The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that a North Carolina law that the state has used to prosecute more than 1,000 sex offenders for posting on social media is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in what has become known as the  “dancing baby” case—a lawsuit brought by a woman who sued Universal Music Group for directing YouTube to take down a video of her toddler-age son dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” The high court’s decision leaves in place the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that copyright owners must consider the possibility of fair use before sending a DMCA takedown notice.

Queen Elizabeth II proposed to Parliament a law that would require social networking sites to honor Internet users’ requests to remove anything the users shared before turning 18. The European Union already requires search engines to abide by users’ requests to remove information as part of the “right to be forgotten,” but the information must fulfill several criteria to qualify for removal.

In an effort to minimize the extent to which social bots can manipulate public opinion, Germany plans to update its communication laws to require the operators of social media platforms to identify when posts were generated by social bots and not actual people. And, yes, the name in German for this labeling requirement is Kennzeichnungspflicht.

In other German social-media-news, police in that country raided the homes of 36 people accused of posting on social media hate speech that included threats and harassment based on race and sexual orientation, and left-wing and right-wing extremist content.

Making Texas one of 18 states to pass a bill on self-driving cars, Lone Star State governor Greg Abbott signed a bill confirming that car manufacturers may test autonomous vehicles on Texas roads and highways.

Bitcoin’s price might be surging, but it has yet to achieve widespread usage.

Motivated in part by her desire to avoid real-estate-agent fees, a London homeowner plans to sell her house by hosting a viewing on Facebook Live and receiving offers through Facebook Messenger.

Instagram is now allowing a limited number of users to identify branded content with a “paid partnership” subhead instead of using hashtags like #ad and #sponsored to identify sponsored posts. The platform says it plans to police paid sponsors’ disclosure obligations eventually, but—for now—educating and gathering feedback from Instagram’s community and launch partners is all Instagram hopes to achieve with the branded content tool.

Authorities in Helsinki plan to debut in the autumn what will be the world’s first regular driverless transportation system to reach the masses: public, autonomous-bus services. Will the job of “bus driver” one day join the list (along with “silent movie piano accompanist,” “elevator operator” and “switchboard operator”) of occupations rendered obsolete by new technologies?

On free speech grounds, a German parliamentary body struck down a draft German law that would have imposed up to 50 million euros in fines on social media companies that failed to remove or block racist and fake news posts within 24 hours or seven days, depending on whether the content’s racist or false nature is unambiguous.

To ensure President Trump’s tweets from the official @POTUS account and his personal account are preserved for future reference, Rep. Mike Quigley has introduced the COVFEFE Act, which would amend the President Records Act to include social media posts—a change that would ensure the President’s deleted tweets are documented for archival purposes and would make deleting tweets a violation of the Presidential Records Act subject to disciplinary action.

In a post on its “newsroom” page, Facebook published a list of seven “Hard Questions”—inquiries that address many of the most pressing issues today’s social media companies face, from the definition of “fake news,” to the fate of deceased users’ accounts. The post instructs readers to weigh in by emailing Facebook at hardquestions@fb.com.

Hoping to expand its user base, Twitter made design changes to its app again.

Examining one of the many ways Internet of Things devices pose security risks, Ars Technica describes a security consultant’s demonstration of how, using terrestrial radio signals, hackers can control a slew of Smart TVs, spying on the TVs’ owners using the TVs’ cameras and microphones and attacking other devices in the TVs’ owners’ home networks.

Despite the impact social media marketing can have on brand reputation, 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs reportedly have no social media presence at all.

Marketing Land and Business Insider published pieces describing how to use Snapchat’s new self-serve ad-buying tool, Ad Manager, the messaging app’s attempt to make advertising on Snapchat simpler and more accessible to small businesses.

Inc. Magazine provides a clear explanation of how the blockchain works, which industries it’s likely to change and what’s standing in the way of the blockchain’s widespread adoption.

There’s a new dating app for singles with little patience for protracted email exchanges.

ARKANSASLast year, this blog raised concerns regarding the TCCWNA, its growing popularity with plaintiffs’ lawyers and the implications for online retailers. At a high level, the TCCWNA is a New Jersey consumer protection law that focuses on contractual terms (including online terms of service) governing transactions between sellers/service providers and New Jersey consumers. It prohibits sellers/service providers from including certain common provisions in their contracts with New Jersey consumers, and provides aggrieved New Jersey consumers with the right to recover from the seller/service provider a civil penalty of not less than $100 per violation. The TCCWNA applies even if the relevant contractual terms are expressly governed by the laws of a state other than New Jersey. Continue Reading E-tailers Rejoice as Decisions Limit Lawsuits in Federal Court for Alleged Violations of New Jersey’s Controversial Consumer Protection Law

One year since agreeing with the European Commission to remove hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a complaint about it, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are removing flagged content an average of 59% of the time, the EC reports.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a catering company violated the National Labor Relations Act when it fired an employee for posting to Facebook a profane rant about his supervisor in response to that supervisor admonishing him for “chitchatting” days before the employee and his coworkers were holding a vote to unionize.

The value of the digital currency Ether could surpass Bitcoin’s value by 2018, some experts say.

The Washington Post takes a look at how the NBA is doing a particularly good job of leveraging social media and technology in general to market itself to younger fans and international consumers.

A judge in Israel ruled in favor of a landlord who took down a rental ad based on his belief that a couple wanted to rent his apartment after they sent him a text message containing festive emoji and otherwise expressing interest in the rental. The landlord brought a lawsuit against the couple for backing out on the deal, and the court held the emoji in the couple’s text “convey[ed] great optimism.” The court further determined that, although the message “did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, [it] naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment.” For a survey of U.S. courts’ treatment of emoji entered into evidence, read this post on Socially Aware.

The owner of a recipe site is suing the Food Network for copyright infringement, alleging that a video the network posted on its Facebook page ripped off her how-to video for snow globe cupcakes.

Twitter’s popularity with journalists has made it a prime target for media manipulators, The New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo reports. As a result, Manjoo claims, the microblogging platform played a key role in many of the past year’s biggest misinformation campaigns.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University claims that the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account’s blocking of some Twitter users violates the First Amendment because it suppresses speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution.

Pop singer Taylor Swift, who pulled her back catalogue of music from free streaming services in 2014 saying the services don’t fairly compensate music creators, has now made her entire catalogue of music accessible via Spotify, Google Play and Amazon Music.

To encourage young people in swing constituencies to vote for Labour in the UK’s general election, some Tinder users turned their profiles over to a bot that sent other Tinder users between the ages of 18 and 25 automated messages asking if they were voting and focusing on key topics that would interest young voters.

Please join Socially Aware contributors Anna T. Pinedo and Bradley Berman for a complimentary teleconference on regulatory developments that affect social media use on Thursday, June 15, from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST.

This session will focus on the considerations for issuers, broker-dealers, registered investment advisers, and commodity pools in using social media, whether for corporate communications or in the context of securities offerings.

Topics of discussion will include:

  • Reg FD and other liability concerns;
  • FINRA guidance on communications and social media;
  • Social media for “business” versus “personal” use by employees of financial services firms;
  • SEC guidance for investment advisers;
  • General solicitation; and
  • CFTC and NFA guidance for funds.

Register here.

Twitter updated its online Privacy Policy to disclose that Twitter will be personalizing content and facilitating interest-based advertising by sharing information about its users’ online activity both on and off the microblogging site.

Since YouTube resolved to give brands greater control over the kind of content that their ads appear alongside, many of the platform’s content creators and personalities have seen their ad revenue plummet, and they’re not sure whether it’s a result of major companies continuing to avoid the platform, new ad-buying methods, or YouTube algorithms flagging their content as inappropriate.

A recently-released ABA ethics opinion states that, for communications with clients involving highly sensitive confidential client information, lawyers may need to take extra steps beyond using unencrypted email to guard against cyberthreats.

An IBM application built on its Watson artificial intelligence platform and designed to help financial services companies monitor their outside counsel spend reportedly saved one corporate customer close to $400 million a year in legal fees.

By advertising on quality news sites (and not just the big social media platforms where brands are currently spending the bulk of their online advertising dollars), corporate America can save not only critical watchdog journalism but also democracy itself, writes The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg,

Has the influencer marketing model been jeopardized by the fiasco that was the Fyre Festival, which celebrity influencers including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid allegedly endorsed “without any proof of concept” and, contrary to FTC guidance, allegedly promoted on social media without clarifying that their posts were paid endorsements?

A new mental health app offers users support between professional therapy sessions by allowing them to anonymously message fellow members for support and by employing an artificial intelligence-based natural language processing system that can recognize and delete abusive messages and refer emergencies to a human moderator.

Wendy’s awarded a year’s worth of its chicken nuggets to a 16-year-old whose tweet asking the restaurant chain for a 365-day supply of the fast food went viral and broke Ellen DeGeneres’s record for the most re-tweeted post on Twitter (3.42 million retweets and counting).

GettyImages-183313080With over one billion websites on the Internet, and 211 million items of online content created every minute, it should come as no surprise that content curation is one of the hottest trends in the Internet industry. We are overwhelmed with online content, and we increasingly rely on others to separate good content from bad content so we can make more efficient use of our time spent surfing the web.

Consistent with this trend, many websites that host user-generated content are now focused on filtering out content that is awful, duplicative, off-topic or otherwise of little interest to site visitors. And these sites are often finding that humans—typically passionate volunteers from these sites’ user communities—do a better job than algorithms in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, any website that deals with user-generated content needs to worry about potential copyright liability arising from such content. We’ve discussed in past Socially Aware blog posts the critical importance of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to the success of YouTube, Facebook and other online sites that host user-generated content. By providing online service providers with immunity from monetary damages in connection with the hosting of content at the direction of users, Section 512(c) has fueled the growth of the U.S. Internet industry. Continue Reading Could the Use of Online Volunteers and Moderators Increase Your Company’s Copyright Liability Exposure?

Dealmakers who responded to a recent Morrison & Foerster survey predicted that the market for M&A transactions in the technology sector will be even more robust in 2017 than it was in 2015 and 2016—years in which acquirers announced deals collectively valued at more than $1 trillion.

Now a report by MoFo’s M&A team leaders and 451 Research shows that Internet of Things-related transactions contributed significantly to the tech M&A market’s impressive numbers over the last few years. For one thing, IoT-related deals announced since 2013 have been valued at $147.3 billion.

For discussions of other IoT-related issues, check out Morrison & Foerster’s IoT Resource Center.

04_12_TechMASnapshot_IoT_SociallyAware_150dpi

2015 11 30 DJV NAT 218Facebook’s four-year battle on behalf of its users, seeking to quash 381 warrants obtained by the New York County District Attorney’s Office, has come to a close. The decision of the New York Court of Appeals—which is New York’s highest court—leaves Facebook users exposed to wide-ranging and largely unchecked inquiries by New York criminal prosecutors into their Facebook accounts.

The story begins in July 2013, when the New York Supreme Court—which is the trial court in New York—issued 381 warrants arising out of the district attorney’s (DA) application for warrants under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The DA was investigating an alleged Social Security Disability fraud scheme.

The DA’s request was extraordinarily broad. The warrants functionally amounted to a request for 381 users’ entire Facebook histories. The warrants compelled Facebook to produce not only any and all text, photos or videos a user had shared with his or her limited universe of friends, but also any private messages exchanged between the user and another individual (who could have been a spouse, doctor, religious figure or attorney) as well as information the user had chosen to no longer share with anyone, such as a previous email address, a deleted friend or a hidden post, and information the user had never intended to share with anyone, such as his or her searches and location.

The warrants also compelled Facebook to produce content shared by users who were not named in the 381 warrants, and may not even have known anyone named in the 381 warrants, but who had the misfortune of posting on the timelines of those users uploading photos of those users, or simply belonging to any one of the groups with which a named user was affiliated. At least several of the affected users were high school students who were highly unlikely to have been involved in a Social Security Disability fraud scheme. The issuing court also expressly prohibited Facebook from disclosing the existence or execution of the warrants.

While Facebook receives many such requests from law enforcement each year and often provides information in response, Facebook strongly objected to the wide-ranging requests in this case.

Facebook moved to quash the warrants on the ground that they were overly broad, but the New York Supreme Court denied the motion, finding that Facebook did not have standing to assert any privacy or Fourth Amendment rights on behalf of its users. Facebook also challenged the nondisclosure provisions of the warrants, but again the court sided with the DA, reasoning that disclosure of the warrants could jeopardize the DA’s ongoing investigation.

The intermediate appellate court dismissed Facebook’s appeal. The court explained that the orders from the lower court denying Facebook’s motion to quash were unappealable because, under New York law, there is no authority permitting review of interlocutory orders issued in criminal proceedings.

Facebook took the fight all the way to the New York Court of Appeals. Facebook argued that an order denying a motion to quash an SCA warrant should be treated like an appealable order denying a motion to quash a subpoena, rather than like an unappealable order denying a motion to quash a traditional warrant. While a traditional search warrant authorizes law enforcement officials to enter, search and seize property, an SCA warrant, like a subpoena, requires the target of the warrant to compile and turn over its own digital data.

On April 4, 2017, Facebook lost that fight when New York’s highest court ruled that it does not have authority to hear appeals from motions to quash search warrants issued under the SCA.

In a 5-1 decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that, despite the similarities between the manner of responding to SCA warrants and the manner of responding to subpoenas, an SCA warrant is a warrant, not a subpoena. As with traditional warrants, SCA warrants are only issued in criminal proceedings to a government entity that has supported its request for a warrant with probable cause. The court explained that the difference between execution of traditional warrants and SCA warrants is due to “the nature of the material sought”—it “ensures efficiency and minimizes intrusion” for a service provider to search and compile its own digital information rather than for law enforcement to conduct the search. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals found that the order denying Facebook’s motion to quash was not appealable.

Further, the Court of Appeals suggested that Facebook may not have had a right to bring a motion to quash in the first place. For purposes of this case, the Court of Appeals assumed, without deciding, that a motion to quash an SCA warrant was proper. However, the court noted that the SCA discusses warrants, subpoenas and court orders requiring disclosure of information separately, and only expressly provides for a motion to quash court orders.

The Court of Appeals did express some sympathy for Facebook’s concerns regarding the privacy of its users. At the outset, the court stated that “[t]his case undoubtedly implicates novel and important substantive issues regarding the constitutional rights of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizures,” and that it was “tempting for the court to address those issues.” The court also noted that “Facebook’s concerns, as a third party, about overbroad SCA warrants may not be baseless.”

Notwithstanding its expressed concerns, and over a strenuous dissent from Judge Wilson, the New York Court of Appeals has provided criminal prosecutors wide-ranging investigative powers without providing Internet service providers an ability to obtain appellate review. With New York’s high court having spoken, the online industry’s focus is likely to shift toward a legislative fix that will promote users’ privacy interests and limit overreaching SCA warrants.

*        *       *

For other Socially Aware posts addressing user data and the Stored Communications Act, please see the following: Google Ordered to Comply with Warrant for Foreign-Stored User Data; Second Circuit: Email Stored Outside the U.S. Might Be Beyond Government’s Reach; and We’ve Come for Your Tweets: Twitter to Appeal Denial of Its Motion To Quash District Attorney’s Subpoena.

 

Computer laptop with ransomware malware virus key icon on red display background. Vector illustration technology data privacy and security concept.

The global WannaCry ransomware attack should be a wake up call for all companies about the threat ransomware poses.  While

WannaCry was one of the first highly publicized attacks in which ransomware was weaponized and used against numerous companies at once, there will undoubtedly be future attacks.  Companies can take proactive steps to reduce their chances of being hit by the next ransomware attack, and our team is working with companies around the world to help them be more resilient in light of these evolving threats.  Here are some key steps you can take to help your company protect itself from the next attack:

 

  1. Make sure software patches are routinely applied.
  2. If possible, only use supported operating systems and other software.
  3. Utilize antimalware and antivirus software tools and services.
  4. Back up your critical data.
  5. Train your employees on how to spot phishing emails.
  6. Create a cross-functional incident response plan.
  7. Practice responding to a ransomware attack in a table top exercise to be able to hit the ground running when this type of event occurs.
  8. Establish or enhance relationships with law enforcement and other critical partners.

In addition, we’ve compiled several resources to help you prepare for and respond to a ransomware incident: