Topic: Defamation

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Deepfakes: Fake videos need real remedy

Your friend tells you they saw a video of you on social media. You look it up. The person in that video looks like you. That person even sounds like you. To make matters worse the video shows this counterfeit version of you doing something incredibly embarrassing. You have never done what the video is portraying and yet here it is online forever. You have just been victimized by a deepfake.

What is a Deepfake?

Deepfakes (short for ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’[1]) use AIs trained in audio and video synthesis to manufacture fake videos. The AI system itself … Continue Reading

Monkeying around on social media could land you with a defamation suit

As a wise person once said, truth often is stranger than fiction. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of Texas (the “Appellate Court”) recently decided Hosseini v. Hansen, a bizarre case involving the intertwining of a tax preparation business, primate trainers and enthusiasts, and a defamation claim. Despite the unique factual circumstances, the case provided good general insight into social media use as it relates to defamation.… Continue Reading

Internet reviews and the Communications Decency Act of 1996

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 … 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 … 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.  … 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

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

Who is Fact Checking the Fact Checkers?

With the proliferation of so-called “fake news”, companies are starting to rely on third party organizations to perform a “fact checking” function in order to distinguish between legitimate news and fake news. The fake news epidemic gained traction in the recent US presidential election.  We have previously written about the fake news problem, as well as the UK Government’s plan to tackle the issue.

While fake news began as false information disguised as legitimate news sources, the problem with fake news and the question as to what constitutes fake news is becoming more complicated and nuanced. … Continue Reading

Risks of unlawful social media content: changes in UK defamation landscape and what you need to know

A carefully curated social media presence is a critical business requirement, but there are risks. One of these risks is unlawful content – be that unlawful content posted to your businesses’ own social media account (exposing the company to potential liability) or harmful content about your business (or its C-Suite or key personnel) posted on independent sites.

So how do you tackle unlawful content? Often the first point of call is the law of defamation. The UK is renowned as a claimant friendly jurisdiction for defamation litigation. With its widely respected court system and judiciary, the UK has been the … Continue Reading

The edit button: can the past be erased?

Social media users have a new demand for 2017 – they want the ability to edit their public messages. Spelling mistakes, missing words and misplaced pronouns can have embarrassing, unintended and sometimes dangerous consequences.  The ability to edit one’s message is an attractive feature.  This request has led some users on the social media platform Twitter to ask its CEO when an edit function would be introduced.… Continue Reading

President Obama signs the “Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016”

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 5111, now officially titled the “Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016.” The substantive provisions of the bill, which we discussed in a previous post, are virtually unchanged, but the law’s text provides further details regarding enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and the states.

One noteworthy enforcement feature of the law is a cross-reference to the Federal Trade Commission Act. A violation of the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 by offering a form contract containing a provision described as void in the law is also … Continue Reading

Fact Or Fiction: The Fake News Problem

In the few months leading up to the United States election, social media was flooded with articles with sensationalized titles and incendiary content. Many of these “news” stories were fake. They were written for the purpose of swaying public opinion or generating a profit from ad revenue and were often published by sham entities or news websites. Large, popular companies may be the next targets, so this post will describe a few actions companies could take.… Continue Reading

U.S. House takes steps to protect consumers’ rights to post negative reviews

We have all seen the reviews of products or services that disgruntled consumers post on review sites such as Yelp. Lately, however, some consumers have faced lawsuits for violating “gag orders,” or non-disparagement clauses, found in agreements between businesses and consumers. These clauses restrict consumers’ ability to publish any negative criticism about their experiences and are often placed in the fine print of form contracts.  These agreements provide that, when the consumer posts a negative review, or even speaks negatively about the business’s products, services, or conduct, the business would have a cause of action against the consumer for breach … Continue Reading

Willful act and business activity exclusions in defamation claim

Although we have covered many social media cases involving defamation claims (just click on the “Defamation” category to see them), here is a link to a post from one of our sister blogs (Financial Institutions Legal Snapshot) that relates to an issue we thought would be of interest to our readers:  insurance coverage for fake social media posts alleged to be defamatory:

Wilful act and business activity exclusions applied to defamation claim

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Liability for friends’ defamatory statements

Liability for third-party defamatory comments on one’s personal account, whether on Facebook or another internet-based platform, is an emerging legal issue in Canadian law.

If a social media “friend” posts defamatory statements about another person on your profile, or other site, can you be personally liable to the defamed person? Do you have any obligation to actively monitor your social media existence in the face of such statements?  Are you liable for third party statements that you may not even be aware of? … Continue Reading

Social media overload

The explosion of social media in the past decade has caused a major shift in the way we conduct our affairs. In particular, businesses have been required to adapt to new ways of communicating with their clients.  At a rate of thousands of social media applications surfacing each month, and new legal issues surrounding the use of social media, it can feel overwhelming, especially for new businesses. … Continue Reading

Social media users responsible for comments

The High Court of South Africa ruled in Isparta v Richter that a Facebook user was guilty of defamation because a defamatory post appeared on his Facebook wall and was not removed by him, even though he was not the author of the post.  The court ruled that because he knew of the post and “allowed his name to be coupled” with the author, he was as liable as the author.… Continue Reading

Social Media Stars and Defamation

This blog recently discussed regular people who have become internet sensations through the use of social media. Chiara Ferragni, for example, started a fashion blog in 2009. She is now a multimillionaire with approximately 5,000,000 Instagram followers.  Tay Zonday posted his song “Chocolate Rain” on YouTube in 2007, which led to numerous appearances on daytime and late night talk shows.  Nearly a decade later, Zonday’s deep bass voice has been heard a staggering 107,000,000 times on YouTube.  While social media platforms have brought individuals such as these increased attention and fame, these platforms have undoubtedly made it more difficult for … Continue Reading

We’re back, with our top five social media stories of 2015

The Social Media Law Bulletin is back!We’re back, with our top five social media stories of 2015

The ongoing interest of our readers as well as the increasing impact of social media led us to re-launch the Social Media Law Bulletin. We will be bringing you coverage of one or two items approximately each week, but in the meantime, we thought we would give you a brief summary of some of the most significant social media stories from 2015:

Schrems v Facebook

Facebook earned the top spot in our social media impact list, due to a court ruling that only indirectly affected it. In October 6, 2015, the European Court … Continue Reading

Legal blogs and protected speech

In Huon v. Breaking Media, LLC, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that federal law protects internet publishers from defamation claims based on content posted by commenters to online news stories (See Memorandum Opinion and Order, No. 1:11-cv-03054 (Dec. 4, 2014)).

In Huon, the plaintiff sued the popular online legal blog Above the Law (among other internet publishers). Above the Law had posted an article concerning the plaintiff’s arrest and trial related to sexual assault charges. The article generated over 100 comments, some of which the plaintiff claimed were defamatory, and the … Continue Reading

Blog posts, commercial speech and false advertising

In Goodman v. Does, plaintiff Todd Goodman alleged various defamation and federal unfair competition (Lanham Act) claims stemming from postings on the website localdirtags.com, a blog, which was run by the defendant Linda Lagoy. Goodman v. Does 1–10, No. 4:13–CV–139, 2014 WL 1310310 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 28, 2014). The court noted that Goodman, who was a licensed auto mechanic and owner of an automotive and transmission repair shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, was the target of an “extraordinarily aggressive smear campaign” on the website. In addition to articles regarding Goodman’s alleged criminal record, the website included articles and comments … Continue Reading

Online v. Offline Agreements: Braverman v. Yelp

A New York state trial court recently ruled in a long-running dispute between a cosmetic dentist and Yelp, the online consumer review site. Braverman v. Yelp, Inc., No. 158299-2013 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Feb. 24, 2014).

The dentist originally complained that Yelp had defamed him by permitting negative reviews about him to appear on Yelp’s site.  That claim had previously been denied because the federal Communications Decency Act’s safe harbor protected Yelp as a publisher of third-party content.

In the current matter, the dentist complained to Yelp personnel that Yelp had been filtering out positive reviews about his … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit extends freedom of the press protection to blogger

The Ninth Circuit has extended an additional level of protection for company publications that take the form of blogs. In reference to the level of fault required to prove liability for an allegedly defamatory posting, the court explained that it is irrelevant whether a blogger is a member of an institutional press corps or a private entity.

In Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, Nos. 12-35238 & 35319 (9th Cir., Jan. 17, 2014), the Ninth Circuit considered a defamation suit brought by a bankruptcy trustee against a blogger who falsely accused the trustee of failing to pay taxes owed … Continue Reading

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