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Ex-girlfriend’s Phony Facebook Page Tests NJ Identity... Yesterday New Jersey Superior Court Judge David Ironson refused to dismiss an indictment charging a woman with identity theft for allegedly adversely impersonating her ex-boyfriend...

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The Center for Democracy and Technology Defends Mobile... Last week the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) made a public appeal to gain support for their campaign to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act’s (ECPA)...

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Canadian Supreme Court Protects Free Speech on the... This month the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling that protects Website owners who provide hyperlinks to allegedly defamatory content from liability. The facts of the...

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NJ State Senator Will Introduce Online Gambling Legislation... In March Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have made New Jersey the first state in the country to allow online gambling within its borders. He vetoed the law...

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Federal Shield Law in the Senate Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws. Shield laws are important because they safeguard the public's right to know by protecting the rights of...

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Social Media Law News Rss

Cyberbullying Leads to 15 Count Indictment

Posted on : 24-04-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Speech

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Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was charged Wednesday with a hate crime for allegedly using a webcam to spy on and broadcast his roommate, Tyler Clementi’s same-sex encounter last September. After seeing the videos of himself kissing a man and reading tweets about the incident, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His last Facebook post simply said, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Ravi was indicted on 15 counts, including charges of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness-and evidence-tampering. Molly Wei, a co-defendant in the case accused of helping Ravi view and stream the video, was not indicted on Wednesday. It was unclear whether a case against Wei will go before a grand jury or whether she helped prosecutors in the case against Ravi, who remains free on $25,000 bail.

In a statement Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joe Clementi, said, “The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son, Tyler, by his former college roommate. If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law.” According to the indictment, Ravi targeted Clementi and invaded his privacy knowing that he would be intimidated because of his sexual orientation. Furthermore, the indictment states that Ravi not only suppressed, concealed and/or destroyed evidence but also knowingly provided false information to mislead investigators.

So far Ravi’s defense seems to be that the webcam stream was only viewed on one computer and did not show the men having sex. However, the evidence shows that Ravi posted a link on Twitter to view the livestream, and then attempted to cover it up by replacing it with a false tweet. Ravi also allegedly deleted relevant text messages, and asked potential witnesses not to testify against him. If convicted, Ravi could face more than 65 years in prison.

Since Clementi’s death many public figures have rallied together to stop bullying. In his article, Tyler Clementi’s Roomate Indicted on Hate Crime Charges Gil Kaufman writes, “Clementi’s death inspired a nationwide anti-bullying movement that has drawn support from everyone from Lady Gaga to President Obama, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.” New Jersey lawmakers also joined the anti-bulling movement by enacting the toughest anti-bullying laws in the Nation, and mandating The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Under the new laws, most public school teachers, administrators and other employees must be trained to spot, investigate and/or report or address bullying that occurs on and off school grounds or face discipline. The new laws also require schools to hold an annual “Week of Respect” starting on the first Monday of October. State Attorney General Paula Dow, who hailed Ravi’s indictment as a step to stem bigotry told the Star Ledger that “New Jersey’s bias law recognizes the terrible harm caused by acts of bigotry and hatred and imposes harsher punishment on those who commit such crimes.” Furthermore, Clementi’s death inspired VH1’s “It Gets Better” and revived MTV’s “A Thin Line” anit-bullying initiatives.

I expect Ravi’s indictment will serve as a wake up call to those engaged in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, especially in New Jersey, is a crime that will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

To learn more about Ravi’s indictment please read:

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Facebook Apologizes for Gay Censorship

Posted on : 20-04-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Online Speech

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Last week, talk show host Richard Metzger posted a picture on Facebook of two men kissing to promote a “kiss in.” The “kiss in” was organized to protest an English pub’s expulsion of two men for kissing. Facebook removed the picture from Metzger’s page, and several other profiles that posted it. According to various reports including Max Read’s article, The Gay Kiss Photo Facebook Doesn’t Want You to See, Metzger received an email from Facebook stating that the picture was removed, “because it violated Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Shares that contain nudity, or any kind of graphic or sexually suggestive content, are not permitted on Facebook.” Since then Facebook has reinstated the picture, claiming that it was removed in error. In a statement to The Register and American Blog a Facebook spokesperson said, “The photo in question does not violate our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

However, it is hard to understand how a mistake like this could have been made in the first place. Amy Lee writes in her article, Facebook Apologizes for Censoring Gay Kiss Photo, “The removed picture, a promo pic from the soap opera Eastenders, contained no nudity or graphic sexuality, but the event has sparked outrage from users wondering why a photo of two fully clothed men engaging in a kiss would be flagged.” And Read writes, “A search for ‘making out’ brings up a number of pages with similarly ‘explicit’ photos of straight couples kissing here, here, here and here. So what’s the deal?” Even more troubling is the fact that Facebook does not remove pictures or material flagged inappropriate via an automated algorithm. Rather a Facebook spokesperson admits that “A Facebook administrator looks into each report thoroughly in order to decide the appropriate course of action. If no violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities has occurred, then no action will be taken.” It is unlikely that Facebook, whose co-founder Chris Hughes is gay, encourages discrimination against the gay community. Clearly, a rogue Facebook employee found this picture offensive enough to remove it. Now users have turned to Facebook to voice their disappointment and post pictures of same-sex kisses.

To learn more about this story, please read the following articles:

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Debt Collectors Use Social Media

Posted on : 14-04-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Privacy

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Social media has become a tool for people to meet, reconnect and/or communicate with significant others, relatives, business associates and friends. Many don’t know that debt collectors are also taking advantage of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to locate debtors. In his article, Debt Collectors Faulted for Using Facebook, Mike Nixon writes, “For businesses attempting to locate people who may have skipped out on a loan or accumulated bad debt, the idea of using the World Wide Web seems both expedient and cost effective, especially when it comes to individuals who make their presence known on social media websites.” However, debt collectors that use social media to locate debtors must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and state laws or be held accountable.

Unfortunately, some debt collectors have gone too far, using social media sites like Facebook in ways that clearly violate FDCPA. For example, Ben Popken’s article, Debt Collectors Using Cute Chicks on Facebook As Bait, details CBV Collections’ practice of employing young attractive women to friend debtors in an attempt to collect. One woman friended over 600 debtors on Facebook before posting “haha you guys i tricked you all my name is actually Emily and i work for cbv collections as a skip tracer i bet you guys got calls from them saying you owe money thats all my doing :) you want to call and bitch? i dare you to call me 604-[redacted]!!! I wait to hear from you :)

Recently in Florida, Melanie Beacham sued debt collection agency MarkOne Financial LLC alleging they violated the FDCPA when they contacted her and her family members on Facebook to recover a $362 car loan, even though they already had her contact information. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors may only contact other people to find out the debtor’s contact information, which MarkOne already had. In fact they had been calling Beacham up to 10 times a day. In that case, Judge W. Douglas Baird ordered MarkOne not to contact Melanie Beacham’s family or friends on Facebook or other social media sites.

According to Alexis Madrigal’s article, Facebook Warns Debt Collectors About Using Its Service, Facebook does not appreciate debt collectors using its site in this way. In a statement to Madrigal, Facebook said, “There are state and federal laws and FTC regulations that govern the actions of debt collectors. The collector in the [Beacham] case likely violates a number of these laws and regulations and we encourage the victim to contact the FTC and her state Attorney General. In addition, Facebook policies prohibit any kind of threatening, intimidating, or hateful contact from one user to another. We encourage people to report such behavior to us, only accept friend requests from people that they know, and use privacy settings and our blocking feature to prevent unwanted contact.” Nevertheless, there is very little Facebook can do to prevent debt collector from using its site as a standard debt collecting tool.

Although Mike Nixon wrote that contacting debtors via social media violates the 1978 Fair Debt Collection Practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the American Credit and Collections Association (ACA) disagree. However, in order to use these resources, collectors must still comply with the FDCPA and state regulations. In her article, Debt Collectors’ Newest Weapon: Facebook, Kate Rogers lists 5 limitations that collectors must abide by. (1) Creditors can never contact a debtor under false pretenses or conceal their true identity. Creditors must disclose who they are and that they are attempting to collect debt. (2) While creditors can contact third parties to locate a debtor, they cannot disclose that they are trying to collect a debt. Once the debtor is located, third party contact must stop. Besides that, creditors are only allowed to contact the debtor, the debtor’s attorney, the debtor’s spouse and any co-signers. (3) Creditors are to provide debtors with notice of the debt (i.e. who is owed; the amount owed, and the owed party’s contact information) in writing. (4) Creditors can not contact debtors at work if a debtor asks them not to. (5) Debtors have the right to ask creditors to stop contacting them. However, this forces the collector to bring suit to collect the debt. Thus, while creditors can use social media to locate and contact debtors, creditors may not publicly identify themselves as debt collectors, and they may not disclose that they are attempting to collect a debt. Nor can they make false or misleading representations in an effort to collect a debt.

Regulations, as usual, are slow to catch up with technology. In her article, Debt Collectors and Generation Facebook, Anita Tolani writes, “A debt collection agency must comply with federal and state regulations that are archaic to this Facebook generation.” In response to this growing concern, the FTC is holding a free workshop on April 28 entitled Debt Collection 2.0: Protecting Consumers as Technologies Change where consumer advocates, government officials, and other authorities will explore the impact of technological advances on consumer debt collection. The workshop which takes place in Washington DC is open to the public and will also be webcast.

If you owe money remember that any information you post online can be used by creditors to collect the debt, however you do have rights. Debt collectors cannot harass consumers and must comply with the FDCPA and state laws or be held accountable for their actions. For general questions consult AskDoctorDebt.com (available in English and Spanish) which was created by the ACA Professionals  Education Foundation to provide free and unbiased answers to consumers’ debt questions. If you’ve been harassed by a debt collector or debt buyer, save their messages and contact an experienced debtors’ rights attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options.

To learn more about Beacham please read:

To learn more about using social media to collect debt please read:

To learn more about Debtors’ rights, please read:

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