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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

Social Media Revolutionizes Natural Disasters Communication

Posted on : 26-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz

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Social media has not only become a way for people to communicate with family and friends during natural disasters, it has also become a valuable tool for law enforcement and emergency management officials to communicate with the general public. Using impending Hurricane Irene and the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the East Coast on Tuesday, George Mast clearly illustrates this development in his article, Social Media a New Source of Information in Disasters. Regarding the former, he writes, “From the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Cherry Hill and Gloucester Township, officials are posting updates on the storm’s track and safety tips on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.” Regarding the latter he reports, “within a minute of the quake there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets.” The benefit of being able to communicate with multiple people at once makes social media an invaluable tool for people to quickly provide their safety status with family and friends and for law enforcement and emergency management officials to provide immediate updates to residents regarding public safety, property damages and government response. Please read Mast’s article to learn more about the role of social media during natural disasters.

Also, please read my following articles to see how social media has revolutionized the way people communicate.

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Flash Mob Mayhem

Posted on : 24-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz

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Gone are the days when people thought of flash mobs as brief gatherings of people organized via social media uniting to perform harmless and often unusual acts for the purposes of entertainment, parody and/or artistic expression. The first flash mob occurred in Manhattan on June 3, 2003. Organized using social media by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine,  200 people gathered in the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt Hotel and simultaneously applauded for about 15 seconds. Since then, flash mobs have become an International phenomenon. Some include groups of people gathering to dance, sing or even pillow fight. In his article, The 10 Most Viewed Flash Mobs of All Time, Kevin Allocca provides links to an assortment of flash mobs that vary in style, size, and language.

Recently, however, some flash mobs have become much more ominous. For example Fox News describes the Arab Spring as a flash-mob style series of revolts across the Middle East in the winter and spring of this year that was a fulcrum point in history on par with the fall of the Soviet Union. Those who hold true to the true definition of flash mobs argue that the Arab Spring protests do not qualify as flash mobs because of their political purpose. Nevertheless, most would agree that Arab Spring could not have occurred without social media tools like smart phones and the Internet.

Flash mobs that recently overtook London and other British cities were fueled by those protesting the death of Mark Duggan, a man shot by the police during his arrest. There are conflicting reports about whether Dugan aimed a weapon at Police, or whether the incident was a result of racial discrimination. In her article, Flash Mobs: Children in Need of Parental Discipline, Jeneba Ghatt writes, the “scenes [were] reminiscent of similar civil unrest in Los Angeles in the wake of the infamous police beating of Rodney King, which was videotaped and broadcast worldwide.” Protests turned into days of civil unrest, looting, rioting, destruction and the murder of five people. Criminals eluded police by using social media to stay in contact with each other and to report every move the police made. Now the police are publishing pictures and video of the riots in an attempt to identify the rioters’ faces. Thousands of people have been arrested and over 1,000 have been charged.

In the United States this month twenty-eight teenagers and young adults entered a Maryland 7-Eleven, gathered items from the shelves, and left without paying for hundreds of dollars worth of items. Police posted surveillance camera footage online and were able to identify at least half of the people in the video within a days of the robbery. Police believe the participants used social media to organize the event. In Los Angelos, Rapper Jayceon Taylor may face criminal charges for tweeting the phone number of the Compton Jail, and inciting a telephone flash mob that overwhelmed the emergency phone system for more than two hours at one of county’s busiest stations. Taylor claims the tweet was an accident and finally took it down after the third request from police officials.

Over the past year Philadelphia has been experiencing some of the country’s worst flash mobs. In his article, Philly Officials Consider Earlier Citywide Curfew, Patrick Walters describes two horribly violent flash mobs that occurred on the same day last month in Philadelphia. First a flash mob of teenagers sent a man to the hospital with a broken jaw and broken teeth. Hours later, four men were assaulted by a crowd of young people. An 11-year-old boy was among the four people arrested in the case. According to Tom Ramstack’s article, Police Grope for Response to Flash Mob Robberies, in Chicago violent flash mobs have struck the downtown shopping district four times this month. Ghatt writes, “Though thousands of miles apart, the incidents in London and Philadelphia [and the United States] are similar. In both cases, young people are influenced by mob behavior and take advantage of situations to gather in massive groups, harm others and reap unearned material benefit by robbing stores en masse.” In short, this behavior is not unique to a specific demographic. Consequently it is harder to determine the reason for the violent flash mob phenomenon.

Whether technology, unemployment, discrimination and/or poor parenting are to blame, something must be done to limit the instances of violent flash mobs. The Cleveland legislature went as far as trying to criminalize the use social media or cell phones to start a flash mob. However, Mayor Frank Jackson vetoed the bill, asserting it infringed on the right of all citizens. In his article, Flash Mobs: Is Technology to Blame? Daniel Tovrov wrties, “Not only does criminalizing technology not get to the root of the problem, it will do little to deter youths.” Moreover, it is superfluous to criminalize flash mobs when the activity flash mobs participate in (i.e. assault, battery, robbery, etc) is already illegal. For now, it appears that government-imposed curfews have helped limit violent flash mobs in several jurisdictions. Also, some police departments have started monitoring Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for evidence of potential flash mobs. A conference sponsored by the Dallas Police Department scheduled for next month designed educate police about how to use social media will also include a workshop about growing instances of flash mob robberies.

To learn more about the progression of flash mobs please read the following articles:

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Amy Hestir Student Protection Act: Protecting Students or Stifling Teachers?

Posted on : 19-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Education, Government, Online Safety

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After August 28, 2011 Missouri teachers will be breaking the law if they use social media sites or text messaging to communicate with students. This is because of a new law called the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which is designed to protect children from being molested by teachers. According to Alan Scher Zagier’s article, Mo. Teachers Protest Social Media Crackdown, “The law was proposed after an Associated Press investigation found 87 Missouri teachers had lost their licenses between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct, some of which involved explicit online messages with students.”

Sponsor Senator Jane Cunningham, who fought for the legislation for five years, named the Act after Amy Hestir. At 13 years old, Amy was manipulated by her seventh-grade music teacher into a sexual relationship that lasted for over a year. Although Amy felt she could not come forward while the abuse was happening, at 40 years old, she bravely testified in front of the Missouri legislature to support her namesake Act before it was passed unanimously by the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon. During her testimony, Amy said, “I support this bill 100% and I am not afraid to tell my story even though it brought so much shame on me for so long.”

The Act has is supposed to protect children in five key ways.

1) Mandatory reporting requirements to the new investigation authority, the Children’s Division.

2) The creation of the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children  (also known as “Erin’s Law”).

3) More thorough background checks and harsher penalties for teachers found guilty of sexual misconduct.

4) The formation of a written policy providing for compulsory information sharing between districts regarding former employees.

5) The establishment of new district-level communication policies and a state-level restriction on the use of various multimedia sources.

The last section has proved to be the most controversial part of the Act. The relevant part of section 162.069 states:

Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a non work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”

The Act defines a former student as, “any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated.” Thus, under the new Act, current and former students are prohibited from using private non-work-related websites to communicate. However, many people find this restriction illogical; questioning why students and teachers are prohibited from communicating privately online or via text messaging but no prohibition exists when it comes to private communication in the classroom or via a phone conversation.

This Act also has a lot of problems when it comes to its constitutionality. In short, it is likely that this Act will not survive First Amendment and Due Process scrutiny, as it is overly vague, too broadly drafted and excessively restrictive.  For an excellent Constitutional analysis of the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, please read Bob Buckley’s article, Law to Protect Students Will Have Unintended Consequences.

Please read the following articles to learn more about Amy Hestir Student Protection Act:

Also, please read my previous article about Teachers and Social Media:

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The ACLU Stands Up for Sex Offenders Right to Social Media

Posted on : 16-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Safety, Online Speech

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In June, Governor Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 55, introduced by Representative Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas, which makes it a crime for certain registered sex offenders to access social networking sites. The new law, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate, was one of 233 new laws enacted during Louisiana’s 2011 spring session. The law applies to registered sex offenders convicted of indecent behavior with juveniles, pornography involving juveniles, computer-aided solicitation of a minor or video voyeurism; or those previously convicted of a sex offense of a minor victim. First time offenders can face up to 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole and $10,000 in fines. Two time offenders can face up to 20 years in prison and $20,000 fines. While the law provides for exceptions based on the discretion of probation officers, parole officers and judges, it does not specify any procedures for obtaining said exceptions.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, requesting that the court ban enforcement of the law on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process. The main controversy lies in the meaning of “social networking websites, chat rooms, and peer-to-peer networks.” The law defines social-networking websites as a site that allows users to create their own profiles or “offers a mechanism for communication among users, such as a forum, chat room, electronic mail, or instant messaging.” The ACLU argues this definition is so broad that it restricts access to any site where a user can read or post comments. In a press release, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman stated that “Reasonable restrictions to prevent future crimes are appropriate in the interest of public safety. However, banning access to all sorts of online information, without any connection to a crime or access to children, is using a bulldozer where a trowel would do.”

According to various reports, Jindal, who was named as a defendant in the case, said, “I will fight this with everything I have. If these people want to search the internet for new victims, they can do it somewhere else.” The other named defendant, Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell, and Rep. Thierry have not publicly commented on the suit.

The anonymous plaintiff is a registered sex offender, living in East Baton Rouge Parish. Convicted of possessing child pornography, he served four years in prison. Since his release in 2006 he has worked as a computer repair technician but will be unable to do his job under the new law’s restrictions. Additionally the new law will force him to shut down his online Veterans Association profile,  G-mail account and blog which will severely limit his ability to communicate with family, friends and fellow veterans.

While the government’s reason –- protecting children — for this ban is righteous, the law is overly vague and restrictive. The law not only bars sex offenders from using Facebook and Twitter, more reasonable targets, but it also prohibits offenders from accessing  news sites, job-search sites, email services and any site that allow users to interact and make comments. As a result it is likely that the Court will agree with the ACLU and find this law unconstitutional. It seems reasonable that a modified law that prohibits sex offenders from accessing social media sites that are specifically geared toward minors, or are known to be used by minors, is more likely to be upheld.

To learn more about Louisiana’s banning of sex offenders on social media or ACLU’s lawsuit please read the following articles:

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NYPD Establishes “Social Media Unit”

Posted on : 12-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Online Speech

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On the heals of the London riots which were exacerbated by Facebook, Twitter, and Blackberry Messaging users, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced the establishment of a “Social Media Unit.” According to New York’s Daily News, the new unit will “track troublemakers who announce plans or brag about their crimes on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.” Thus, the new unit will not only use social media to track down evidence and perpetrators of crimes, but it will also seek out and monitor social media in an effort to prevent potential crimes.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor, a 23-year veteran known for his success in online sex crime policing, will manage the unit under the Community Affairs Bureau, which will also educate officers about social media and organize community outreach programs. The goal is to maximize the unprecedented access to information social media provides. This, however, is not the first time that police have used social media to solve crimes. The New York’s Daily News’s article, NYPD’s Social Media Unit Will Track Criminals On Facebook, Twitter details 3 instances where the NYPD’s use of social media has helped solve crimes:

  • In March, 18 year old Anthony Collao, was fatally beaten in an anti-gay attack at a house party advertised on Facebook. Calvin Pietri, one of six arrested, bragged about the murder on Facebook.
  • Also in March, an argument over a $20 loan started on Facebook and ended when 18 year old Kayla Henriques, allegedly stabbed 22 year old Kamisha Richards to death.
  • In May, a junior high reunion drew hundreds of unexpected guests when the invitation went viral. During the night gunfire broke out; five people were wounded and 20 year old Dane Freeman died.

Then, in June, an overcrowded house party advertised on Facebook as “Freaky Friday” ended in a shooting that left a 20 year old Donzell Rogers dead.

It is evident that police departments throughout the country are using social media as a tool to both prevent and solve crimes. It is likely that many states will follow NYPD’s lead and institute their own “Social Media Units.”

To learn more about NYPD’s Social Media Unit, please read:

To learn more about the recent riots in London, please read

To learn more about how law enforcement uses social media to prevent and solve crimes, please read the following articles:

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Inmates On Facebook

Posted on : 09-08-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Safety, Social Media Policies

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With the exception of sexual offenders, no state has outlawed inmates’ use social media. Consequently, inmates are using social media to evade limitations on their access to the outside world. Many inmates use social media to communicate with family and friends, making innocuous posts about day to day life in prison. However, others have been using social media to seek out new victims and/or continue to monitor and harass past victims. Additionally inmate gang members use social media to share information and coordinate criminal activity inside and outside prison.

Last year, in California, an inmate convicted of child molesting used a contraband cell phone to find the MySpace and Facebook pages of his victim. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) found out about the harassment when they received a call from the victim’s mother. After returning from a family vacation, the family discovered several pieces of mail from the incarcerated molester containing several accurate drawings of the 17-year-old victim. Investigators later discovered the inmate used a cell phone to access the victim’s Facebook and MySpace pages.

Although California inmates are permitted to retain social media profiles created before imprisonment, according to Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, “[Facebook] will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside.” Yesterday the CDCR announced “. . . it has begun reporting Facebook accounts set up and monitored by prison inmates to the Facebook Security Department.” It is unclear why it has taken the CDCR a year to take this action, however it is crystal clear that this should protect countless potential victims.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons National Gang Intelligence Center has reported increasing instances of inmates with active Facebook accounts. The majority of inmate social media accounts are maintained by inmates via contraband mobile phones or by someone outside the prison acting on behalf of the inmate. Making matters worse, The CDCR reports a massive influx in the number of confiscated contraband mobile phones. More than 7,284 contraband mobile phones were confiscated in the first six months of 2011, as opposed to the 261 devices confiscated in 2006. Unfortunately this provides inmates with “Access to social media,” which CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate admits, “allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity.”

Apparently prison employees, who do not have to submit to searches when entering prisons, are the primary source of contraband phones. According to US News corrupt prison employees can make up to $1000  for each contraband mobile phone. While it is a violation of prison rules to smuggle a phone inside and pass it to an inmate, it is not illegal. However, the Los Angeles Times reports that a pending bill in the state Senate would make smuggling a phone to an inmate a crime punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The CDCR encourages members of the public to report any instances of suspected inmate Facebook use by either an inmate, or on behalf of the inmate, to contact CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights & Services, toll free 1-877-256-OVSS (6877) or via e-mail victimservices@cdcr.ca.gov.

To learn more about inmates use of social media please read the following articles:

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