Following a recent U.S. district court’s ruling, foreign companies operating cloud-based services may find themselves subject to federal long-arm jurisdiction under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), even if they have no physical presence in the United States. In reaching its decision, the court noted that the question was ripe for consideration by the court of appeals; thus, it remains to be seen whether the decision will stand if appealed.

In Plixer International, Inc. v. Scrutinizer GMHB, the District Court of Maine ruled that, while jurisdiction would not exist under Maine’s long-arm statute, the court had specific personal jurisdiction over a German company under federal long-arm statute. Rule 4(k)(2), the federal long-arm statute, provides that serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant if the defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in any state’s courts of general jurisdiction as long as exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws.

Continue Reading Foreign Cloud-Based Service Providers May Be Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in the United States

After British police unsuccessfully tried to get the blogging platform WordPress.com to remove offensive and threatening posts, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party vowed to urge changes that would make the country’s laws less tolerant of online abuse.

As bipartisan U.S. legislation to prevent the appearance of foreign-entity-funded political ads on social media gains traction, Twitter announced that it will impose a “promoted by political account” label on election ads and allow everyone to see all ads currently running on the platform regardless of whom those ads target. These efforts will not prevent automated accounts known as “bots” from influencing voters or spreading fake news on Twitter, but an op-ed in The Guardian suggests the technology to overcome the bots problem exists.

While we’re on the subject of potential solutions for the problems that plague social media, one industry observer suggests that blockchain technology, which records digital events on a public ledger and requires consensus among users, could cure social networks’ fake-news and trolling problems, and prevent brands from purchasing fake followers.

Legislation is another way of discouraging undesirable online behavior. In Texas, “David’s Law” now requires school districts to create cyberbullying policies and to investigate bullying reports that involve students but take place off-campus or after school hours. And legislation that cleared a committee in Tallahassee would make threatening someone on social media in Florida a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Should artificial intelligence be regulated? Some experts believe that the time is now, on the cusp of the AI revolution.

Facebook acquired a nine-week-old startup whose app encourages teens to anonymously exchange positive feedback.

This piece quoting Socially Aware contributor Julie O’Neill explains how cross-device tracking can cause employees to expose their organizations to significant data security risks—especially if the employees use their personal devices to perform work-related tasks.

The online marketplace eBay launched a service for sellers of certain luxury wallets and handbags that relies on experts to verify the authenticity of the goods being sold, backed by a 200% money-back guarantee.

Instagram has become such an integral part of promoting restaurants that the Culinary Institute of America will begin offering electives in food photography and food styling.

Tips for becoming a social media influencer from a pair of fashion bloggers who made it big.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 16, 2017, announced it had granted the government’s petition for certiorari in United States v. Microsoft and will hear a case this Term that could have lasting implications for how technology companies interact with the U.S government and governments overseas. At issue is a consequential Second Circuit decision from last year that held that warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) do not reach emails and other user data stored overseas by a U.S. provider.

While no federal appellate court besides the Second Circuit has squarely addressed the issue, multiple district courts outside the Second Circuit have declined to follow the Second Circuit’s reasoning in similar fact patterns involving other technology giants. The result is that U.S. law enforcement has different authority to access foreign-stored user data depending on where in the United States a warrant application is made. Google, for example, has expended significant resources to develop new tools to determine the geographic location of its users’ data so as to be in accord with the Second Circuit’s approach. Yet the company currently faces a hearing on sanctions for its alleged willful noncompliance with law enforcement requests in the Ninth Circuit based on a district court ruling that parted ways with the Second Circuit.

Continue Reading SCOTUS to Resolve Lower-Court Dispute Over U.S. Warrants Seeking Foreign-Stored User Data

Technology-company M&A slowed down significantly over the last year, with deal volume down by 15% across the globe in Q3 of 2017 compared to Q3 of 2016, and a $37 billion decline to $119 billion in Q3 2017 tech-company deal value compared to the same quarter in 2016.

“Outbidding by private equity acquirers” was the primary cause of the plunge, according to almost half (48%) of the industry decision makers who responded to the Tech M&A Leaders’ Survey from 451 Research and Morrison & Foerster. Indeed, 2017 was the first year in history that private equity firms announced more technology mergers and acquisitions than companies listed on U.S. exchanges.

In line with these trends have been the companies that fall within the tech industry’s social media subsection—defined by a spokesperson from Index, the source of the data cited here, as “companies that actually own and operate social media platforms, companies that provide services surrounding social media platforms (such as analytics and marketing automation), or companies that operate through social media.”

Continue Reading Pace of M&A Deals in Social Media Industry Slows After Record Year

With much fanfare, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to take actions relating to so-called “social media influencers” who allegedly fail to disclose material connections to the products or brands they endorse. Recurring enforcement actions and guidance—and the FTC’s ongoing promotion of its own efforts, such as through Twitter chats—make it clear that the FTC believes that its message has still not been heard by all of the players in this advertising ecosystem, including influencers themselves.

In short, any endorsements in any medium where the endorser has a material connection of any kind to the endorsed advertiser must be disclosed.

The most recent developments include an enforcement action against a company—and two of its officers—in connection with endorsements of the company made by the officers in YouTube videos and in social media.  Before turning to this case, however, we provide a brief overview of how the FTC has gotten here. Continue Reading Brands Beware: FTC Continues Campaign on Social Media Influencer Disclosures

As part of a new tracking system, the Department of Homeland Security will be keeping records of immigrants’ social media handles and search results.

Russia to Facebook: Turn over user-information or risk being blocked.

Google is ending a policy that required news sites to allow users at least one free article-click.

A new social media platform called Steemit will pay users in cryptocurrency for posting, commenting, or liking content—and its market capitalization is around $294 million.

Not everyone is a fan of Twitter’s new 280-character limit.

A type of biometric payment system that identifies a checking or credit account owner based on the unique vein-pattern in his or her fingertip would allow consumers to shop without cash, cards or devices.

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are allowing startups that develop applications for blockchain technology to raise money without giving up the equity or decision-making power they would have to surrender to venture capitalists.

In this Wired op-ed, a former prisoner argues that allowing inmates controlled social media use might reduce recidivism and help the cell phone contraband problem.

Young kids are the new social media celebrities—and the law isn’t clear on whether they’re owed any of the money that their parents collect as a result of the viral videos.

When a social media celebrity famous for posting photos of herself posing in fitness gear changed the direction of her Instagram account to one that promotes body acceptance, she initially lost 70,000 followers, but she ultimately wound up with more fans than ever.

Kudos to Netflix’s in-house counsel for crafting a cease-and-desist letter for brand marketing in the modern age.

Recently, the “trolley problem,” a decades-old thought experiment in moral philosophy, has been enjoying a second career of sorts, appearing in nightmare visions of a future in which cars make life-and-death decisions for us. Among many driverless car experts, however, talk of trolleys is très gauche. They call the trolley problem sensationalist and irrelevant. But this attitude is unfortunate. Thanks to the arrival of autonomous vehicles, the trolley problem will be answered—that much is unavoidable. More importantly, though, that answer will profoundly reshape the way law is administered in America.

To understand the trolley problem, first consider this scenario: You are standing on a bridge. Underneath you, a railroad track divides into a main route and an alternative. On the main route, 50 people are tied to the rails. A trolley rushes under the bridge on the main route, hurtling towards the captives. Fortunately, there’s a lever on the bridge that, when pulled, will divert the trolley onto the alternative route. Unfortunately, the alternative route is not clear of captives, either — but only one person is tied to it, rather than 50. Do you pull the lever? Continue Reading Yes, the Trolley IS a Problem

In this era of big data, a company’s value may increasingly depend on the value of the information it has collected and stored. As companies amass ever-growing amounts of often sensitive personal data, the privacy and cybersecurity risks involved in mergers and acquisitions have become greater. As a result, today’s M&A transactions necessarily require deep due diligence on the privacy and cybersecurity risks posed by these deals, including a review of the M&A target’s communications on internal- and external-facing social media platforms.

In a practical webinar on September 26, 2017, Socially Aware contributor Christine Lyon and Mike Krigbaum discussed privacy and data security due diligence in M&A transactions. The topics they covered included:

  • Common challenges and pitfalls in performing privacy and cybersecurity due diligence;
  • The questions an acquirer’s team should ask to better identify, evaluate, and manage an acquisition target’s privacy and cybersecurity vulnerabilities; and
  • Steps the seller’s team can take to mitigate risk and help ensure that the deal is not jeopardized.

To view a recording of the webcast, click here.

In 2016, brands spent $570 million on social influencer endorsements on Instagram alone. This recode article takes a looks at how much influencers with certain followings can command, and whether they’re worth the investment.

And don’t overlook the legal issues associated with the use of social media influencers; the FTC just settled its first complaint against social media influencers individually. The case involved two online gamers who posted videos of themselves promoting a gaming site that they failed to disclose they jointly owned.

In a precedent setting opinion, the European Court of Human Rights held that the right to privacy of a Romanian man, Bogdan Bărbulescu, was violated when Bărbulescu’s employer, without explicitly notifying Bărbulescu, read personal messages that Bărbulescu sent from an online account that Bărbulescu had been asked to set up for work purposes.

In other European news, the attorney general for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, MP, has begun an inquiry into whether that jurisdiction needs to impose restrictions on social media in order to help ensure criminal defendants there get a fair trial.

More than half of Americans 50 or older now get their news from social media sites, Pew Research Center’s 2017 social media survey shows.

Celebrities who promote initial coin offerings (ICOs) on social media risk violating laws that apply to the public promotion of securities.

Facebook developed an artificial intelligence robot that can express emotion by making realistic facial expressions at appropriate times.

A college student has sued Snapchat and the Daily Mail for alleged defamation and invasion of privacy arising from the use of the student’s name and image on Discover, Snapchat’s social news feature, under the headline, “Sex, Drugs and Spring Break—College Students Descent on Miami to Party in Oceans of Booze and Haze of Pot Smoke.”

Is the threat of artificial intelligence disrupting a slew of industries less imminent than we thought?

Google created a website that uses fun illustrations to show which “how to” queries its users entered into the search engine most.

The popularity of online videos that viewers can appreciate with the sound turned off has led to striking similarities between early silent film and modern social video.

The number of consumers using multiple devices—from smartphones to tablets to laptop computers—has exploded in recent years and continues to grow globally. Companies are increasingly turning to new technologies in an attempt to ascertain that multiple devices are connected to the same person for a variety of purposes, such as preventing fraud, providing a more seamless user experience, and more effectively reaching their target audience. While such cross-device tracking provides a number of benefits, it also raises privacy concerns that have drawn increased regulatory scrutiny in the last few years.

Join Socially Aware contributors Julie O’Neill and Alja Poler De Zwart on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:00 am until 12:00 pm ET for a practical, multijurisdictional look at cross-device tracking and best practices that companies can employ to achieve maximum commercial advantage while mitigating privacy risks. Topics that will be addressed include:

  • An overview of various cross-device tracking technologies and how they are used;
  • The privacy issues that cross-device tracking implicates and how to avoid common pitfalls;
  • Essential features of a compliant digital advertising program; and Recent U.S. and EU regulatory activity and trends, including self-regulatory guidance.

Register now.  There is no charge to attend the webinar.