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As we have noted previously, the California Court of Appeal’s Hassell v. Bird decision in 2016 upholding an injunction requiring Yelp to remove certain user reviews was discouraging to social media companies and other online intermediaries, as well as to fans of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and proponents of Internet free speech generally. The recent California Supreme Court decision reversing the Court of Appeal was, therefore, met with considerable relief by many in the Internet community.

But while the California Supreme Court’s decision is undoubtedly a significant development, it would be premature for Section 230 fans to break out the champagne; the “most important law protecting Internet speech” remains under attack from many directions, and this recent decision is far from definitive. But before getting into the details of the Hassell v. Bird opinion, let’s step back and consider the context in which the case arose.

Before Section 230: A Wild, Wild Web

A fundamental issue for social media platforms and other online intermediaries, including review sites like Yelp, is whether a company may be held liable when its customers engage in bad behavior, such as posting defamatory content or content that infringes the IP rights of third parties. Imagine if Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Yelp were potentially liable for defamation every time one of their users said something nasty (and untrue) about another user on their platforms. It would be hard to imagine the Internet as we currently know it existing if that were the case. Continue Reading Section 230 Survives to Fight Another Day Following California Supreme Court Decision

Just over a month after the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect, California passed its own sweeping privacy legislation, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.

The Act stands to affect countless global companies doing business in California, many of which recently devoted extensive time and resources to GDPR compliance. These companies must now determine what additional steps are necessary to comply with the Act by the time it takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Join Socially Aware contributors Christine Lyon and Julie O’Neill on Thursday, September 20, 2018, for a deep dive into the key similarities and differences between the GDPR and the Act, as well as practical steps companies can take to assess gaps and chart a path to compliance. The areas they expect to cover include:

  • Notice requirements
  • Access and portability
  • Deletion
  • Opt-outs
  • Discrimination

If you are interested in attending this free webinar, please register here.

An advertising executive who lost his job after being named on an anonymous Instagram account is suing the now-defunct account for defamation. The suit names as defendants not only the account—Diet Madison Avenue, which was intended to root out harassment and discrimination at ad agencies—but also (as “Jane Doe 1,” “Jane Doe 2,” et cetera) several of the anonymous people who ran it. Whether Instagram will ultimately have to turn over the identities of the users behind the account will turn on a couple of key legal issues.

A bill recently passed by the New York State Senate makes it a crime for “a caretaker to post a vulnerable elderly person on social media without their consent.” At least one tech columnist thinks the legislation is so broadly worded that it violates the U.S. Constitution. That might be so, but—in light of several news reports about this unfortunate form of elder abuse over the last few years—that same columnist may not be correct about the bill likely having been passed in response to a one-time incident.

A new law in Egypt that categorizes social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets allows the government in that country to block those accounts and blogs for publishing fake news. Some critics aren’t buying the government’s explanation for the law’s implementation, however, and are suggesting it was inspired by a very different motivation.

Critics of the most recent version of the European Copyright Directive’s Article 13, which the European Parliament rejected in early July, brought home their message by arguing that it would have prevented social media users from uploading and sharing their favorite memes.

In a criminal trial, social media posts may be used by both the prosecution and the defense to impeach a witness but—as with all impeachment evidence—the posts’ use and scope is entirely within the discretion of the trial court. The New York Law Journal’s cybercrime columnist explains.

To thwart rampant cheating by high school children, one country shut down the Internet nationwide during certain hours and had social media platforms go dark for the whole exam period.

Snapchat now allows users to unsend messages. Here’s how.

Employees of Burger King’s Russian division recently had to eat crow for a tasteless social media campaign that offered women a lifetime supply of Whoppers as well as three million Russian rubles ($47,000) in exchange for accomplishing a really crass feat.

We’ve all heard of drivers experiencing road rage, but how about members of the public experiencing robot rage? According to a company that supplies cooler-sized food-delivery robots, its’s a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding that President Trump’s Twitter feed constitutes a public forum, a federal judge in New York City held that it’s a First Amendment violation when the President or one of his assistants blocks a Twitter user from viewing or responding to one of the President’s tweets. As the New York Times points out, the decision “is likely to have implications far beyond Mr. Trump’s feed and its 52 million followers.” A blog post on the online version of the monthly magazine Reason provides some tips for politicians with social media accounts who want to stay on the right side of the law.

Speaking of President Trump, the former secretary of a federal judge is claiming the President got her fired. Okay, not exactly. The secretary, Olga Zuniga, who worked for a judge on Texas’s highest criminal court, filed a lawsuit alleging that the judge—a member of the GOP—terminated her employment because he found Facebook posts in which Zuniga criticized President Trump’s and other Republican politicians’ immigration policies. A post on Popehat, a fellow ABA Web 100 honoree, explores the strength of Zuniga’s case.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect last Friday, May 25th. Now that the dust has cleared, if you are interested in up-to-date information regarding GDPR developments and compliance insights, check out our GDPR Readiness Center. If you want details on what GDPR means for your outsourcing and other vendor agreements, you might want to attend our upcoming webinar.

The impact of GDPR is being felt across social media platforms in all sorts of ways. For example, in a move reportedly prompted by GDPR, Twitter has shut down accounts of those users who, at the time that they joined Twitter, were under 13 years of age, based on date-of-birth information voluntarily provided by such users during the registration process.

Facing an inbox full of companies’ privacy policy updates? You can blame that on the GDPR too. In fact, the onslaught of GDPR-induced privacy-policy updates inspired some pretty creative memes on Twitter.

Wait… the GDPR will also affect tourists taking photos with their phones?

Instagram is expanding its anti-bullying initiatives by using a machine-learning algorithm to filter out harassing comments and reviewing the accounts with an especially high number of blocked comments to determine whether the owners of those accounts have violated the platform’s community guidelines.

The still-unprofitable Snapchat will begin running six-second advertisements that its users will not be able to skip. These un-skippable commercials will not run during users’ personal stories, only during select Snapchat Shows—highly produced three-to-five minute programs from well-known entertainment companies.

The fascinating story of how Wired lost a small fortune in Bitcoin. . . . (Well, the Bitcoins are here, but the key has been destroyed.)

The Royal Wedding was a bigger topic on Pinterest than it was on Facebook. FastCompany speculates that it’s because Pinterest’s audience is predominantly women and reveals the subject of most of the Royal Wedding pins.

With the effective date of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) less than one month away, companies subject to the GDPR are racing to comply with the regulation’s data privacy laws. But, for those companies, May 25 doesn’t represent a finish line as much as it does a starting gate.

In the coming months, as the most thorough and efficient methods of complying with the GDPR’s requirements come to light, the compliance processes that companies rushed to implement will need to evolve and change.

Do your company’s GDPR-compliance practices require an overhaul or just a few minor tweaks? Find out at Morrison & Foerster’s Data Protection Masterclass, a webinar that will help you to avoid wasting your organization’s precious resources by busting GDPR myths.

Join Socially Aware contributors Miriam Wugmeister, Christine Lyon, Alex van der Wolk, and Alja Poler De Zwart on Tuesday, June 19, from 12:00 pm until 1:00 pm ET to learn about data processors’ obligations, the GDPR’s impact on outsourcing and vendor agreements,  and more. If you are interested in attending this webinar, please register here. There is no charge to attend.

Based on copyright infringement, emotional distress and other claims, a federal district court in California awarded $6.4 million to a victim of revenge porn, the posting of explicit material without the subject’s consent. The judgment is believed to be one of the largest awards relating to revenge porn. A Socially Aware post that we wrote back in 2014 explains the difficulties of using causes of action like copyright infringement—and state laws—as vehicles for fighting revenge porn.

The highest court in New York State held that whether or not a personal injury plaintiff’s Facebook photos are discoverable does not depend on whether the photos were set to “private,” but rather “the nature of the event giving rise to the litigation and the injuries claimed, as well as any other information specific to the case.”

A federal district court held that Kentucky’s governor did not violate the free speech rights of two Kentucky citizens when he blocked them from commenting on his Facebook page and Twitter account. The opinion underscores differences among courts as to the First Amendment’s application to government officials’ social media accounts; for example, a Virginia federal district court’s 2017 holding reached the opposite conclusion in a case involving similar facts.

Having witnessed social media’s potential to escalate gang disputes, judges in Illinois have imposed limitations on some juvenile defendants’ use of the popular platforms, a move that some defense attorneys argue violates the young defendants’ First Amendment rights.

A bill proposed by California State Sen. Bob Hertzberg would require social media platforms to identify bots—automated accounts that appear to be owned by real people but are actually computer programs capable of simulating human dialog. Bots can spread a message across social media faster and more widely than would be humanly possible, and have been used in efforts to manipulate public opinion.

This CIO article lists the new strategies, job titles and processes that will be popular this year among businesses transforming into data-driven enterprises.

A solo law practitioner in Chicago filed a complaint claiming defamation and false light against a former client who she alleges posted a Yelp review calling her a “con artist” and a “legal predator”  after, allegedly pursuant to the terms of his retainer, she billed $9,000 to his credit card for a significant amount of legal work.

Carnival Cruise Line put up signs all over the hometown of the 15-year-old owner of the Snapchat handle @CarnivalCruise in order to locate him and offer him and his family a luxurious free vacation in exchange for the transfer of his Snapchat handle—and the unusual but innovate strategy paid off. Who knew that old-school billboards could be so effectively used for one-on-one marketing?

In a decision that has generated considerable controversy, a federal court in New York has held that the popular practice of embedding tweets into websites and blogs can result in copyright infringement. Plaintiff Justin Goldman had taken a photo of NFL quarterback Tom Brady, which Goldman posted to Snapchat. Snapchat users “screengrabbed” the image for use in tweets on Twitter. The defendants—nine news outlets—embedded tweets featuring the Goldman photo into online articles so that the photo itself was never hosted on the news outlets’ servers; rather, it was hosted on Twitter’s servers (a process known as “framing” or “inline linking”). The court found that, even absent any copying of the image onto their own servers, the news outlets’ actions had resulted in a violation of Goldman’s exclusive right to authorize the public display of his photo.

If legislation recently introduced in California passes, businesses with apps or websites requiring passwords and enabling Golden State residents younger than 18 to share content could be prohibited from asking those minors to agree to the site’s or the app’s terms and conditions of use.

After a lawyer was unable to serve process by delivering court documents to a defendant’s physical and email addresses, the Ontario Superior Court granted the lawyer permission to serve process by mailing a statement of claim to the defendant’s last known address and by sending the statement of claim through private messages to the defendant’s Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. This is reportedly the first time an Ontario court has permitted service of process through social media. The first instance that we at Socially Aware heard of a U.S. court permitting a plaintiff to serve process on a domestic, U.S.-based defendant through a social media account happened back in 2014.

Videos that impose celebrities’ and non-famous people’s faces onto porn performers’ to produce believable videos have surfaced on the Internet, and are on the verge of proliferating. Unlike the non-consensual dissemination of explicit photos that haven’t been manipulated—sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”—this fake porn is technically not a privacy issue, and making it illegal could raise First Amendment issues.

By mining datasets and social media to recover millions of dollars lost to tax fraud and errors, the IRS may be violating common law and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to an op-ed piece in The Hill.

A woman is suing her ex-husband, a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, for having her and her friend arrested and briefly jailed for posting on Facebook about his alleged refusal to drop off medication for his sick children on his way to work. The women had been charged with “criminal defamation of character” but the case was ultimately dropped after a state court judge ruled there was no basis for the arrest.

During a hearing in a Manhattan federal court over a suit brought by seven Twitter users who say President Trump blocked them on Twitter for having responded to his tweets, the plaintiffs’ lawyer compared Twitter to a “virtual town hall” where “blocking is a state action and violates the First Amendment.” An assistant district attorney, on the other hand, analogized the social media platform to a convention where the presiding official can decide whether or not to engage with someone. The district court judge who heard the arguments refused to decide the case on the spot and encouraged the parties to settle out of court.

Have your social media connections been posting headshots of themselves alongside historical portraits of people who look just like them? Those posts are the product of a Google app that matches the photo of a person’s face to a famous work of art, and the results can be fun. But not for people who live in Illinois or Texas, where access to the app isn’t available. Experts believe it’s because laws in those states restrict how companies can use biometric data.

The stock market is apparently keeping up with the Kardashians. A day after Kim Kardashian’s half-sister Kylie Jenner tweeted her frustration with Snapchat’s recent redesign, the company’s market value decreased by $1.3 billion.

As we have noted previously, YouTube users sometimes object when the online video giant removes their videos based on terms-of-use violations, such as artificially inflated view counts. In a recent California case, Bartholomew v. YouTube, LLC, the court rejected a user’s claim that the statement YouTube posted after it removed her video, which allegedly gave the impression that the video contained offensive content, was defamatory.

Joyce Bartholomew is a musician who creates what she calls “original Christian ministry music.” Ms. Bartholomew produced a video for the song “What Was Your Name” and posted the video on YouTube in January 2014. YouTube assigned a URL to the video, which Ms. Bartholomew began sharing with her listeners and viewers. By April 2014, she claims that the video had amassed over 30,000 views.

Shortly afterwards, however, YouTube removed the video and replaced it with the image of a “distressed face” and the following removal statement: “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.” The removal statement also provided a hyperlink to YouTube’s “Community Guideline Tips,” which identifies 10 categories of prohibited content: “Sex and Nudity,” “Hate Speech,” “Shocking and Disgusting,” “Dangerous Illegal Acts,” “Children,” “Copyright,” “Privacy,” “Harassment,” “Impersonation” and “Threats.” Continue Reading California Court Holds That YouTube’s Removal Notice Is Not Defamatory

Last year we covered a wide range of online legal and business subjects intended for readers ranging from Internet entrepreneurs to social media marketers, from online shoppers to e-tailers, from networkers to influencers (and the brands that pay them).

The topics of our blog posts covered a myriad of cutting-edge subjects, including a new federal law limiting a business’s ability to stop patrons from posting negative online reviews and a court opinion that gave online retailers some cause for celebration.

As interesting as those topics are, they weren’t the subjects of Socially Aware’s most widely read articles from last year. Here are the most popular posts that appeared on Socially Aware in 2017.

  1. Second Circuit Clarifies “Repeat Infringer” Policy Requirement for DMCA Copyright Safe Harbors
  2. N.Y.’s New Cybersecurity Regulations: What Financial Services Companies Need to Know
  3. The Hague District Court’s WhatsApp Decision Creates Concerns for Mobile App Developers
  4. Google Ordered to Comply with Warrant for Foreign-Stored User Data
  5. Limiting Statutory Damages in Internet Copyright Cases
  6. Court Orders Google to Turn Over Foreign-Stored Data
  7. Zazzle Fizzles: Website Operator Denied Copyright Safe Harbor Protection for Its Sale of Physical Products Featuring User-Generated Images
  8. Delaware Paves the Way for Blockchain Technology
  9. Brands Beware: FTC Continues Campaign on Social Media Influencer Disclosures
  10. FTC Report Reinforces the Rules for Cross-Device Tracking

In order to comply with a new German law requiring social media sites to take down hate speech, Twitter and Facebook removed anti-Islamic social media posts authored by a German far-right political party.

The Obama administration’s screening of social media accounts of aspiring immigrants from majority-Muslim nations yielded little actionable intelligence, but the Trump administration is building on the practice anyway.

Over the first half of 2017, Facebook received 32,716 requests from law enforcement for user data, with 57% of those requests containing non-disclosure orders that prohibited the social media giant from notifying the user.

In other Facebook news, the social media giant is now using its facial recognition technology to notify users whenever someone posts photos of them on the platform.

Last year Twitter dealt with a variety of missteps, including failing to include women on its tech and science follow list and an incident in which a rogue Twitter employee temporarily disabled President Trump’s Twitter account. Here’s a month-by-month look back at Twitter’s tumultuous 2017.

Many YouTube celebrities’ new-subscriber and monthly-view numbers aren’t climbing nearly as fast as they once did. Possible explanations include bugs resulting from changes in YouTube’s algorithms intended to reduce inappropriate content.

Stock exchanges are testing the use of blockchain technology for mutual-fund trading, proxy voting, issuing shares in private companies and facilitating shareholder communications.

Snapchat’s disappearing message feature doesn’t prevent law enforcement from identifying the authors of threats sent using the app.

Some people are using Instagram to connect with romantic prospects, creating portfolios intended to catch the attention of desirable dating candidates and gauging and expressing interest with likes, comments and Stories views.

 

 

 

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