Tag archives: Defamation

CEO’s social media posts about former employee actionable as defamation

The California court of appeals recently allowed a defamation claim to proceed against a company’s CEO for libelous social media posts made about a former employee after her termination. According to her complaint, the employee had been the company’s only female senior executive during her tenure. Following a brief, rocky stint with the company, the employee was terminated, and she filed a lawsuit against the company, asserting claims for gender discrimination, retaliation, and harassment.… Continue Reading

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

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

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

A Safer Internet in the UK – but what is the burden for technology companies?

The UK government, like many others, is pushing for a safer Internet. Prompted by the global trend in cyber-bullying and online offensive material/trolling, the UK has taken steps to address Internet safety with the stated aim of being the safest place in the world to be online. We recently reported on the measured taken in Germany.… 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

Chatbots: Some Legal Issues

What is a chatbot?  Essentially it is a computer program which simulates human behaviour online, including on social media. Chatbots are not a new concept but are becoming increasingly sophisticated in what they can do and how closely they can mimic human behaviour online, such that they are increasingly replacing humans in populating social media for organisations.

Chatbots are widely used by corporations to stimulate conversation, promote products/services, increase consumer engagement and generally enhance the user experience. For example, RBS has announced an intent to launch a chatbot “Luvo” to help its customers with more straightforward queries; H&M has a … 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 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

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