The question of whether a public official may legally suppress dissent or criticism by banning dissenters from social media pages administered by the public official has recently entered the United States’ legal discourse. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently answered this question in Davison v. Randall, which was the first decision on the issue made at the federal appellate level. The implications of this decision could prove to be particularly significant, as President Trump is currently appealing a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In President Trump’s case, the district court held that the President engaged in viewpoint discrimination when he blocked individuals from his social media account because the individuals posted tweets that criticized the President or his policies. The Davison case is significant because the circumstances surrounding that case are similar in many ways to President Trump’s case, which is currently being appealed. Continue reading
As organizations around the globe grapple with disinformation and fake news, the digital trade provisions in NAFTA’s successor may help assuage fears that internet content providers could be held responsible for such content. The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) contains important provisions dealing with the issues of free speech and digital trade. Continue reading
It seems inevitable in today’s digital world that employers will sometimes discover that an employee has posted inappropriate statements or other inappropriate content on social media. The employer must then decide how to respond. Although the desired level of discipline will vary depending on the severity of the content, some statements are so egregious that they may call an employee’s character or fitness into question such that termination is the appropriate response. But if an employee is terminated for inappropriate conduct on social media, does the employer then open itself up to an additional risk of litigation? Continue reading
One of the emerging threats in the digital era is online security breaches. Today, millions of people use social media platforms to post information about their lives online. In doing so, they often provide sensitive personal information to various platforms, including credit card information, personal preferences, and other information that is otherwise protected by various privacy legislation. A security breach from an unknown hacker can lead to millions of users’ accounts being compromised. In addition, many users now use one social media platform to host a variety of applications. In those circumstances, a security breach of the main platform could have a ripple effect on other accounts. Protecting against these types of security breaches is becoming increasingly important in the digital era. Continue reading
In August of 2018, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), which decides cases certain trademark cases, refused rapper will.i.am’s attempt to register a hashtag as a trademark. Specifically, i.am.symbolic,llc (will.i.am’s company), attempted to register #WILLPOWER for a variety of apparel goods. The Trademark Examining Attorney refused his application because WILLPOWER WEAR was already registered for “Hats; Jackets; Pants; Shirts; Shoes,” and i.am.symbolic appealed the decision to the TTAB. Continue reading
When Elon Musk, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla, Inc. (“Tesla”), posted to social media on August 7, 2018, that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share and had secured funding, he caused a ripple in the markets and gained the attention of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). As a result of the statement, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Musk in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for allegedly violating Section 10(b) of the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and SEC Rule 10b-5 due to the allegedly false and misleading nature of Musk’s statements. Continue reading
On August 30, 2018, a federal trial court in Texas ordered a defendant to include a disclaimer on certain social media posts as part of a preliminary injunction in a private litigation. (WorldVentures Marketing, LLC v. Rogers, 4:18-cv-00498 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 30, 2018) (2018 WL 4169049)). Continue reading
Texas lawyers are permitted to ask their lawyer friends on social media for help with legal questions on behalf of their clients, according to a recent opinion from the State Bar of Texas’ Professional Ethics Committee (“PEC”). The PEC is a committee appointed by the Texas Supreme Court that issues opinions on various ethics and professional responsibility questions posed by members of the State Bar of Texas.
Opinion No. 673, issued in August, addressed two questions: 1) Does a lawyer violate the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct by seeking advice on behalf of a client from other lawyers in an online discussion group? 2) What if the lawyer asks another lawyer at a different firm in an informal consultation or discussion? According to the PEC, the answer to both is that the conduct does not violate the rules, subject to a few limitations and exceptions. Continue reading
We have previously written about the U.S. legal landscape regarding consumers’ rights to post negative reviews of products or services on the internet, including some of the implications of the Consumer Review Fairness Act on these rights. The Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed in December of 2016 in response to some businesses’ efforts to prevent customers from giving honest reviews by signing non-disparagement or similar agreements as a condition to receiving a particular product or service.
This post concerns an issue involving the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 (the “CDA”) and its relationship to rights and obligations of companies that provide a forum for reviews and ratings of businesses (the “review sites”), the reviewers, and the businesses that are reviewed. In July of this year, the Supreme Court of California issued an opinion, styled Hassell v. Bird, that analyzed the relationship of these entities and provided some guidance and clarity as to legal rights provided by the CDA in this context. Continue reading
There has been an increase in cyberbullying with the rise of social media. According to the Canadian government, “cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies … to repeatedly intimidate or harass others”. Federal and provincial governments have effected legislative change to make harmful cyberbullying behaviours criminal or at least provide civil remedies for those harmed. Other methods of deterring cyberbullying include education and policies implemented by social media platforms. Cyberbullying is not limited to children and teens. Similar to schools, workplaces should have policies and guidelines in place which provide for a safe environment for their employees. Continue reading