Chatbots: Some Legal Issues

What is a chatbot?  Essentially it is a computer program which simulates human behaviour online, including on social media. Chatbots are not a new concept but are becoming increasingly sophisticated in what they can do and how closely they can mimic human behaviour online, such that they are increasingly replacing humans in populating social media for organisations.

Chatbots are widely used by corporations to stimulate conversation, promote products/services, increase consumer engagement and generally enhance the user experience. For example, RBS has announced an intent to launch a chatbot “Luvo” to help its customers with more straightforward queries; H&M has a chatbot on Kik, which learns about a user’s style though viewing photographs and recommends outfits; and Pizza Hut has a chatbot on Facebook and Twitter, which allows customers to place order via those platforms. Continue reading

Use of Twitter to Broadcast Courtroom Proceedings

In 2017, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications (the “Commission”) issued an advisory opinion that the conveyance of information via microblogging platforms, such as Twitter, does not constitute prohibited “broadcasting” under Rule 2.17 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Under Rule 2.17, judges are required to prohibit the broadcasting of courtroom proceedings to the public except under a narrow set of circumstances. Although this issue may seem geographically limited at first glance, courts and commissions around the country are considering this issue as microblogging activity becomes more prevalent. Continue reading

Expert Witnesses May (Still) Be Used in U.S. Litigation to Explain Basic Social Media Use

On March 8, 2017, federal Judge Sidney Fitzwater, of the North District of Texas, issued a memorandum opinion and order in Charalambopoulos v. Grammer, No. 3:14-CV-2424-D, 2017 WL 930819. The case had already been in litigation for years and involved allegations of domestic violence and defamation.  According to earlier opinions issued in Charalambopoulos, the parties had been staying in Houston, Texas where the defendant – a reality television star and former wife of Kelsey Grammer – was undergoing cancer treatment.  The parties, who were dating at the time, got into an argument at their hotel during the trip.  Days later, the defendant tweeted about the incident to her roughly 198,000 Twitter followers. Continue reading

WhatsApp group administrators may be responsible for members’ content

In India, an administrator of a Whatsapp group has recently faced arrest, following the sharing of what is alleged to be a defamatory photo-shopped image of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.  South Africa has yet to test the liability of a group admin with regard to what is shared on their group.  However, given the rise in online racism and hate speech, paired with the millions of people around the world who use the Whatsapp application, it could only be a matter of time before a case like that in India comes before the South African courts. Continue reading

FTC, Instagram Posts, and Endorsement Guides

On May 4, 2017, the public received access to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) advisory letters to approximately 45 companies and 45 celebrities/bloggers relating to potential “endorsements” on Instagram.  As a result, we now have some additional guidance on the FTC’s expectations with respect to its Endorsement Guides. Continue reading

Social media and insurance

The mining of social media and the use of big data (vast amounts of available internet data that can be analysed and exploited) by insurers to analyse consumer behaviour will change the face of insurance. The basic principles of insurance include the good faith sharing of information between insurer and insured, a pooling of good risks with bad risks, and assessing a fair premium for policyholders.  Paradoxically, regulations that require insurers to price more competitively and estimate their reserves more precisely to see that they are sufficiently capitalised are leading insurers to find ways to price insured risks more accurately. Continue reading

Crowdfunding platforms and IP enforcement

In today’s world, intellectual property owners are well aware that social media users frequently post infringing content. Companies and brand owners have developed various strategies for enforcing their intellectual property rights on social media, utilizing methods such as demand letters and takedown requests. Often there are so many infringing uses that brand owners must be strategic with their enforcement efforts by developing guidelines for the types of infringement that are worth confronting. For example, an infringer that is impersonating a company or selling counterfeit goods on social media may be worth the time and cost of enforcement measures, while a user who posts a single copyrighted image may not justify such measures. In addition, a company may decide strategically to monitor only certain social media platforms that have a broad enough popularity or impact among the public. Continue reading

Germany considers € 50 million fines for social media sites failing to remove hate speech

The German Justice Ministry has introduced a draft law that would impose fines of up to €50 million on social media companies that fail to remove hate speech and other illegal content from their platforms quickly.

The fines would be imposed whenever social media companies do not remove online threats, hate speech, or slanderous fake news. Any obviously illegal content would have to be deleted within 24 hours; reported material that is later determined to be illegal would have to be removed within seven days. Continue reading

Growth of Digital Payments on Social Networks

A recent UN study reveals that rapid growth of social networks and e-commerce platforms has driven financial inclusion, economic activity and security in practically all countries and in particular China. The report highlights that popular applications WeChat and AliPay have developed into some of the largest and most sophisticated financial ecosystems in the world. For example, AliPay was first launched in 2004 and by 2016 AliPay was processing 175 million transactions per day, and more than half through a mobile phone. Continue reading

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