Computer scientist and legal scholar Nick Szabo first proposed the idea of “smart contracts” in 1996. Szabo published his initial paper on the topic in a publication called Extropy, a journal of transhumanism, a movement seeking to enhance human intellect and physiology by means of sophisticated technologies. At the time, the idea was nothing if not futuristic.

Fast forward 22 years, and even if the actual use of smart legal contracts remains largely in the future, the idea of them has gone mainstream. What follows is our list of the top five things you need to know about this quickly evolving area.

  1. Their Name Is Somewhat Confusing

When lawyers speak of contracts, they generally mean agreements that are intended to be legally enforceable. In contrast, when most people use the term “smart contract” they’re not referring to a contract in the legal sense, but instead to computer coding that may effectuate specified results based on “if, then” logic.

Advocates of smart legal contracts envision a day when coding will automatically exercise real-world remedies if one of the parties to a smart contract fails to perform.. For example, if an automotive borrower were to fail to make a car payment, coding within the smart loan agreement could automatically trigger a computer controlling the relevant car to prevent the borrower from driving it, or could cause the car to drive autonomously to the lender’s garage.

Even then, whether coding itself could ever satisfy the requirements of a legally binding contract is up for debate. Continue Reading Five Things to Know About Smart Contracts

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.

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.

 

 

 

.

 

Often derided as clickbait, listicles get a bum rap. They can be light on substantive content, sure, but sometimes that’s a good thing, especially for the busy readers of legal blogs, who would do well to treat themselves to some easily browsable reading material once in a while.

And so, at Socially Aware, we’ve made an annual tradition of curating a “List of Lists”—an inventory of the predictions, retrospectives and roundups that we think will be of most interest to our readership.

We’ll update this page throughout the month as additional pertinent content is published.

Happy 2018!

Technology & Social Media Law

The Top 10 Legal Tech Stories of 2017

UK Internet Law Developments to Look Out for in 2018

Social Media (General)

Most Popular Social Media Apps

7 Social Media Trends That Dominated 2017

8 Things We Learned About Social Media in 2017

7 Social Media Trends That Will Dominate 2018

10 Social-Media Trends to Prepare for in 2018

8 Top Social Media Trends to Look Out for in 2018

Social Media Trends to Watch For in 2018

Top 5 Social Media Trends to Put Into Practice in 2018

The Web 100

Continue Reading A List of Lists

Happy 2018 to our readers! It has become a Socially Aware tradition to start the New Year with some predictions from our editors and contributors. With smart contracts on the horizon, the Internet of Things and cryptocurrencies in the spotlight, and a number of closely watched lawsuits moving toward resolution, 2018 promises to be an exciting year in the world of emerging technology and Internet law.

Here are some of our predictions regarding tech-related legal developments over the next twelve months. As always, the views expressed are not to be attributed to Morrison & Foerster or its clients.

From John Delaney, Co-Founder and Co-Editor, Socially Aware, and Partner at Morrison & Foerster:
Regarding Web Scraping

Web scraping is an increasingly common activity among businesses (by one estimate, web-scraping bots account for as much as 46% of Internet traffic), and is helping to fuel the “Big Data” revolution. Despite the growing popularity of web scraping, courts have been generally unsympathetic to web scrapers. Last August, however, web scrapers finally received a huge victory, as the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California enjoined LinkedIn from blocking hiQ Labs’ scraping of publicly available user profiles from the LinkedIn website in the hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp. litigation. The case is now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit; although my sense is that the Ninth Circuit will reject the broad scope and rationale of the lower court’s ruling, if the Ninth Circuit nevertheless ultimately sides with hiQ Labs, the web scraper, the decision could be a game changer, bringing online scraping out of the shadows and perhaps spurring more aggressive uses of scraping tools and scraped data. On the other hand, if the Ninth Circuit reverses, we may see companies reexamining and perhaps curtailing their scraping initiatives. Either way, 2018 promises to bring greater clarity to this murky area of the law.

Regarding the Growing Challenges for Social Media Platforms

2017 was a tough year for social media platforms. After years of positive press, immense consumer goodwill and a generally “hands off” attitude from regulators, last year saw a growing backlash against social media due to a number of reasons: the continued rise of trolling creating an ever-more toxic online environment; criticism of social media’s role in the dissemination of fake news; the growing concern over social media “filter bubbles” and “echo chambers”; and worries about the potential societal impact of social media’s algorithm-driven effectiveness in attracting and keeping a grip on our attention. Expect to see in 2018 further efforts by social media companies to get out ahead of most if not all of these issues, in the hopes of winning over critics and discouraging greater governmental regulation.

Regarding the DMCA Safe Harbor for Hosting of User-Generated Content

The backlash against social media noted in my prior item may also be reflected to some extent in several 2017 court decisions regarding the DMCA safe harbor shielding website operators and other online service providers from copyright damages in connection with user-generated content (and perhaps in the CDA Section 230 case law discussed by Aaron Rubin below). After nearly two decades of court decisions generally taking an ever more expansive approach to this particular DMCA safe harbor, the pendulum begun to swing in the other direction in 2016, and this trend picked up steam in 2017, culminating in the Ninth Circuit’s Mavrix decision, which found an social media platform provider’s use of volunteer curators to review user posts to deprive the provider of DMCA safe harbor protection. Expect to see the pendulum continue to swing in favor of copyright owners in DMCA safe harbor decisions over the coming year.

Regarding Smart Contracts

Expect to see broader, mainstream adoption of “smart contracts,” especially in the B2B context—and perhaps litigation over smart contracts in 2019 . . . .

From Aaron Rubin, Co-Editor, Socially Aware, and Partner at Morrison & Foerster:
Regarding the CDA Section 230 Safe Harbor

We noted previously that 2016 was a particularly rough year for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the immunity that the statute provides website operators against liability arising from third-party or user-generated content. Now that 2017 is in the rear view mirror, Section 230 is still standing but its future remains imperiled. We have seen evidence of Section 230’s resiliency in recent cases where courts rejected plaintiffs’ creative attempts to find chinks in the immunity’s armor by arguing, for example, that websites lose immunity when they use data analytics to direct users to content, or when they fail to warn users of potential dangers, or when they share ad revenue with content developers. Nonetheless, it is clear that the knives are still out for Section 230, including in Congress, where a number of bills are under consideration that would significantly limit the safe harbor in the name of combatting sex trafficking. I predict that 2018 will only see these efforts to rein in Section 230 increase. Continue Reading 2018: Predictions From Socially Aware’s Editors and Contributors

Here at Socially Aware, we focus on the opportunities and challenges presented by emerging technologies. With broad-ranging applications that could transform businesses of all kinds, blockchain is clearly one of the most disruptive and revolutionary technologies of all.

On Tuesday, December 5th in New York City, Morrison & Foerster will co-sponsor and host the second annual Blockchain Opportunity Summit, a daylong event that will explore strategies for incorporating distributed ledger systems to improve contracts, financial transactions, identity management and other facets of business.

Socially Aware contributors Joshua Klayman and Dario de Martino will join more than 30 other cross-industry blockchain experts who will identify and assess the logistical challenges, industry thinking and global regulatory trends currently affecting blockchain’s future.

For the conference agenda, speakers’ list and cost information (there is a charge to attend), please check out the event brochure. To register for the event, click here.

 

The government in Indonesia has warned the world’s biggest social media providers that they risk being banned in that country if they don’t block pornography and other content deemed obscene.

A member of the House of Lords has proposed an amendment to the U.K.’s data protection bill that would subject technology companies to “minimum standards of age-appropriate design” such as not revealing the GPS locations of users younger than 16.

A bill in Wisconsin would make impersonating someone on social media a misdemeanor.

Google’s general counsel wrote a blog post arguing that two new cases over right-to-be-forgotten requests and pending before the European Union’s top court put the search-engine company at risk of “restricting access to lawful and valuable information.”

Trucking is a $700 billion industry that stands to save billions from automation,  and will likely get self-driving vehicles on the road sooner than most people expected.

Social media platforms are often used to prey on potential sex trafficking victims, according to one FBI special agent.

A recent study shows that searching for information from unofficial sources on social media during a crisis is likely to result in the spread of misinformation and anxiety. Researchers recommend that, to quash rumors, emergency management officials should stay in regular contact with people even if they don’t have any new information.

This piece in Slate invites readers to imagine what the Internet would look like today if not for the passage of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a statute that “says that in general, websites are not responsible for the things their users do or post.”

An op-ed in USA Today compares to swift spread of infectious diseases that resulted from the concentration of populations in urban areas to the swift spread of ideas that accompanied the invention of the Internet, and concludes that traditional training in critical thinking is as necessary to survive the latter as nutrition was to survive the former.

By allowing companies to provide consumers with verifiable information about things like their diversity-driven hiring practices and their products’ supply chains, blockchain is going to change the marketing industry significantly, the American Marketing Association reports.

A high school senior who was bullied in middle school created Sit With Us, the phone-based anti-bullying app that helps kids find a welcoming place to eat in their school cafeteria.

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.

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.