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Texas lawyers and social media

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 … Continue Reading

The new age of cyberbullying

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

Social media activities and the appearance of bias

On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide the question of whether a district court judge is required to retroactively recuse himself when he allegedly follows the federal prosecutors on Twitter and, within hours after denying relief to the defendants, tweeted a link to an allegedly erroneous news article with a title implying that the defendants were liable. The relevant 9th Circuit opinion here is U.S. v. Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc., which was published on July 13, 2017.… Continue Reading

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what’s my taxable Insta value after all?

In sad news for celebrities and Instagram influencers across Australia, the introduction of the so-called ‘fame tax’ as part of a raft of integrity measures announced in the 2018/19 budget means that they could end up paying higher taxes on the income and non-cash benefits earned through the commercial exploitation of their image rights.

In this article, we explore the impact of the changes on individuals who currently use a separate entity to cash in on their image rights.… Continue Reading

Update: U.S. State Department to collect visa applicants’ social media information

In a previous post, we addressed efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to collect certain information relating to immigrants’ use of social media for record-keeping and tracking purposes. Subsequently, on March 30, 2018, the State Department released a notice of a proposed rule that would require the collection of social media information in connection with an application for a Nonimmigrant Visa through what is called a DS-160. … Continue Reading

Update: social media and the Anti-Terrorism Act

We have previously written about the United States District Court for the Northern District of California’s (the “District Court”) dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaint in Fields v. Twitter, Inc. We are back to provide an update after the case made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the “Appellate Court”). The Appellate Court filed an Opinion on January 31, 2018, in which it affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims.… Continue Reading

Exposed! How to combat the sharing of harmful content on social media

Online video celebrity Chrissy Chambers has recently settled a case against her ex-partner for damages suffered as a result of his posting sexually explicit video clips online.  The terms of the settlement are confidential but this and several other high-profile cases have generated much publicity around social media platforms’ responsibility to monitor and remove harmful or abusive content.

Content can be harmful in a number of ways, such as cyberbullying, threats of violence, hate speech and even “revenge porn” (the sharing, usually on a public platform, of intimate photos or videos of a person without their consent).

Corporate reputations are … Continue Reading

German law on hate speech – complaint procedures

The German law on hate speech (Network Enforcement ActNetzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz) which came into effect on October 1, 2017 is continuously subject to criticism. Its legal and political implications in regard of the current global debate on the dealing with different opinions, the power and influence of social media on information and disinformation and its place in the context of an increasing fragmentation of the internet are widely discussed throughout media (i.e. see our posts here and here).

Since January 1, 2018, social media providers are now obliged to maintain a procedure for complaints. This procedure … Continue Reading

Celebrity Endorsements, Cryptocurrencies, and Initial Coin Offerings

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:

https://www.regulationtomorrow.com/us/celebrity-endorsements-cryptocurrencies-and-initial-coin-offerings/Continue Reading

A Love and Hate Relationship With Social Media

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, … Continue Reading

Chatbots gone wild? Some ethical considerations

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 … Continue Reading

FTC and Social Media Influencer Endorsements

On September 7, 2017, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had entered into a proposed consent agreement with two individuals and their company that allegedly ran an online gaming community website that allowed users to gamble virtual currency.  According to the FTC complaint, the two individuals promoted the gaming site and not only failed to disclose their ownership interest in the site or that they were playing with company money, but they also paid other social media influencers between $2,500 and $55,000 to promote the site.

As we had previously written, in the Spring of 2017, … Continue Reading

Social media: life after death?

Have you considered what you would like to happen to your social media accounts when you die? Where the platform gives you options, have you selected one? A while ago we wrote about what happens to your social media account when you die.

Many platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have different policies about what will happen to a deceased person’s profile. Since our last post, some of these policies have changed. Here is the current status as of the date of this post:… Continue Reading

Legal chatbots: something for nothing?

In June, we introduced the topic of chatbots and highlighted some key risks and concerns associated with this growing area of technology.  One business in particular, DoNotPay, made headlines recently by announcing that it would begin building legal chatbots for free.

The claim? In a July 14, 2017, posting to the online publishing platform Medium, Joshua Browder, founder of UK-based DoNotPay, writes, “Starting today, any lawyer, activist, student or charity can create a bot with no technical knowledge in minutes.  It is completely free.”  Sound too good to be true?  To be sure, DoNotPay is not the first company … Continue Reading

How Animal Influencers Are Changing the Way Brands Advertise

At this point you are probably familiar with the world of social media influencers. You might follow several on Instagram, or maybe your company partners with them to promote its products. But have you realized that the most valuable influencers may not even be human? This post will focus on animal influencers – they are cute, they come in a variety of species, and they are being paid to advertise products via social media.

Why animals?

Aspiring animal influencers can rise from obscurity to fame in an instant – all it takes is one viral post. The demand for … Continue Reading

Stay safe on social media – New ACCC guidelines

Businesses shelling out big bucks for prime advertising space are used to paying close attention to content, for the sake of the bottom line as well as out of respect for consumer law. However, it may not feel as natural and cost-effective to apply the same scrutiny to an Instagram caption. Why invest the business resources when teenagers worldwide can master the art?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recently issued new social media guidelines for businesses which emphasise the answer repeatedly: as far as the regulator is concerned, businesses have the same responsibilities on social media as … 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

Advertising on the Internet – What Makes a Disclosure “Clear and Conspicuous”?

Increasingly, companies are turning to the internet and social media platforms to advertise their products, often by using native advertising or by providing incentives such as payments or free products to social media “influencers” (Instagrammers, Pinners, Bloggers and Vloggers, to name a few) in exchange for an endorsement.

As we have previously discussed, the FTC has issued Endorsement Guides that provide guidance on appropriate advertising on social media. The FTC has stated that advertising on social media platforms is subject to the same consumer protection laws that prohibit deceptive advertising and that advertising claims must be accompanied by “clear … Continue Reading

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