Our readers may recall that 2017 brought warning letters from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to celebrities who had posted some photos on Instagram and the FTC has recently taken action regarding some undisclosed “material connections.” A post on our sister blog, Regulation Tomorrow, describes the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s recent warnings about celebrity endorsements of cryptocurrency and “initial coin offerings” and contrasts the SEC and FTC guidance and regulatory scope:
Experiencing virtual reality
The line between the digital world and the physical world is becoming increasingly blurred as we enter an era of virtual reality (VR). VR can be defined as a “computer technology that uses virtual reality headsets…to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment.” In other words, VR uses computers to create a virtual environment that feels as close to reality as possible.
VR will have a significant impact on social media. Instead of communicating through texts, pictures and videos, VR technology will allow two or more people to feel as though they are in the same room together even though each person is in the comfort of their own home, using their own VR system. Companies are already introducing social VR apps that allow users to communicate with each other through the use of avatars in a 3D environment. Continue reading
Although the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030) is a federal statute that primarily protects against unauthorized computer access such as hacking, it can also impact employers in the realm of social media. Originally enacted in 1984, CFAA makes it illegal to access knowingly or intentionally a “protected computer” without authorization or in excess of authorized access. Protected computers are defined broadly to include all computers that are used in or affect interstate commerce, and thus include most employer-owned computer systems. Violations of CFAA may result in criminal penalties, and CFAA also permits individuals (and employers) to bring a civil action for damages or injunctive relief. Employees rarely sue their employers under CFAA, but employers should nonetheless consider CFAA in formulating their social media policies and determining how they will regulate employee use of social media. Continue reading
As we have previously written, the Pew Research Center found in 2016 that 62% of American adults consumed news on social media to some extent.
In September of 2017, the Pew Center updated its research, finding that, in 2017, about 67% or two-thirds of American adults are reporting getting “at least some of their news on social media,” a 5% increase from last year.
According to the research, this 5% growth was driven by more substantial increases among certain demographic groups. The research shows that 55% of American adults over 50 now consume news on social media sites, up from 45% in 2016. The research also reports that 74% of non-white Americans get news on social media sites in 2017, up from 64% in 2016. Last, there was an increase among those with less than a bachelor’s degree getting news from social media, to 69%, compared to 60% previously.
Despite all the headlines and studies on social media’s role in spreading fake news and its influence on public opinion, the majority of the public does not seem to plan to stop reading news on social media any time soon. However, some optimistic leaders of the traditional news media see fake news as an opportunity to highlight the integrity of mainstream media. Continue reading
We have previously written about social media posts and advertisements being used as evidence in a variety of legal cases (most recently, a post relating to emojis). A federal court in Pennsylvania recently used two social media advertisements—from a source the court could not identify—as evidence to support a finding of “willfulness” and to award 33% in enhanced damages. (J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Ramsey, Civ. No. 17-1942 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 27, 2017) (2017 WL 4287200).) Continue reading
In April 2017, based on some key social media evidence, the Central District Court of California decided UL LLC v. Space Chariot Inc., 2017 WL 1423706 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 20, 2017). The court held on summary judgment that Space Chariot had infringed and counterfeited UL’s trademark, and awarded one million dollars in statutory damages. UL, a holder of various safety certification marks, complained that Space Chariot, a manufacturer of “hoverboard” toys, had violated UL’s trademark rights by displaying UL’s safety certification marks on its hoverboards without permission. The court summarized the issues: “The gravamen of UL’s complaint is that [the defendants] are using UL marks on various websites to falsely represent that Space Chariot’s goods—namely, hoverboards—have been certified by UL.” Continue reading
In a digital age where there are billions of active social media users globally it is conceivable that employees engage in activities and posts on media platforms, that may result in their dismissal. However, an employee’s social media posts can also be scrutinised outside of the misconduct space. In Nilan v Nthabeni (2017) 5 BLLR 521(LC), the South African court considered an employee’s social media post to decide whether the employee’s resignation was due to his desire to work for a competitor or to his wife having an affair with his employer. Continue reading
The United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) published, on September 18, 2017, in the Federal Register, a notice that it would begin collecting certain information relating to immigrants’ use of social media as part of the National File Tracking System of Records. Since 1944, so-called Alien Files have been the official record system of immigrants, who have each received an Alien Registration Number. These files have historically contained basic information, such as each immigrant’s name, date of birth, date of entry into the United States, country of birth, parents’ names, and naturalization information, if applicable. The files also generally include any record of interactions between each immigrant and the United States government. Continue reading
Chatbots are computer applications programmed to mimic human behaviour using machine learning and natural language processing. Chatbots can act autonomously and do not require a human operator. Given this freedom, chatbots do not always act in a manner that is fair and neutral – they can go wild with unintended consequences. For example, a chatbot “e-shopper” was given a budget of $100 in bitcoin and quickly figured out how to purchase illegal drugs on the Darknet. Another chatbot was programmed to mimic teenager behaviour using social media data. By the afternoon of her launch, she was firing off rogue tweets and taken offline by the developer. Chatbots were pulled from a popular Chinese messaging application after making unpatriotic comments. A pair of chatbots were taught how to negotiate by mimicking trading and bartering and created their own strange form of communication when they started trading together. Online dating sites can use chatbots to interact with users looking for love and increase user engagement. Chatbots can go rogue in chat rooms to extract personal data, bank account information, and stoke negative sentiment. Chatbots are increasingly being used by businesses as customer service agents. Even these legitimate and well-meaning corporate chatbots may also go wild. Continue reading
Even when an employee is terminated for cause, it can be difficult to fight an employee’s claim for unemployment benefits. A September 2017 ruling from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania may provide employers a new route to combat meritless unemployment claims. In most states, an unemployed individual may file for and receive unemployment benefits if he is out of work due to no fault of his own. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed a decision by the state’s unemployment board to deny a former painter at a metal company unemployment benefits because of a social media post he left after his departure from the company. Continue reading