Open Letter Condemning Proposal to Demand Passwords to Enter the U.S.


Below is the letter.  To see a list of the individuals who have signed on go here.

The undersigned coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations, trade associations, and experts in security, technology, and the law expresses deep concern about the comments made by Secretary John Kelly at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on February 7th, 2017, suggesting the Department of Homeland Security could require non-citizens to provide the passwords to their social media accounts as a condition of entering the country.

We recognize the important role that DHS plays in protecting the United States’ borders and the challenges it faces in keeping the U.S. safe, but demanding passwords or other account credentials without cause will fail to increase the security of U.S. citizens and is a direct assault on fundamental rights.

This proposal would enable border officials to invade people’s privacy by examining years of private emails, texts, and messages. It would expose travelers and everyone in their social networks, including potentially millions of U.S. citizens, to excessive, unjustified scrutiny. And it would discourage people from using online services or taking their devices with them while traveling, and would discourage travel for business, tourism, and journalism.

Demands from U.S. border officials for passwords to social media accounts will also set a precedent that may ultimately affect all travelers around the world. This demand is likely to be mirrored by foreign governments, which will demand passwords from U.S. citizens when they seek entry to foreign countries. This would compromise U.S. economic security, cybersecurity, and national security, as well as damage the U.S.’s relationships with foreign governments and their citizenry.

Policies to demand passwords as a condition of travel, as well as more general efforts to force individuals to disclose their online activity, including potentially years’ worth of private and public communications, create an intense chilling effect on individuals. Freedom of expression and press rights, access to information, rights of association, and religious liberty are all put at risk by these policies.

The first rule of online security is simple: Do not share your passwords. No government agency should undermine security, privacy, and other rights with a blanket policy of demanding passwords from individuals.

Social Media and ‘Flash Infringement’: Live Music Culture and Dying IP Protection

Michael Epstein


Social Media and ‘Flash Infringement’: Live Music Culture and Dying IP Protection

This article interrogates issues of music intellectual property rights infringement at live performances. I am especially interested in music infringement at live concerts and DJ-driven mash-up parties, and the use of technologies to transfer protected content by smartphone — or remote storage device — at or near the performance site. The covalent forces of social media, including the use of smartphone apps such as Meerkat and Periscope, and flash mob culture have created a perhaps unstoppable threat to copyright and other intellectual property rights — a phenomenon that I define in this article as “flash infringement.” In a flash infringement setting, it may be impossible to stop the infringement among thousands of partygoers or fans and their online followers.

Court Says Google Has A First Amendment Right To Delist Competitor’s ‘Spammy’ Content


Court Says Google Has A First Amendment Right To Delist Competitor’s ‘Spammy’ Content

Last summer, a Florida federal court reached some unusual conclusions in a lawsuit filed by SEO company e-ventures, which felt Google had overstepped its bounds in delisting a lot of its links. Google defended itself, citing both Section 230 and the First Amendment. The court disagreed with both arguments.

As to Section 230, the court found that Google’s delisting efforts weren’t in “good faith.” The reason cited was e-ventures’ claim that the delisting was in “bad faith.” So much for this seldom-used aspect of Section 230: the “Good Samaritan” clause which states no third-party company can be found liable for actions it takes to remove content it finds questionable. And so much for “viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Apparently, Google’s long history of spam-fighting efforts is nothing compared to an SEO wrangler’s pained assertions…

#Advocacy: Social Media Activism’s Power to Transform Law

Stacy Steinberg


#Advocacy: Social Media Activism’s Power to Transform Law


Attorneys influence the actions of legislators, courts, and community leaders by working alongside social movements. Together, these advocates seek to challenge the status quo by setting precedent that will ensure equality and justice for all individuals. While social movements often use social media to convey their message or to gather support for their cause, many attorneys are unfamiliar with leveraging this powerful new technology.

Social media platforms provide a low-cost, fast, and easy-to-use tool that effectively disseminates information and helps advocates garner support for their cause. However, some social change advocates, including lawyers and policymakers, are hesitant to get involved in social media activities. These advocates are missing unique and powerful opportunities to move their causes forward, and are perhaps doing so at their peril.

Online activism has both amplified the voices of marginalized individuals and shifted national conversations on important legal and social issues. This Article explores the role of social movements in cause-lawyering, and introduces advocates to social media’s role in creating meaningful legal change. It first discusses social movements and community activism in the context of law. Next, this Article illustrates the unique power of online advocacy (often referred to as #activism) to create legal and social reform. This article concludes by proposing that attorneys understand and embrace social media, as it has revolutionized how laws are created and enforced in all aspects of society.

Facebook Seeks to Argue Unconstitutionality of User Account Warrants in NY Court


Facebook Seeks to Argue Unconstitutionality of User Account Warrants in NY Court

ALBANY – The state’s highest court will hear arguments this week about whether Facebook can challenge the constitutionality of search warrants served by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for information on 381 users’ accounts.

Facebook said the case, Matter of 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook (New York County District Attorney’s Office), 16, presents the court with no less than “the opportunity to set a historic precedent establishing that the Fourth Amendment remains a bulwark against unreasonable government seizures in the digital age…

Wild Westworld: The Application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to Social Networks’ Use of Machine-Learning Algorithms


Catherine Tremble

Wild Westworld: The Application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to Social Networks’ Use of Machine-Learning Algorithms


On August 10th, 2016, a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York formally accused Facebook of aiding the execution of terrorist attacks. The complaint depicted user-generated posts and groups promoting and directing the incitement of terrorist activities. Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), Interactive Service Providers (ISPs), such as Facebook, cannot be held liable for user-generated content where the ISP did not create or develop the information. However, this case stands out because it seeks to hold Facebook liable not only for the content of third parties, but also for the effect its personalized machine-learning algorithms — or “services” — have had on the ability of terrorists to orchestrate and execute attacks. By alleging that Facebook’s conduct goes beyond the mere act of publication, and includes the actual services’ effect on terrorists’ abilities to more effectively execute attacks, the complaint seeks to prevent the court from granting section 230 immunity to Facebook.

This Note argues that Facebook’s services — specifically the personalization of social media pages through the use of machine-learning algorithms — constitute the “development” of content and as such do not qualify for immunity under section 230 of the CDA. Recognizing the challenge of applying a static statute to a shifting technological landscape, this Note analyzes recent jurisprudential evolutions in section 230 doctrine to revise the original analytical framework applied in early cases. This Framework is guided by congressional and public policy goals but evolves to demonstrate awareness of technological evolution and ability. It specifically tailors section 230 immunity to account for behavioral data mined for ISP use, and the effect the use of that data has on users — two issues that courts have yet to confront. This Note concludes that, under the updated section 230 framework, personalized machine-learning algorithms made effective through the collection of individualized behavioral data make ISPs co-developers of content and as such bar them from section 230 immunity.


Social Media/Digital Marketing Counsel


Social Media/Digital Marketing Counsel

Position Overview:

PLS is at an exciting juncture, and the Part-Time (flexible hours) Social Media/Digital Marketing Counsel (SMC), will play a critical role in the continued growth and success of the company. The SMC will support the legal department in performing the legal review of, and providing legal advice to the marketing department in connection with, social media and digital marketing materials for use on the internet, on the PLS website, in social media, and on other digital platforms.

Job Responsibilities:

  • Provide legal guidance to a leading consumer financial services company on topics specifically related to social media and digital marketing and advertising of products and services

  • Review of social media and digital marketing materials

  • Advise and ensure PLS is following current guidelines and regulations relative to the financial services industry and all digital commerce and advertising

  • Identify risks associated with digital marketing and advertising initiatives applicable to financial services

  • Monitor legislative and regulatory developments impacting marketing and advertising of financial services and products

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