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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.

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

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.

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.

Blockchain is shaping up as one of the most disruptive IT technologies since the Internet itself, with broad-ranging applications that could transform businesses across the spectrum. Companies that ignore the opportunities—and challenges—created by blockchain and cryptocurrencies may find themselves left behind as more nimble and responsive competitors successfully leverage these emerging technologies.

Our colleagues Spencer Klein and Dario de Martino recently took a close look at blockchain and cryptocurrencies in an article entitled, “Don’t Want To Be The Next Kodak? Embrace Blockchain,” which has been published by Law360, a leading legal publication.

The article addresses:

  • how blockchain and cryptocurrencies work;
  • recent legal developments relating to blockchain and cryptocurrencies;
  • potential benefits arising from Delaware’s recently enacted blockchain legislation; and
  • key takeaways from the recent SEC pronouncements on token sales and related considerations.

Read Spencer and Dario’s Law 360 article here.

A federal appeals court in Miami held that a judge needn’t necessarily recuse herself from a case being argued by a lawyer with whom the judge is merely Facebook “friends.”

Bills in both houses of Congress propose amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to clarify that it doesn’t insulate website operators from liability for violating civil or criminal child-sex-trafficking laws.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that an unemployment-benefits board acted appropriately when it relied, in part, on an applicant’s Facebook post to determine that the applicant was not entitled to benefits.

A Texas law makes cyberbullying punishable by as much as a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

Google is trying to make it more difficult to find and profit from YouTube videos that contain extremist content by placing warnings on those videos and disabling the advertising on them.

A company backed by Mark Cuban is planning to create a social media platform that will anonymize its users’ identities using blockchain technology and attempt to cut down on trolls by charging people with bad reputations on the platform more for premium services.

The online publishing platform Medium is giving some of its content writers the option to put their work behind Medium’s subscription pay wall and get paid based on the number of “claps” that work gets.

Evolutionary psychologists aren’t at all surprised by the popularity of snooping on social media.

Tips for law firm marketers on how to best leverage Instagram.

Advice on how to pen the best automated out-of-office reply.

When you visit someone’s home these days, do you use the doorbell or text instead?

As Socially Aware readers know, privacy and data security issues are among the most critical legal issues confronting companies that do business online. With ransomware attacks and hacking incidents on the rise, and with privacy and data security laws becoming increasingly burdensome, companies are spending more time and resources than ever before addressing privacy and data security issues. Indeed, Morrison & Foerster recently collaborated with ALM Intelligence to take an in-depth look at the types of privacy and data security issues with which in-house legal departments are wrestling, and how such departments are dealing with these issues. The resulting report is interesting and informative, and can be found here.

In an opinion granting a preliminary injunction preventing LinkedIn from blocking a startup’s use of information in LinkedIn profiles accessible to the entire public, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California expressed doubts that a federal anti-hacking law—the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act—prohibits the startup’s scraping of such publicly available information from a website, even if the website owner has asked for the scraping to stop.

Former U.S. president Obama’s tweet quoting Nelson Mandela in the wake of the violent Charlottesville rally is now the most “liked” tweet in history, surpassing Ariana Grande’s response to the Manchester terrorist attack in May.

Does the First Amendment prohibit politicians from blocking people with opposing views on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms? A new wave of lawsuits are teeing up this issue for the courts to resolve.

In a rape case involving two former college football players, the Tennessee Supreme Court held the state’s law on defense subpoenas entitles the defendants to receive access to their alleged victims’ relevant social media and text messaging histories.

Google researchers discovered an algorithm capable of removing the watermarks that stock-imagery sites use in an effort to protect copyrighted content—and suggest a way to thwart the algorithm’s use.

With 2-to-3-minute long episodes, Snapchat’s first daily news program, NBC News’s “Stay Tuned,” has more than 29 million unique viewers.

Speaking of Snapchat, the innovative social media platform just introduced a feature called Crowd Surf that allows users to watch an event like a concert by connecting snaps together based on their audio.

Instagram will soon begin organizing comments into threads the way Facebook does.

A former partner at an Illinois law firm is the subject of a complaint filed by the state’s attorney disciplinary committee for setting up a phony profile on Match.com for a female attorney who practices in his town.

A Georgia judge was suspended for his social media posts, which, among other things, called supporters of de-Confederatization efforts “the nut cases tearing down monuments” and compared them to the radical Islamic terrorist group ISIS.

By deploying the first autonomous impact protection vehicle—a truck designed to absorb the impact of an errant car—the Colorado Department of Transportation eliminated the need for a human driver to risk taking one of the most dangerous jobs around.

Social media has had a huge impact on flight attendants’ work lives.