Topic: Defamation

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Fictitious social media profiles under the Lanham Act

On November 7, 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia issued its opinion in AvePoint Inc. v. Power Tools, Inc., a case that, at least in part, has fortified the ability of a competitor injured by a fictitious social media profile to bring a claim under the Lanham Act.

In AvePoint, SharePoint software platform developer AvePoint, Inc. brought several federal and state law claims against its marketplace competitor Axceler. In its complaint, which included allegations that Axceler had defamed AvePoint by falsely “tweeting” that AvePoint’s products were manufactured in China, AvePoint alleged that … Continue Reading

SPEECH Act – US and Canadian defamation standards

In a case of first impression, the Fifth Circuit recently applied the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (“SPEECH Act”) to protect a blogger from a defamation-based default judgment obtained in Canada.  28 U.S.C. § 4201; Trout Point Lodge, Ltd. v. Handshoe, No. 13-60002 (5th Cir. Sept. 5, 2013).

The plaintiffs had sought to enforce the judgment in Mississippi state court, and the defendant removed the case to federal court under the Act, enacted in 2010.

The Mississippi-based defendant ran a blog ostensibly providing a forum for local residents to gather and share … Continue Reading

The Rise of the #Hashtag

Every day, hundreds of millions of people use social media to share their thoughts about everything that is happening around them. The most popular social media sites do not have simple ways to search for and organize content, so users turned to the hashtag to solve the problem. Hashtags are words or phrases prefixed with the hash sign (#) and provide a means of grouping messages together. When you click on a hashtag (e.g. #socialmedia), you can see what other people are saying about that particular topic. When a hashtag becomes extremely popular, it can “trend” and attract more individual … Continue Reading

Social Media and Anti-SLAPP Cases

In a recent defamation case where the defendant sought anti-SLAPP protection related to internet forum posts about the plaintiffs, a federal district court recognized that social-media speech is no different from “traditional” speech. See Piping Rock Partners, Inc. v. David Lerner Assocs., Inc., No. C 12-04634 SI (N.D. Cal. May 17, 2013) (Illston, J.).

“SLAPP” is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, defined in Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed.) as “a suit brought by a developer, corporate executive, or elected official to stifle those who protest against some type of high-dollar initiative or who take an adverse … Continue Reading

CDA § 230 Safe Harbor

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), otherwise known as § 230 Safe Harbor, explains that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”  47 U.S.C.A. § 230(c)(1).  In addition, § 230 precludes liability for providers who take down offensive material in good faith.  Section 230(c)(2) states that:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of–

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that

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Defamation in a Social Media World

Companies of every size are concerned with protecting the reputation of the company, which is often a company’s greatest source of referrals. Protecting the online reputation of a company has become increasingly difficult because the reputation of a company can be ruined very quickly if an unhappy customer, former employee, or competitor of the company decides to broadcast complaints and potentially defamatory information either anonymously or on personal pages.

It  has also become increasingly important for a company to monitor and protect its online reputation because consumers have become increasingly reliant on online review websites, such as Yelp, and social … Continue Reading

Anonymous Negative Reviews

Austin-based cleaning company Austin Gutter King Corporation, Inc. made headline news in Texas this week by filing a lawsuit against the poster of a negative review of its business on Google Places, the search engine’s business listing and review website.

The review originally came from a user named “Norma Lee,” but a court-ordered request from Google for the legal identity of the individual revealed that “Norma” was actually the husband of an employee of Austin Gutterman, a competitor of Austin Gutter King.

The review, in part, stated:

…they find it necessary to post fake customer reviews. While researching the source

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The Legal Gray Area of Retweeted Content

It seems axiomatic that social media users can be held accountable for making false, misleading, defamatory, or libelous statements in a Facebook post or Twitter “tweet.”

This fact is well-illustrated by a number of high-profile lawsuits (none of which have yet gone to trial) brought by individuals against Twitter users, including the recent lawsuits threatened by Lord Alistair McAlpine for tweets that falsely alleged he had engaged in child abuse.

What is less obvious is the possibility that “retweeting”—the act of forwarding or passing on an original message by another Twitter user—may subject a Twitter user to liability.

Lord McAlpine’s … Continue Reading

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