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.

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).

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.

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?

The Internet of Things is apparently to blame for the Web outage that paralyzed the online world earlier this month.

Justin Timberlake took down his “ballot selfie” from Instagram after Tennessee authorities made clear that it was illegal.

Presumably in order to help facilitate compliance with guidance from regulators in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere, YouTube is making available to video creators an easy-to-use “sponsored content” notification that they can opt to have appear during the first few seconds of their videos.

Will blockchain technology be the next big wave of disruption for the music industry?

With Tinder’s new feature, online daters can be sure their profiles feature the photos most likely to get right-swipes.

When the chief digital officer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art lost his job, he turned to social media for advice.

The NFL’s new social media policy promises to impose hefty fines on member teams that post videos or animated GIFs of games, or use Facebook Live or Periscope to stream anything in the stadium.

When a Russian tech entrepreneur’s friend died, she used artificial intelligence and his old text messages to create a futuristic memorial.

Employed but curious about new job opportunities? Now you can change your LinkedIn profile to secretly signal to recruiters that you’re in the market for a new gig.

Guess what percentage of Americans one researcher predicts will own a virtual reality headset in 2016?

Could Google Flights be the ticket to finding the best possible fare to your 2016 winter holiday destination?

Google is cracking down on mobile pop-up ads by knocking down the search-result position of websites that use them.

The National Labor Relations Board decided a social media policy that Chipotle had in place for its employees violates federal labor law.

A group of lawmakers plans to introduce legislation that would criminalize revenge porn—explicit images posted to the web without the consent of the subject—at the federal level.

The Truth in Advertising organization sent the Kardashians a letter threatening to report them for violating the FTC’s endorsement guides. This isn’t the first time the legality of the famous family’s social media posts has been called into question. If only Kim would read our influencer marketing blog posts.

According to one study, 68% percent of publishers use editorial staff to create native ads.

Twitter launched a button that a company can place on its website to allow users to send a direct message to the company’s Twitter inbox.

The Center for Democracy & Technology criticized the Department of Homeland Security’s proposal to ask visa-waiver-program applicants to disclose their social media account information.

UK lawmakers issued a report calling on the big social media companies to do more to purge their platforms of hate speech and material that incites violence.

Social media is playing bigger role in jury selection, Arkansas prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers say.

A day in the life of the Economist‘s head of social media.

Seven things smart entrepreneurs do on Instagram.

Four ways to get busy people to read the email you send them.

Want to know how Facebook views your political leanings? Here’s the way to find out.

Facebook introduced technology that disables ad blockers used by people who visit the platform via desktop computers, but Adblock Plus has already foiled the platform’s efforts, at least for now.

A look at Twitter’s 10-year failure to stop harassment.

Are mobile apps killing the web?

LinkedIn sues to shut down “scrapers.”

The FTC is planning to police social media influencers’ paid endorsements more strictly; hashtags like #ad may not be sufficient to avoid FTC scrutiny. Officials in the UK are cracking down on paid posts, too.

Dan Rather, Facebook anchorman.

The U.S. Olympic Committee sent letters to non-sponsoring companies warning them against posting about the games on their corporate social media accounts.

How IHOP keeps winning the love & affection of its 3.5 million Facebook fans.

A Canadian woman whose home was designated a Pokémon Go “stop” is suing the app’s creators for trespass and nuisance. We saw that coming.

There’s a website dedicated to helping Snapchat users fool their followers into thinking they’re out on the town.

Facebook has been wooing premium content owners, but TV companies are reportedly resisting.

PETA got a primatologist to submit an amicus curiae brief supporting its suit alleging a monkey who took a selfie is entitled to a copyright for the image.

Social media has upended a number of industries. Is Wall Street next?

Facebook is getting into the video game live-streaming business.

Steven Avery’s defense attorney is keeping her 163,000 Twitter followers abreast of her ongoing defense work on behalf of the “Making a Murderer” documentary subject, and some lawyers think it’s a bad idea.

Five quick and easy ways to double your social media following.

Fake Internet traffic schemes will become the second-largest market for criminal organizations behind cocaine and opiate trafficking.

Bots and fraudsters are feasting on political ad dollars.

People are spending less time on social media apps these days? With Snapchat on pace to have more than 58 million active users this year, we’re skeptical.

The man who created the Internet wants to create a less centralized web with more privacy and less government and corporate control.

Should Twitter limit the number of tweets users can send each day? Other platforms see the value in limiting posts.

In the UK the number of arrests over offensive social media posts is soaring.

Research shows an alarming number of people in the UK can’t distinguish between marketing and non-commercial content on social media, indicating potential breaches of the CAP Code (the UK’s version of the FTC’s Endorsement Guides). Here’s how social media marketers in the UK can stay on the right side of the law.

Google co-founder Larry Page is secretly building flying cars.

Our attention spans are decreasing. Here’s how that should affect your brand’s website and social media strategy.

In a massive recent theft of Twitter usernames and passwords, “123456” was the most commonly used passcode by far. Sigh.

 

iStock_000034905072_MediumSocial media has allowed aspiring authors, musicians, filmmakers and other artists to publish their works and develop a fan base without having to wait to be discovered by a publishing house, record label or talent agency. And that seems to have made at least modest celebrity easier to achieve. The financial rewards that we usually equate with fame, however, might be just as elusive as they were in the pre-Internet age—perhaps even more so, in an era where content, once posted online, can be exploited by others in ways that typically don’t generate money for the creator of the content.

Sure, some hard-working social media stars are scoring big profits based on their popularity. The YouTube channel CharlisCraftyKitchen, for example, which features videos of a young girl making treats and which boasts 29 million views a month, averages monthly ad revenue close to $130,000.

The Swedish gamer PewDiePie’s net worth is estimated at $61 million—a big sum for a guy who is unknown to most people over 40 years old.

And, having secured a book deal and endorsement contracts with brands like L’Oreal, self-taught makeup artist/vlogger Michelle Phan is now at the center of a true life rags to riches story.

I suspect, however, that a far more common tale is the one told by Gaby Dunn, co-star of the YouTube comedy sketch channel Just Between Us, in a fascinating article entitled “Get Rich or Die Vlogging: The Sad Economics of Internet Fame.”

Dunn reports that, despite her channel’s “more than half a million subscribers” and “hungry fan base,” she’s broke and has to take menial jobs to make ends meet.

Dunn says that she and her vlogging partner, Allison Raskin, make money from the “ads that play before [their] videos,” and by freelance writing and performing, “but it’s not enough to live, and its influx is unpredictable.”

Almost as frustrating as brands not believing that Dunn’s channel is big enough to sponsor are her fans’ reactions when she does score a patron. Dunn’s and Raskin’s third branded video in more than two years resulted in viewer comments such as “Enough with the product placement” and “Gotta get that YouTube money, I guess.” And, as we’ve discussed in past blog posts, if a vlogger or other content producer is being paid to endorse a product or service, he or she is generally required to disclose this material connection to his or her followers.

In any event, Dunn is hardly the only online content creator feeling the pinch. Even writers who’ve enjoyed full-time positions at large journalism outlets are finding themselves out of a regular paycheck. The popular digital media website Mashable, for example, laid off 30 members of its staff—including several high-level editors. The current affairs website Salon recently cut back on the number of people on its payroll, too—20 percent of the publication’s editorial staff lost their jobs in April.

Things are equally discouraging in the music business; one revealing statistic from the RIAA is that, in 2015, record companies received more money from vinyl record sales than from ad-supported online streaming.

A real challenge for social media celebrities and other content creators is that online ad rates have been declining for years; despite the continued growth of online advertising, there are not enough ads to support the ever-expanding pool of Web content seeking advertiser support.

Another threat is the rise of freebooting—that is, the practice where a video specifically created for and posted to YouTube is, without the authorization of the video’s creator, copied and uploaded to Facebook, where it may generated millions of views without compensation to the creator.

And perhaps the greatest concern for content creators is the increasing popularity of ad-blocking technologies. The use of ad blockers has grown by 41 percent over the past 12 months; there are now nearly 200 million active users of such technologies worldwide. In the United States, an estimated 45 million Americans are surfing an ad-free version of the Internet, resulting in an estimated $22 billion in lost ad revenues in 2015.

All of this adds up to form a rather bleak picture for content creators seeking to make a living online; a million social media followers may result in fame, but not fortune. And fame without fortune doesn’t pay the bills.

 

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For more information on potential legal hurdles for social media celebrities, influencers, bloggers, vloggers and other content creators seeking to make a living online, please see these related Socially Aware blog posts:

Innovative Social Media Marketing Cannot Overlook Old-Fashioned Compliance

FTC Continues Enforcing Ad Disclosure Obligations in New Media and Issues a Warning to Advertisers

FTC Enforcement Action Confirms That Ad Disclosure Obligations Extend to Endorsements Made in Social Media\

Influencer Marketing: Tips for a Successful (and Legal) Advertising Campaign

An FTC Warning on Native Advertising

03_01_Mar_SociallyAware_COVER1aThe latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this issue of Socially Aware, our Burton Award-winning guide to the law and business of social media. In this edition, we offer tips for a successful—and legal—advertising campaign; we examine a New York State Appellate Division opinion significantly limiting a personal-injury-case defendant’s access to the plaintiff’s social media posts; we review a court decision highlighting potential risks for companies seeking to exploit works licensed under the Creative Commons regime for commercial use; we take a look at an FTC report intended to help companies minimize the legal and ethical risks associated with their use of big data; we consider the complications that a federal district court opinion may create for companies hosting user-generated content; we explore the FTC’s guidance for businesses that publish advertising that could be confused with editorial content; we discuss seven key things to consider when drafting the terms and conditions for a mobile app in Europe; and we describe the key provisions of the European Commission’s proposed directives concerning a business’s online sale of goods or digital content to consumers.

All this—plus an infographic illustrating the state of the U.S. online music industry.

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