The Law and Business of Social Media
June 11, 2019 - Advertising, First Amendment, European Union, Copyright, Free Speech, IP, Litigation

Social Links: Suit over “embedded tweet” with Tom Brady’s photo settles; brand agency manipulates Wikipedia; evidence from Instagram wins French rock star’s kids a share of his estate

In March, Socially Aware reported on a lawsuit involving several prominent news outlets’ publication of a photo of NFL quarterback Tom Brady on Twitter. The case had the potential to upend a copyright and Internet-law rule that, in the words of a Forbes columnist, “media companies had viewed as settled law for over a decade.” Read exactly what common-law copyright rule the case called into question, and how the Tom-Brady-Twitter-photo lawsuit concluded without resolving the status of that rule.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blocked the conservative media outlet The Daily Caller from following her on Twitter after the publication disputed something she’d said in connection with her Green New Deal resolution. Some First Amendment experts argue that public officials’ blocking of accounts on social media doesn’t violate the free speech rights of the owners of those blocked accounts. Last year, however, in a case filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute and seven individuals who claimed President Trump had blocked them on Twitter, a federal district court in New York held that Twitter’s “interactive space” constitutes a public forum, and that blocking users violates their right to free speech.

A draft law in Germany is believed to be the first regulatory proposal in Europe “to impose binding diversity obligations on social media platforms’ ranking and sorting algorithms,” according to the authors of a post on a media blog belonging to the London School of Economics. The proposed law would, among other things, prohibit “media intermediaries”—a category that includes social media platforms, search engines and news aggregators—from “unfairly disadvantage[ing] (directly or indirectly) or treat[ing] differently providers of journalistic editorial content to the extent that the intermediary has potentially a significant influence on their visibility.”

The government of Bahrain, an island-country in the Persian Gulf that has been increasing security since a Shi’ite Muslim-led uprising in 2011, recently sent text messages to its citizens’ phones warning them that merely following activist social media accounts could result in legal liability.

Pursuant to a 2016 Russian law that requires social media sites to acquiesce to the government’s requests for user data, the Russian government is requiring the dating app Tinder to collect and turn over all of its user data for at least six months. Blackmail fodder, anyone?

North Face, an outdoor-activity-accoutrements company, secretly executed an ad campaign on Wikipedia. The campaign may have been an ingenious way to get North Face’s products at the top of world travelers’ Google results, but it violated the educational platform’s terms of service and struck many people as unethical. The company and its ad agency have since apologized.

In a case that serves a reminder of the increasing use of social media posts as evidence in courts of law, a court near Paris held that a French rock star’s Instagram account provided sufficient evidence to prove that the musician had spent enough time in France over several years to give a French court competence over the his estate.