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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Witness Intimidation Through Social Media

This article talks about the various ways individuals use social media to intimidate witnesses.  It will be interesting to see if the examples mentioned in the article are outliers or indicative of a growing trend in the Digital Age.

ABA Journal: Witness harassment has gone digital, and the justice system is playing catch-up

• In a Brooklyn courtroom, where an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was on trial on charges he molested a girl sent to him for counseling at age 12, four spectators took a picture of his accuser while she was on the witness stand. They were promptly thrown out of the courtroom and later charged after a photo of the witness appeared on Twitter.

• In Philadelphia, a young man on trial for gun charges posted a copy of a witness statement on Facebook and instructed his friends to “kill all rats.”

• In Santa Fe, N.M., a 19-year-old was charged with using comments on his Facebook page to intimidate a witness in a case against his father, a former police officer charged with counterfeiting.

New Treatise: Social Media and the Law

The Practicing Law Institute has  a new treatise entitled Social Media and the Law.  The book is directed towards practitioners who want to know more about the impact of social media on the every day practice of law.   While the book primarily targets civil practitioners, it has a chapter dedicated to criminal law which I authored.

Here is a brief description of the book.

In the past few years, more and more individuals and companies have been using social media in every aspect of their personal lives and corporate existences, from keeping up with families and friends for individuals to product research and understanding customer preferences by business entities.

PLI’s Social Media and the Law helps you understand the legal environment and helps you mitigate the risks of using the many new social media platforms.

In Social Media and the Law you’ll learn:

  • The privacy issues presented by social networking sites and what steps users can take to maintain their privacy and limit unwanted third-party access to personal information
  • What copyright issues are raised in the developing social media world, such as who owns and who can use user-generated content on social media sites  
  • The opportunities, and trademark risks, of promoting your brand through social media  
  • Best practices for social media communication to avoid defamation and other tort liability   
  • The unique employment and workplace issues that are raised by and through the use of social media, both by employees and human resources departments
  • How the basic rules of disclosure in advertising apply to advertisements appearing in social  media, including the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent guidance updates
  • How the federal regulation of unsolicited commercial email applies to social media platforms
  • When social media use involves crimes and evidence, and impacts criminal prosecution
  • How social media can and should be considered in creating a civil litigation discovery plan

In a separate chapter on regulated industries, Social Media and the Law discusses the unique issues faced by such industries as:

  • Financial services
  • Broker/dealers
  • Pharmaceutical providers

Essential reading at a time when the legal issues are still evolving, Social Media and the Law minimizes the risk of litigation and other issues while maximizing your comfort level in using the many powerful tools now available through social media platforms.

Social Media News

Lexology: Washington enacts social media privacy law

Lawfuel.com:  How Law Firms Can Use Social Media Accounts For Effective Online Marketing

Policeone.com: Investigating Twitter: Mining social media for intel

Herald Sun:  Criminals use social media to track police

FOX 19:  Social media monitoring helps law enforcement prevent crime

ABC News: Idaho State Police: No Crime in Teen’s Treatment

Alerting Others About Online Impostors

The Bloomberg Social Media Law blog has an interesting post about what happens when Facebook discovers that someone has created a bogus account in the name of a real person.  At present, Facebook deletes the bogus account.  However, some have requested that Facebook do more.  For example, one teenage girl in Canada who was impersonated on Facebook wanted the social media provider to alert everyone who friended the bogus account that it was fake.  Facebook refused to take such action.  However, Facebook did change its policy to allow those impersonated the opportunity to directly contact anyone who friended the bogus account to let them know it was indeed fictitious. 

To read more about this story go here.


Online Impersonations

The article below discusses how individuals have used online impersonation to torment others. Online impersonation is generally considered a hybrid crime containing elements of both identity theft and harassment.  Unlike traditional identity theft, online impersonation lacks an economic component.  Instead, the defendant impersonates the victim for a non-economic reason such as to harass. It should also be noted that not all online impersonators have the intent to harass see for example the catfish hoax involving Manti Te’o.   

Online impersonations arise in a variety of different settings but generally take one of two forms.  The first involves the criminal defendant pretending to be the victim in order to interact with the rest of the world on social media.  Some impersonations are fairly benign and could be considered parodies.

Other impersonations are less benign.  For example, a Philadelphia woman created a fake Facebook page in the name of her ex-boyfriend, a narcotics police officer.  While impersonating him on Facebook she wrote, “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun” and “I’m an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day.”   The fictitious Facebook page was discovered and the woman was prosecuted and sentenced to a diversion program.

Washington Post: Stalkers Use Online Sex Ads as Weapons

Bill to Prohibit Social Media Providers from Using Minors’ Self-Images for Advertisements

This week Congressman Duncan from Tennessee introduced H.R. 2645 (Forbidding Advertisement Through Child Exploitation Act of 2013).  The FACE Act prohibits social media providers from using self-images uploaded by minors for commercial purposes.  A few states have laws similar to the FACE Act.  However, this new bill if enacted into law would not trump those state laws.

To date, some social media providers have used images of underage users in paid advertisements after the children “liked” a product, brand, or store on the site.  According to Congressman Duncan, “Limiting the amount of outside attention a child’s social media profile receives makes them less vulnerable to predators.”

h/s tip Shear on Social Media Law

Social Media News

Huffington Post: George Zimmerman Trial: Social Media Infiltrates Trial

Police News: Saving lives using social media (Part 1)

Las Cruces Sun News: Chicago Police turn to Twitter to battle crime

CNET: Fugitive tweets ‘catch me if you can’; caught

NBC2 News:  NBC2 Investigators: Do you have an Internet clone?

BBC News: US Facebook death threats troll: Reece Elliott jailed

Epoch Times:  George Zimmerman Trial Includes New Level of Social Media

PC Pro:  Legal experts: social media should police itself