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

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.

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 nice overview of the rules on researching jurors’ social media accounts in various jurisdictions from Law.com.

The importance of appearing at the top of Google search results, especially on mobile devices, is driving retailers to spend more and more on the search engine’s product listing ads, which include not just text but also the photos of products.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a mobile robot that 3D-printed a building that is 50-feet-wide in 14 hours.

In the second half of 2016, Facebook received 9% more global government requests for users’ account data and—largely because users had stopped posting images of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack victims’ remains, which was against French law—28% fewer global government requests to remove content that violates local law.

After Kashmiris posted photos and videos depicting alleged military abuse in the days following a violence-plagued local election, authorities in the Indian-controlled region banned 22 social media sites, claiming it was necessary to restore order.

At the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff, Wales, this summer, British police will pilot a new automated facial recognition (AFR) system to scan the faces of attendees and compare them to a police “persons of interest” database.

To show concerned citizens—and criminals—that they mean business, police in an Alabama city are live-broadcasting arrests on Twitter.

The data collected by the physical-activity-tracking device worn by a Connecticut murder victim contradicts the timeline of events given by her husband, a suspect.

One of the Kardashians is being sued by a photo agency for allegedly copying a copyrighted photo of her and posting it to her Instagram account.

And on the subject of user-generated content, owners of video content that is posted by users to Facebook without authorization can now claim ad earnings for the infringing content and set automated rules that will determine when infringing content should be blocked.

The editor of the MIT Technology Review provided interesting insights to Chatbots Magazine regarding the future and current state of artificial intelligence.

Police in Silicon Valley arrested a man for allegedly knocking down a 300-pound security robot while he was intoxicated.

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.

Without Google’s permission, Burger King ended one of its television commercials with a statement designed to automatically cause Google Assistant devices to read a list of the Whopper’s ingredients out loud.

Having passed the 1.2-billion-user mark, Facebook Messenger is now twice as popular as Instagram.

A lawsuit alleges Anheuser-Busch and one of its distributors impermissibly used a photo from a woman’s Facebook page in promotional materials for the brewer’s Natural Light beer. We addressed some of the legal risks in seeking to commercialize user-generated content in a Socially Aware blog post last year that can be found here.

And while on the topic of copyright law and social media, a much smaller California business is being sued in federal court by one of its competitors, Founder’s Creek Media, for allegedly copying a copyrighted promotional product video from a Founder’s Creek page on Facebook and using the video as an advertisement for its own, similar product.

Germany may fine social media companies up to 50 million euros ($53 million) if they fail to remove posts that contain hate speech.

A court in Egypt sentenced a lawyer who has represented torture victims to ten years in prison for criticizing that country’s government on social media.

Using the data it aggregates about its users’ whereabouts, Snapchat introduced a new feature that allows marketers to determine whether the Snapchat users who view ad campaigns on the messaging app actually wind up visiting the advertisers’ retail locations and venues (in other words, whether their Snapchat ad campaigns are actually working).

Unbeknownst to most of its users, Twitter rolled out a “dislike” button months ago—but the consequences of using it aren’t clear.

A Business Insider article identifies ten things prospective employers and recruiters should be able to tell about you immediately upon viewing your LinkedIn profile.

An eight-year-old in Ohio took his four-year-old sister for a ride to McDonald’s in his family’s van, apparently after watching driving instruction videos on YouTube.

A New Jersey court rules that state police can examine a suspect’s private social media messages without having to apply for an order under the state’s wiretapping laws.

Technology companies are exercising a lot of control ever over users’ devices remotely, and it’s implicating privacy issues.

Social media companies are reportedly considering putting up on their platforms police icons that will allow police officers in the UK to access the chats of users who click the icons when they feel threatened.

With the help of bots and cyborgs, a 68-year-old Chicago retiree posts more than 1,000 pro-Republican messages to Twitter a day.

Interested in a good, basic—but comprehensive—overview of blockchain and its potential impact that can be read in one sitting? Here it is.

Here are some tips on how brands can use social artificial intelligence to their advantage.

Weary of all the political posts in your newsfeed? Try this app.

Guess which celebrity  posted the first Instagram photo to win more than 7.2 million likes in less than 24 hours?

A robot developed by Google could be representative of how robots “look and operate in the future.” It’s also a little creepy.

Some industry observers are asking whether the post-inauguration tweets that President Trump is sending from his personal Twitter account may be subject to the same Presidential Records Act standards as official presidential communications.

Spending on mobile ads is expected to reach how much by 2021?!

Google recently banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network for either publishing fake news or impersonating real news organizations by using shortened top-level domains such as .co instead of .com.

Perhaps due in part to the fake news phenomenon, most Americans do not trust the news that they read on social media platforms, according to a recent study.

In an effort to keep users on the site, YouTube is testing an in-app messaging platform that allows users to chat about and comment on YouTube content.

Interested in how your brand can best respond to the complaints dissatisfied customers lodge on Twitter? Take a cue from Dippin’ Dots’ savvy response to the new White House Press Secretary’s multiple disses of the company’s product.

An artificially intelligent algorithm that can easily be adapted for smartphones might detect skin cancer moles as effectively as a dermatologist.

A recent study reveals that the United States has more immigrant inventors than every other country combined.

Google just made it possible to view an instantaneous Japanese-to-English translation by holding your smartphone in front of the relevant text.

These tools can help you to take a look beyond your personal social media bubble and understand how the other half thinks.

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

In this edition, we provide five tips for reducing potential liability exposure in seeking to exploit user-generated content; we examine a Ninth Circuit decision highlighting the control that social media platform operators have over the content and data that users post to those platforms; we discuss five questions that companies should ask themselves to help prepare for a ransomware attack; we explore a controversial California court decision that narrows an important liability safe harbor for website operators; we review a federal court decision that illustrates the importance of securing clear and affirmative assent to electronic contracts; we take a look at some recent enforcement actions that indicate a shift toward requiring clearer and potentially more burdensome disclosures from companies engaged in interest-based advertising; and  we examine a recent Northern District of California decision holding that a mobile app developer was not be liable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for a text initiated by one of the app’s users.

All this—plus an infographic illustrating the impact of incorporating user-generated content in marketing campaigns.

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