- Going mainstream. For the first time, both Twitter and Facebook are seeing significant growth in online advertising placed by major companies for brands such as Heineken, Tide, McDonald’s, and Charmin. Major consumer products companies have long struggled with the question of how to reach consumers on their mobile devices, and right now, this appears to be how they’re doing it.
- Mismatch? The popular dating site OKCupid conducted some experiments with its user base — changing the type of information available to them about prospective matches and even falsifying it to an extent — in order to see what effect it had on conversations among daters and on how relationships developed. Some observers are critical of this type of experiment on ethical grounds.
- Loose tweets sink ships? Law enforcement agencies in the Pacific Northwest have launched a “Tweet Smart” program that is intended to discourage people from using social media during emergencies to describe the movements and activities of law enforcement personnel. After a few recent shooting incidents, police are concerned that a tweet, for example, might tip off a perpetrator to police tactics.
- Judges’ perspective. A recent survey of federal judges found that the vast majority of them do not believe that jurors’ use of social media has posed a problem in their courtrooms. Only 33 of 494 judges responding reported any detectable instances of jurors using social media, and the vast majority of those instances were harmless.
- Going viral: Silencing its critics, Twitter posted strong second quarter results, adding 16 million new monthly active users and boosting its user base by 24 percent from this time last year.
- #Disappointing: In other Twitter news, the company recently revealed data about the composition of its workforce. It turns out that 90 percent of tech staff and 70 percent of all staff are men, and men make up 79 percent of its leadership. Only 2 percent of the staff is African American, and Latinos make up 3 percent. Its VP for diversity said that like similar companies, Twitter “has a lot of work to do” in this area.
- Balancing act: Reddit has always been a niche social network that never embraced advertising as a source of revenue. That apparently will change now, as Reddit, which is majority-owned by Conde Nast, is trying to attract advertisers without losing its unique culture.
- Busted: A Maryland man taunted local police by posting on the police Facebook page (under his own mugshot) that the cops would never catch him—but the police caught him for a probation violation the next day, primarily by using Facebook.
- Your tax dollars at work: Wikipedia placed a 10-day ban on changes to the collaborative encyclopedia from a certain IP address inside the U.S. Capitol after discovering that bizarre and embarrassing edits were being made from that address (one such edit claimed that former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is an alien lizard). Other IP addresses associated with the U.S. Congress were not affected.
- Grounded: A Minnesota man was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Minneapolis on July 20 until he deleted a tweet that was critical of a gate agent. Eventually he and his two children were permitted to board the flight.
- Mass amnesia: Pursuant to the European Court of Justice’s May ruling that users in the EC have the “right to be forgotten” on the Internet, Google has received requests to block search results for 328,000 websites from 91,000 individuals. Google reports that, to date, it has granted more than 50 percent of these requests.
- Facebook reported strong results for ad revenue in the second quarter of 2014. Mobile advertising was particularly strong, up 30 percent from last year. Mobile ads now account for 62 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring Internet companies to store all personal data of Russian users at data centers in Russia. This move would make foreign social media sites subject to Russian laws on government access to information and could chill criticism and opposition to the Russian government on such sites.
- An Illinois woman was arrested on July 11 and charged with theft after she allegedly stole a dress from a boutique in West Frankfort, Illinois, then posted a selfie wearing the dress on her Facebook page. Police Chief Shawn Talluto noted, “[W]hen the social media aspect played into it, we were able to identify who it was. And by looking at the background of the photograph we were able to pinpoint where she was at.”
- New, mobile-only banks without any brick-and-mortar branches form a small part of the banking industry today—but they may be poised for growth. These banks, without a physical presence, reportedly can handle a typical transaction for a fraction of what having a teller handle it would cost, and can deliver value-added services to consumers through smartphone interfaces.
- Shakira has become the first celebrity to reach 100 million Likes on Facebook. The “Hips Don’t Lie” singer, who joined the social media platform in October 2007, beat Cristiano Ronaldo, Eminem, Rihanna, Vin Diesel, and even Michael Jackson to the new record.
“Web scraping” or “web harvesting”—the practice of extracting large amounts of data from publicly available websites using automated “bots” or “spiders”—accounted for 18% of site visitors and 23% of all Internet traffic in 2013. Websites targeted by scrapers may incur damages resulting from, among other things, increased bandwidth usage, network crashes, the need to employ anti-spam and filtering technology, user complaints, reputational damage and costs of mitigation that may be incurred when scrapers spam users, or worse, steal their personal data.
Though sometimes difficult to combat, scraping is quite easy to perform. A simple online search will return a large number of scraping programs, both proprietary and open source, as well as D.I.Y. tutorials. Of course, scraping can be beneficial in some cases. Companies with limited resources may use scraping to access large amounts of data, spurring innovation and allowing such companies to identify and fill areas of consumer demand. For example, Mint.com reportedly used screen scraping to aggregate information from bank websites, which allowed users to track their spending and finances. Unfortunately, not all scrapers use their powers for good. In one case on which we previously reported, the operators of the website Jerk.com allegedly scraped personal information from Facebook to create profiles labeling people “Jerk” or “not a Jerk.” According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), over 73 million victims, including children, were falsely told they could revise their profiles by paying $30 to the website.
- According to a current study by Bank of America, Americans are very closely attached to their smartphones. Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they check their phone at least a few times a day and 35 percent say they check it constantly. 47 percent of Americans say they couldn’t last more than one day without their phone. And, perhaps most worrisome, Millennials between ages 18 to 24 view their mobile phone as more important to their daily lives than even deodorant or their toothbrush . . . .
- The Uniform Law Commission has embraced the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which, to the extent adopted by states, would give grieving families immediate access to a deceased family member’s online accounts, unless the deceased family member specified otherwise in a will. Privacy advocates have expressed skepticism regarding the initiative.
- In a break from past practice, the New York Police Department has begun to embrace social media, giving its precinct commanders “relatively free rein” in using Twitter. Top brass hopes to spur greater sharing of information and to engage the public in a dialogue regarding police business.
- The average millennial checks his or her smartphone 45 times a day and learns about news online primarily through Facebook and Twitter, according to a new survey. Search engines and email, the “more traditional” venues, rank well below social media as a source of information.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended trading in Cynk Technology Corp., a supposed social network that caught attention with a skyrocketing stock price, even though it had no members and no assets. The SEC said it had concerns about potentially manipulative transactions in the company’s stock.
- Just as Google did, Bing is now accepting requests from European users to implement the “right to be forgotten” on the Internet. The search engine, owned by Microsoft, will accept such requests but does not guarantee that it will remove the information in each instance.
- Since launching its Google+ social network three years ago, Google has insisted that Google+ users use only their real names on the network — no pseudonyms. Perhaps in an effort to attract more users to Google+, the company has now abandoned its real-name policy — but has this change arrived too late to have an impact?
- Airbnb, perhaps the best known “sharing economy” platform, reportedly plans to launch a major redesign soon and may be moving well beyond its current business of providing short-term apartment rentals.
- LinkedIn has just acquired Newsle, a three-year-old service that scours the Web for news items regarding a user’s friends, colleagues and acquaintances (as gleaned from the user’s LinkedIn, Facebook and email contacts), and makes available such news items to the user.
On 5 June 2014 the European Court of Justice (CJEU) published its decision in the “Meltwater” Case C-360/13, (Public Relations Consultations Association Ltd (PRCA) v Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd (NLA) and Others). In a ruling that some have hailed as a victory for common sense, the CJEU declared that browsing freely accessible copyrighted material on the Internet does not constitute a copyright infringement, and on-screen and cached copies will constitute temporary copies for the purposes of Article 5(1) of the InfoSoc Directive ( EC Directive 2001/29 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (“InfoSoc Directive”) was introduced in 2001 to meet the challenge of the Internet, e-commerce, and digital technology).
The case concerns the PRCA, which is an association of public relations professionals, and the NLA, which is a body set up by UK newspaper publishers for the purpose of collective licensing of newspaper content. The PRCA’s members use a media monitoring service offered by Meltwater which involves Meltwater sending emails to users containing headlines of articles which are then linked to the rights holder’s website. Users can also access search results on Meltwater’s website. (It should be noted that if a website has a paywall, the user will have to pay for access to the material on the same terms as everyone else – the link does not enable the user to avoid the paywall.)
The NLA argued that Meltwater’s customers needed various licences to access the rights holder’s material, including: (i) a licence to use the temporary on-screen and cached copies of search results created when the user viewed search results on Meltwater’s website and (ii) a licence to use the temporary on-screen and cached copies of an article created when the user clicked on a link and viewed an article on the rights holder’s website. The PRCA claimed that these temporary copies fell within the copyright exemption detailed in Article 5(1) (as transposed into UK law by Section 28A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988).
Article 5(1) provides an exemption from copyright infringement based on the following cumulative conditions where:
- Copying is temporary.
- Copying is transient or incidental.
- Copying is an integral and essential part of a technological process (i.e., (1) the acts of reproduction are carried out entirely in the context of the implementation of a technological process and (2) the completion of those acts of reproduction is necessary, in that the technological process could not function correctly and efficiently without those acts).
- The sole purpose of copying is to enable a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary or a lawful use of a work.
- Copying has no independent economic significance.
Both the UK High Court and UK Court of Appeal agreed that PRCA members needed a licence from the NLA in order to receive the Meltwater service. The PRCA appealed to the UK Supreme Court.