Legal Implications of Emoji Use

Emoticons – the often whimsical hieroglyphics that most so affectionately know as “emojis” – have become ubiquitous in modern digital communication not only by individuals but also by corporations as part of their advertising and marketing campaigns on social media. Emojis have also begun appearing as evidence in court cases.

A short, but fascinating, discussion between several experts in the fields of computer science, hieroglyphics, and social media of the impact emojis have had on our language can be found here. The crux of the discussion is that emojis can have a profound impact on the way we communicate. Essentially, the inclusion of a single emoji can alter the meaning of the accompanying text. Alexandre Loktonov, AHRC Fellow at the Kluge Center and an expert on hieroglyphics, likens emojis to what are known as “deteriminatives” in Egyptian hieroglyphics, or “signs, which, without having a phonetic value of their own, can ‘color’ the meaning of the preceding word or phrase.” In recent years, the nature of emojis has been addressed in several lawsuits, proving that courts may be recognizing the importance these characters have begun to have with respect to our language and communication. Continue reading

Legal chatbots: something for nothing?

In June, we introduced the topic of chatbots and highlighted some key risks and concerns associated with this growing area of technology.  One business in particular, DoNotPay, made headlines recently by announcing that it would begin building legal chatbots for free.

The claim? In a July 14, 2017, posting to the online publishing platform Medium, Joshua Browder, founder of UK-based DoNotPay, writes, “Starting today, any lawyer, activist, student or charity can create a bot with no technical knowledge in minutes.  It is completely free.”  Sound too good to be true?  To be sure, DoNotPay is not the first company to develop law-related chatbots—these bots are already popping up all over the world.  But because this technology is still fairly new, chatbots that are attempting to automate services previously performed by licensed attorneys will almost certainly attract scrutiny.  Continue reading

How Animal Influencers Are Changing the Way Brands Advertise

At this point you are probably familiar with the world of social media influencers. You might follow several on Instagram, or maybe your company partners with them to promote its products. But have you realized that the most valuable influencers may not even be human? This post will focus on animal influencers – they are cute, they come in a variety of species, and they are being paid to advertise products via social media.

Why animals?

Aspiring animal influencers can rise from obscurity to fame in an instant – all it takes is one viral post. The demand for cute and funny animal content is certainly present. As the Brand Protection Blog has previously reported, an estimated fifteen percent of all web traffic is connected to cats. Continue reading

Stay safe on social media – New ACCC guidelines

Businesses shelling out big bucks for prime advertising space are used to paying close attention to content, for the sake of the bottom line as well as out of respect for consumer law. However, it may not feel as natural and cost-effective to apply the same scrutiny to an Instagram caption. Why invest the business resources when teenagers worldwide can master the art?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recently issued new social media guidelines for businesses which emphasise the answer repeatedly: as far as the regulator is concerned, businesses have the same responsibilities on social media as they do in all other marketing channels. Consumer protection laws (including, for example, the prohibition on conduct that is misleading or deceptive, or is likely to mislead or deceive), apply to Snapchat stories and ads in national broadsheets alike. Continue reading

The Battle for Copyright Protection in the Digital Era

The age of the Internet poses many new challenges to those individuals seeking to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights online. As the Federal Court of Appeal in Canada recently stated: “Under the cloak of anonymity on the internet, some can illegally copy, download, and distribute the intellectual property of others, such as movies, songs and writings.”  (Voltage Pictures, LLC et al. v. John Doe #1 et al., 2017 FCA 97 at para. 1 [Voltage Pictures].)  As a result, Canada has slowly began modernizing its copyright regime in order to allow the cloak of anonymity to be lifted and the identity of alleged infringers to be revealed.  (See e.g., Copyright Modernization Act, S.C. 2012, c. 20, s. 47.) Continue reading

New German Law on Hate Speech on Social Media

June of 2017 ended with the German parliament approving the bill targeted at eliminating hate speech and fake news on social media, including on Facebook, YouTube, and Google. The law will take effect in October of 2017, and could carry fines up to EUR 50 million.

We previously discussed the bill on this blog post.  Now that the bill has been passed into law, social media companies are required to remove illegal hate speech within 24 hours after receiving notification or a complaint, and to block other offensive content within seven days.  The law also requires social media companies to report the number of complaints they have received, and how they have dealt with them, every six months. Continue reading

How to use social media – and the consequences if you step out of line

In South Africa, employees are under the mistaken belief that what they do in their time away from the office, specifically on social media, is private and beyond the reach of their employer’s control.

They fail to consider that they could face disciplinary action for their online rants and comments. This could be fatal to their employment. The reality is that with the escalating use of social media during working hours as well as outside of company time, employees are regularly coming under fire for what they post online. Continue reading

Anonymity of former employee reviews

In March of 2017, a California court of appeals prohibited the disclosure of an individual’s identity after the individual anonymously posted negative information about his former employer on the website Glassdoor.

Glassdoor, Inc. operates a website that allows individuals to post reviews anonymously about their employment experiences.  One such post was published to the website on June 21, 2015 by an individual claiming to be former employee of Machine Zone, Inc. The post included negative comments about the company, including: Continue reading

Private social media posts can get you kicked out of university and worse

Each year Harvard University, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, receives over 30,000 applications from prospective students for about 2,000 places in its first year class. Recently, ten of those successful applicants, due to graduate in 2021, had their offers of admission revoked before they set foot onto campus.  The reason?  The content of the offensive memes they had shared on a private Facebook group, which at one stage had been named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”. Continue reading

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