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Socially Aware Blog

The Law and Business of Social Media

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

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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

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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.

Socially Aware Made the Blawg 100 Again!

Posted in Uncategorized

We are delighted to announce that Socially Aware has been included in the 10th Annual Blawg 100, a list of “100 excellent legal blogs” selected by the staff and readers of the ABA Journal, the American Bar Association’s flagship magazine.

The ABA Journal’s editorial staff notes that it compiles the BLAWG 100 list as a service to its readers, “pointing them to a collection of some of the very best legal writing and commentary on the Web.”

We’re honored to have been selected from among the more than four thousand legal blogs in the ABA Journal’s directory. And we’re flattered to be listed alongside many of our own favorite law blogs, such as Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog and Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log.

We’d like to thank our many contributors to the blog and our wonderful readers.

Here’s to another great year!

Yelp Case Shows CDA §230 Still Has Teeth

Posted in Online Reviews, Section 230 Safe Harbor

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2016 has been a challenging year for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and the website operators who depend on it for protection against liability stemming from user-generated content. An unusually large number of cases this year have resulted in decisions holding that the defendant website operators were not entitled to immunity under Section 230. For example, as we’ve discussed recently, in Hassel v. Bird, the California Court of Appeal held that Section 230 did not prevent the court from ordering Yelp to remove from its website allegedly defamatory reviews posted by users, even though Yelp was not a party in the underlying defamation suit.

We are working on an article surveying some of the recent cases holding that Section 230 did not apply. But in the meantime, it is important to remember that Section 230 remains a powerful shield against liability and that defendants continue to wield it successfully in many cases. The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Kimzey v. Yelp is one such case.

Kimzey arose from two negative Yelp reviews that user “Sarah K” posted in September 2011 about Douglas Kimzey’s locksmith business in the Seattle area. Sarah K’s reviews were extremely negative and rated Kimzey one out of five stars in Yelp’s multiple-choice star rating system. In all caps, she warned Yelpers that “THIS WAS BY FAR THE WORST EXPERIENCE I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED WITH A LOCKSMITH. DO NOT GO THROUGH THIS COMPANY . . . CALL THIS BUSINESS AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Continue Reading

Social Links: IMDb sues over right to post actors’ ages; Facebook tests jobs feature; Pinterest adopts “tried it” button

Posted in Cyberbullying, E-Commerce, First Amendment, Free Speech, Litigation, UK, Wearable Computers

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has filed suit to overturn a law that requires the popular entertainment website to remove the ages or birth dates of people in the entertainment industry upon request.

Vine might not be history after all.

Twitter users posted more than one billion election-related tweets between the first presidential debate and Election Day.

Facebook is testing a feature that allows company Page administrators to post job ads and receive applications from candidates.

People who create or encourage others to use “derogatory hashtags” on social media could be prosecuted in England and Wales.

A new “tried it” checkmark on pins will allow Pinterest users to share the products and projects they’ve purchased or attempted.

Did social media ads allow political campaigns to circumvent state laws prohibiting the visible promotion of candidates within a certain distance of polling places?

The Eight Circuit held that a college has the right to expel a student from its nursing program for inappropriate social media posts about his classmates, including the suggestion that he would inflict on one of them a “hemopneumothorax”—a lung puncture.

Law enforcement officials are increasing their use of social media to locate missing persons.

An unemployed single mother in California is facing several misdemeanor charges for selling her ceviche over social media.

Coming soon to a vending machine near you: Snapchat Spectacles (but only if you live in a densely populated area like New York or Los Angeles).

Social media analytics firms claim that social media did a better job at predicting Trump’s win than the polls.

Preparing for a Data Security Breach: Ten Important Steps to Take

Posted in Data Security

A close-up on an abstract design of a display, which is warning about a cyber attack. Multiple rows of hexadecimal code are interrupted by red glowing warning text. Part of the display is reflected on a shiny surface. The image can represent a variety of threats in the digital world: data theft, data leak, security breach, intrusion, etc...

Is your company prepared to respond to a data security breach? For many companies, even reading this question causes some anxiety. However, being prepared for what seems like the inevitable—a security breach—can be the difference between successfully navigating the event or not. While we still hear some companies say, “That would never happen to our company!” a significant breach can happen to any company.

In light of this and the close scrutiny that the high-profile breaches reported over the past year have received, many companies have taken the opportunity to consider their preparedness and ability to respond quickly and decisively to such an incident. We have prepared for our readers who are in-house attorneys or privacy officers the following checklist highlighting some steps that companies may consider taking so that they can be better prepared in the event that a significant breach incident occurs.

  1. Make Friends With Your IT/IS Department.

It is important to be familiar with your company’s risk tolerance and approach to information security in order to develop an understanding of your company’s security posture. The time to explore these issues isn’t after a breach has happened, so ask your colleagues in your company’s information technology or information security departments the basic questions (e.g., What’s DLP?) and the tough questions (e.g., Why haven’t we addressed the data security concerns raised in last year’s audit?). You would rather learn, for example, that your company does not encrypt its laptops before one is stolen. Continue Reading