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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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Ex-girlfriend’s Phony Facebook Page Tests NJ Identity Theft Law

Posted on : 03-11-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Online Privacy, Online Speech

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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 on Facebook. Dana Thornton, 41, faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted of using Facebook to impersonate Michael Lasalandra, her ex-boyfriend who is a Parsippany narcotics detective. While Thornton’s attorney, Richard Roberts maintains that New Jersey’s identity theft should not apply because the law does not include “electronic communications,” it is unclear whether Thornton will appeal.

According to the New Jersey statute, a defendant is guilty of identity theft if she “impersonates another or assumes a false identity and does an act in such assumed character or false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another.” This law does not specify its pertinence to electronic communications, nor does it specify its pertinence to any other form of communication. Historically, this statute was used to convict people who impersonate another for financial gain. However, if the allegations against Thornton are true, it is clear that she assumed her ex-boyfriend’s identity for the purpose of injuring his reputation as a police officer. According to Ben Horowitz’s article, Judge Rules Case of Belleville Woman’s Fake Facebook Page Can Proceed, Thornton, while impersonating Detective Lasalandra on Facebook, “admitted using drugs, going to prostitutes and having herpes.” Furthermore, Judge Ironson affirmed that Thornton’s statements were harmful to his “professional reputation.” A pre-trial conference is scheduled for December 7.

Please read the following articles to learn more about this case:

To learn more about online identity theft, please read my following articles

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The Center for Democracy and Technology Defends Mobile and Online Privacy

Posted on : 27-10-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government

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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) outdated standards. The ECPA specifies standards for government surveillance of mobile and Internet communications. The CDT is a non-partisan, non-profit public interest organization working to protect privacy and free speech over the Internet, mobile networks and other new communications media. The ECPA was enacted on October 21, 1986, and while technology has advanced at an astonishing pace, the statute’s privacy rules have never been updated, resulting in diminished Constitutional rights when it comes to protections against government access to personal digital data. According to the CDT, the current standards do not require the government to obtain a warrant to track individuals’ movements using their mobile phones or to access many emails and documents stored on the Internet.

To advance their efforts they have created a petition to Congress to reform ECPA and invite interested parties to sign it.

For more information on digital privacy, please read the CDT’s extremely informative article entitled, Security and Surveillance, which provides an excellent synopsis of the ECPA’s history, technological changes since the ECPA was passed, Digital Due Process Coalition’s principles to guide ECPA reform and key resources supporting reform.

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NJ State Senator Will Introduce Online Gambling Legislation

Posted on : 21-10-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government

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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 for two reasons. First, he questioned the law’s constitutionality, reasoning that gambling in New Jersey is restricted to Atlantic City. Second, he feared an explosion of betting parlors throughout the state. However, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak says he will introduce online gambling legislation in November that will address Christie’s concerns and allow New Jersey to profit from the billions of dollars lost to offshore operators. According to Miles Weiss’s article, Trump Teams with Avenue’s Lasry to Pursue Online Gaming Venture, “The $6 billion that Americans wager each year through offshore sites is tempting state authorities who face budget deficits, as well as casino companies looking for new sources of growth.”

According to an October 14 regulatory filing, casino operator Trump Entertainment Resorts and real estate financier, Lasry’s Avenue Capital Group are optimistic, and have formed an Internet gaming partnership in the event U.S. regulators permit such businesses to operate. In his article, Weiss quotes Ivanka Trump, Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions for the Trump Organization, “[Online gambling] would be a tremendous source of taxable revenue for states or the federal government and an enormous generator of jobs.” Additionally, Wayne Parry quotes Robert Griffin, Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO, in his article Donald Trump: US Should Legalize Internet Betting, “It makes sense for the state of New Jersey to regulate this activity, enforce strict standards to ensure games are fair and safe, and in turn be able to collect tax revenue instead of having those dollars and the jobs they support leaving New Jersey and going illegally overseas.” However, history says that New Jerseyites shouldn’t start counting that tax revenue just yet, as many law makers don’t believe the benefits are worth the risks.

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Federal Shield Law in the Senate

Posted on : 04-10-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Speech

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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 journalists and their use of confidential sources. However the states’ protection doesn’t apply when federal law is at issue. Press-citizen.com’s article entitled, Our View – Time for Congress To Pass a Federal Shield Law This Year, cites 2 significant examples: “And that means many important national stories — like that of the disgraceful treatment of wounded soldiers at the Army’s Walter Reed hospital or that of the abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison — leave reporters and editors at the mercy of prosecutors and judges who want the names of sources.”

Last month, U.S. Congressman Mike Pence reintroduced H.R., 2932, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2011. Also known as the Federal Media Shield Bill, this bill would establish limited federal protection from prosecutors and courts attempting to compel “covered” journalists to disclose confidential sources. The bill, authored by Pence six years ago, passed in the House of Representatives twice in 2007 and 2009; then died on the Senate floor. In 2009, while in the Senate, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to endorse a federal shield law.

Opponents of the shield law argue that it will damage the federal government’s ability to protect national security. However, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2011 provides exceptions to the shield law for national security, the prevention of death or bodily harm, and information that is deemed essential in a criminal case or critical in a civil suit. Others argue that shield law’s exceptions negate the substance of the bill. Additionally they argue that the shield law is too weak, as evidenced by its narrow definition of “covered” journalists. The bill defines a “covered” journalist as someone who regularly reports and writes for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain. Thus, excluding a majority of bloggers, whom may be in a better position to report, but do not write for financial gain. Still, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2011 is better than the absence of a federal shield law. In a speech to the National Conference of Editorial Writers Convention, Pence asserted that “Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of their confidential sources, is a detriment to the public interest. Without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about our government will be shut down.”

Please read Jason M. Shepard’s article, Bloggers after the Shield: Defining Journalism in Privilege Law, to learn more about a federal shield law and its applicability to bloggers whose purposes, processes and products are similar to professional journalists’ historical practices and values.

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Missouri Repeals Facebook Ban

Posted on : 23-09-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Safety, Online Speech, Social Media Policies

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Last month a Missouri judge issued a preliminary injunction against the state, suspending the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, because of its potential “chilling effect” on free-speech. The Act prohibited teachers from communicating privately with students over social media sites like Facebook. Shortly thereafter Governor Jay Nixon called upon lawmakers to repeal the ban in a special legislative session. Today Missouri lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to repeal the ban. However, according to David Lieb’s article, Missouri Lawmakers Repeal Teacher-Facebook Law, “the repeal went a step further by also requiring public school districts to adopt policies by March 1 on employee-student communications, including ‘the use of electronic media,’ in order ‘to prevent improper communications.’” The repeal will take effect when Governor Nixon signs it.

Please read my other articles about Amy Hestir Student Protection Act:

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Judge Cracks Down on Google Mistrials

Posted on : 21-09-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government

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“Google Mistrials” refers to cases disrupted by jurors’ independent internet investigations. Specifically searches for lawyers, victims, witnesses, defendants, news articles, blogs and evidence that had been specifically excluded by the judge can lead to a “Google Mistrial.” While this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, over the past few years the immediacy and accessibility of smart phones has increased such occurrences and wreaked havoc on trials around the country.

Now a Manhattan federal judge, known for her series 2004 of opinions that established e-discovery rules, is doing something about it. According to Colin Moynihan’s article, Judge Considers Pledge for Jurors on Internet Use, this month, during a hearing, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said, “I am keenly aware that there are convictions set aside all over the country when we learn later during deliberations a juror looked up the keyword or the key name.” Attempting to avoid this in her court room, Judge Scheindlin plans to write a pledge that jurors might be required to sign. According to Moynihan’s article jurors who sign the pledge will be subject to perjury charges if they conduct independent internet investigations during the trial.

Some question why a written pledge would be successful when oral instructions have failed. Instructing jurors not to use any source outside the court room to assist in deciding any question of fact is boilerplate. In his 2009 article, As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up, John Schwartz wrote, “Judges have long amended their habitual warning about seeking outside information during trials to include Internet searches.” Still, the number of Google Mistrials continues to grow. Apparently, Judge Scheindlin believes that jurors will be less likely to conduct independent online investigations if they affirmatively agree not to in writing. Time will tell if other judges follow suit.

To learn about actual examples of Google Mistrials, please read the following articles:

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Cybercrime Epidemic

Posted on : 12-09-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Online Safety

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Cybercrime is a worldwide and potentially devastating phenomenon. According to a report released by Symantec, the makers of Norton anti-virus and anti-spyware software, 61% of adults thought they were more likely to become a victim of offline, rather than online crime, in the next twelve months. However, only 15% of respondents surveyed suffered a crime in the physical world, while 44% of respondents surveyed suffered a cybercrime. Globally, the most common cybercrime has been and remains computer viruses or malware (54%), followed by online scams (11%), phishing (10%), and smishing (10%) (i.e. phishing by SMS). While it is important to note that this report was published by a company that has an interest in its outcome, the information is staggering.

The study, which was carried out in 24 countries and included 19,636 interviews with adults and children, reveals the vast reach of cybercrime and its massive cost to consumers. According to the report 14 people fall victim to cybercrime every second, costing the global economy $50 billion more annually than the marijuana, cocaine and heroin global black markets combined. The report also breaks down the cost of cybercrime, in terms of money and time lost. Annually, cybercrime is responsible for $114 billion of lost money and $274 billion in lost time.

Still, many people are unprotected. While 87% of adults say it’s important to use security software to protect their computers 100% of the time, 41% of adults surveyed had either outdated or no security software to protect themselves from cybercriminals. Moreover, as cybercrime occurs across jurisdictions, cultures, ethnic groups, social classes, etc., it is inherently difficult for law enforcement to trace. Law enforcement is further challenged by the absence of a central policing system. Thus, for now, updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software and staying abreast of the most recent cyberthreats is the best way to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

To learn more about Norton’s Cybercrime Report, please read the following articles:

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

Posted on : 02-09-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Safety, Online Speech

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Earlier this month I wrote an article entitled Amy Hestir Student Protection Act: Protecting Students or Stifling Teachers? detailing the problems with a new Missouri law, set to take effect on August 28th, that makes it illegal for teachers in Missouri to use social media sites or text messaging to communicate with students. On August 19th this law was challenged by the Missouri Teachers Association (MSTA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern Missouri in separate lawsuits. The MSTA suit was filed in Cole County Circuit Court against the State of Missouri, its governor, and its attorney general. The ACLU suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against the Ladue School District and members of the Missouri State Board of Education, sought class-action status on behalf of all teachers employed in the state’s school districts. On August 24th, a Missouri judge issued a preliminary injunction against the state, suspending the law. If the provision has not been repealed by the General Assembly by October 14th’s scheduling conference, the court will be forced to determine whether the law is substantially over broad or unconstitutionally vague.

For an exceptional explanation of the legal issues plaguing the constitutionality of this law, please read Rob Arcamona’s article, Free Speech Concerns Could Sink Missouri’s Social Networking Ban for Teachers. In addition to writing about this law’s “chilling effect” on teachers’ speech and the constitutionally-required balance of Free Speech versus student protection, Arcamona exposes the problems with potential amendments to the law that state legislators are likely to face.

Please read the following informative articles to learn more about the questionable constitutionality of banning teachers from using social media sites or text messaging to communicate with students:

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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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