his reputation in retaliation for whistleblowing.

In France, a new law requires companies to limit the time their employees are expected to respond to work-related email.

A college student in New York, one of the few states that hasn’t adopted an anti-revenge-porn law, is seeking an injunction that would require Yahoo, Google and Bing to remove her full name from their search engines, which generate more than four pages of X-rated references when a user enters her name into them.

Some children’s rights advocates think a Texas bill intended to help stop cyberbullying goes too far.

Lots of consumers are discovering products on social media, but most of them aren’t purchasing products directly off of those platforms—yet.

Trolls can undermine brands’ social media marketing efforts—unless their social media managers are as savvy as the person in charge of Wendy’s Twitter account.

Speaking of brands on social media, Cinnabon’s Carrie Fisher tweet stirred up some controversy.

Facebook temporarily banned Santa Claus’s account over the holidays.

2017: Predictions From Socially Aware’s Editors and Contributors

Posted in Blockchain, Compliance, Free Speech, Marketing, Patent, Privacy

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The beginning of a new year is a time for resolutions and predictions. We won’t bother Socially Aware readers with our resolutions for 2017, but we thought that we would share some predictions for the new year from our editors and contributors. As our predictions below indicate, 2017 promises to be an eventful year for social media and other emerging technologies. Here we go:

From John Delaney, Co-Founder and Co-Editor, Socially Aware, and Partner at Morrison & Foerster:

As we enter 2017, one of the greatest question marks for the social media and content marketing industries is what impact will Donald Trump have on the legal landscape. He’s been dubbed the country’s first social media president, and there is no doubt that his use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook played a key role in his upset election victory. At the same time, he’s had an often antagonistic relationship with Silicon Valley, and one can imagine tech giants such as Google and Facebook having a far less prominent voice within the Trump administration than was the case for the Obama administration. And although Trump’s promised focus on reducing business regulations may benefit the U.S. technology companies, his apparent skepticism toward globalism and free trade could prove a challenge to the country’s social media industry, perhaps the most global of all U.S. industries.

My other prediction for the coming year is that we’re going to see a number of disruptive new technologies emerging from the hype phase to having a real impact on businesses and consumers—perhaps more likely with respect to the latter than the former, at least initially. For example, blockchain technology generated a big buzz in 2016, but look for companies to actually begin embracing and implementing this technology in a B2B context in the never-ending drive to reduce transaction fees. By eliminating the need for trusted middlemen, the transitioning of traditional payment and recordation platforms to blockchain-based platforms holds the promise of generating significant cost savings for companies. We’re also going to see the pace of disruption accelerate as each of these new technologies—such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, blockchain, the Internet of Things and so forth—combine and mutate in expected and unexpected ways.

Continue Reading

The Decline and Fall of Section 230?

Posted in Section 230 Safe Harbor, User-Generated Content

A rear view of a businessman in a suit, with an upheld umbrella, standing in a large field during a thunderstorm. Lightning is seen descending from a gray and cloudy sky.

2016 has been a tough year for a lot of reasons, most of which are outside the scope of this blog (though if you’d like to hear our thoughts about Bowie, Prince or Leonard Cohen, feel free to drop us a line). But one possible victim of this annus horribilis is well within the ambit of Socially Aware: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Often hailed as the law that gave us the modern Internet, CDA Section 230 provides immunity against liability for website operators for certain claims arising from third-party or user-generated content. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called Section 230 “the most important law protecting Internet speech,” and companies including Google, Yelp and Facebook have benefited from the protections offered by the law, which was enacted 20 years ago.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses for Internet publishers and Section 230, particularly over the past 18 months. Plaintiffs are constantly looking for chinks in Section 230’s armor and, in an unusually large number of recent cases, courts have held that Section 230 did not apply, raising the question of whether the historical trend towards broadening the scope of Section 230 immunity may now be reversing. This article provides an overview of recent cases that seem to narrow the scope of Section 230. Continue Reading

New Copyright Office Rule Creates Potential “Gotcha” for Blogs and Websites Hosting User-Generated Content

Posted in Copyright, DMCA, User-Generated Content

3D rendering of Copyright Symbol made of transparent glass with Shades and Shadow isolated on white background.

If your company operates a website or blog that hosts user-generated content, you’ll want to read this post carefully.

We’re ringing the alarm bell on an important new U.S. copyright law development that, if ignored, could significantly increase your company’s potential liability exposure in connection with user-generated content.

If your company hosts user-generated content, such hosted content may include materials that were posted without the permission of the owners of the copyrights in such materials—potentially subjecting your company to copyright infringement liability.

For nearly two decades, however, Section 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Act, enacted in 1998 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), has provided a safe harbor insulating online service providers from monetary damages for hosting copyright-infringing materials posted by their users. To receive protection under the Section 512(c) safe harbor, service providers must, among other things, designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement with the Copyright Office. Continue Reading

In a Rough Year for CDA Section 230, Manchanda v. Google Provides Comfort to Website Operators

Posted in Litigation, Online Reviews, Section 230 Safe Harbor

PrintAs we noted in our recent post on the Ninth Circuit case Kimzey v. Yelp! Inc., in the right circumstances, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) still provides robust protection against liability for website operators despite the unusually large number of decisions this year seemingly narrowing the scope of the statute. Defendants notched another Section 230 win recently in Manchanda v. Google, a case in the Southern District of New York. The case began in May 2016 when Rahul Manchanda, an attorney, filed a complaint alleging that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft harmed his reputation by indexing certain websites that described him in negative terms.

Manchanda asserted various claims against the three defendants, including defamation, libel, slander, tortious interference with contract, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty, unfair trade practices, false advertising, unlawful trespass, civil RICO, unjust enrichment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and trademark infringement. Manchanda sought injunctive relief requiring the defendants to “de-index or remove the offending websites from their search engines” in addition to damages.

The court made quick work of dismissing most of Manchanda’s claims on Section 230 grounds, emphasizing that the CDA “immunizes search engines from civil liability for reputational damage resulting from third-party content that they aggregate and republish.” The court went on to note that “[t]his immunity attaches regardless of the specific claim asserted against the search engine, so long as the claim arises from the publication or distribution of content produced by a third party and the alleged injury involves damage to a plaintiff’s reputation based on that content.” Continue Reading

Social Links: Yellow journalism rakes in cash; NYC law protects gig economy pay; Twitter suspends “alt-right” accounts

Posted in Disappearing Content, Free Speech, Mobile, Online Reviews

“Yellow journalism” websites are using social media to capitalize on popular ideology. And they’re making a bundle.

New York City recently passed the country’s first law protecting the wages of “gig economy” workers. The Wall Street Journal published an illuminating infographic illustrating who’s making a living that way.

Twitter suspended high-profile accounts associated with the “alt-right” movement.

A state law kept 43,000 wannabe Uber users in upstate New York from ordering a car from the ride-hailing service on Thanksgiving eve.

PayPal reported some surprising statistics about this year’s online shopping over Thanksgiving weekend. Check out our own blog post from last year on how social commerce is killing off both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Two new ethics opinions from the D.C. Bar provide an excellent overview of potential ethical issues raised by social media use by attorneys; among other things, the opinions highlight the need for lawyers to exercise caution when tweeting or posting positions on legal issues (which could potentially create an inadvertent conflict with a client’s interest), and in allowing social media platforms to access their email contacts (which could potentially identify clients or divulge information for which there is an ethical obligation to protect from disclosure). The opinions can be reviewed here and here.

Apparently vlogging can be a grind even for the most financially successful social media stars.

This New York Times piece exploring how Snapchat revolutionized social media discusses some of the unique platform and business model features that we cited last year as responsible for Snapchat’s success.

CNN bought a social media company founded by a YouTube star with a millennial following.

Speaking of CNN, that company and other prominent news publishers are getting low app store ratings from people claiming that such publishers have a liberal bias.

Google Maps just made it easier to snag a table at usually-crowded restaurants and watering holes.

Think twice before giving out your cellphone number.