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Monthly Archives: July 2018

Watch or Report? Livestream or Help? Good Samaritan Laws Revisited: The Need to Create A Duty to Report

Patricia Grande Montana


Watch or Report? Livestream or Help? Good Samaritan Laws Revisited: The Need to Create A Duty to Report


In July 2017, a group of five Florida teenagers taunted a drowning disabled man while filming his death on a cell phone. In the video, the teenagers laughed and shouted harsh statements like “ain’t nobody finna to help you, you dumb bitch.” At the moment the man’s head sank under the water for the very last time, one of the teenagers remarked: “Oh, he just died” before laughter ensued. None of the teenagers helped the man, nor did any of them report the drowning or his death to the authorities.

Because the Good Samaritan law in Florida, like in most states, does not require bystanders to assist another person who they know is in danger or is suffering serious physical harm, the teenagers who chose to film, rather than aid, the drowning disabled man are free of any liability. They face no penalties for their inaction and no punishment for their callousness.

This Article urges states to revisit traditional Good Samaritan laws. States need to consider penalizing a person’s failure to aid when another person is clearly in danger of physical harm or death. This need is particularly great given the power of social media and its intersection with a bystander’s ability and decision to help. As technology advances, relationships have become increasingly impersonal, thereby diminishing the individual’s connection to and compassion for others. Social media has added a new dimension to the longstanding debate of whether laws should impose on bystanders a duty to help. In cases where a bystander is observing a crime online, the individual can meet the duty quite simply by alerting authorities to the crime or danger. And in cases where the circumstances might tempt a bystander to use social media rather than provide help, the legal duty will compel the more moral choice. Accordingly, states should adopt duty to aid statutes mandating that bystanders give aid or call for help when they can.

Stopping Discriminatory Advertising Practices on Facebook


Stopping Discriminatory Advertising Practices on Facebook

Facebook moved one step closer to preventing advertisers on its site from using discriminatory practices.  This week Facebook signed a legal binding pledge with officials from the state of Washington in which it agreed to prohibit advertisers on its site from excluding people on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and other protected classes.  The agreement stemmed from 2016 reports in ProPublica that discussed how advertisers, using Facebook’s micro-targeting tools, could prevent certain groups like African-Americans from viewing housing ads.

To read more about the agreement go here.

Bequeathing Your Social Media Account


Bequeathing Your Social Media Account

Foreign countries are increasingly allowing others to access the social media accounts of individuals who have died.  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has gone so far as to permit users to list their social media account, like any other asset, in a will to be inherited by another individual.

While countries may allow this practice, most social media providers do not permit users to bequeath their social media account to a friend or next of kin.  Some sites, like Facebook, do allow certain close relatives limited access to the deceased’s account for informational and memorial purposes; however, they do not allow the other person to actually operate the account on behalf of the deceased.

thenational.ae:  Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts can now be bequeathed in legally binding will

Will I Be the Next Hashtag: Can the Right of Publicity and / or Privacy Protect Those Killed Extralegally from (Internet) Infamy?

Deidre A. Keller


Will I Be the Next Hashtag: Can the Right of Publicity and / or Privacy Protect Those Killed Extralegally from (Internet) Infamy?


Social media has become an important site for organizing and resistance in the 21st Century. But, what happens when the family of a child killed by police wishes to keep that child’s name from becoming the next viral hashtag? The 2017 death of Jordan Edwards at the hands of a Balch Spring, Texas police officer begs precisely this question. Jordan is, of course, one of many black boys killed extralegally, the most famous of whom is, perhaps, Emmett Till. At Emmett’s funeral his mother, Mamie Till, made the extraordinary decision to have her son’s casket open so that the world could see what the lynch mob had done to him. This decision has been hailed as heroic and instrumental in the nascent Civil Rights’ Movement. Not incidentally, the photographs taken of Emmett’s badly mangled face were recently at the center of a controversy in which a white artist utilized those images to create a painting that hung in the Whitney Museum. That controversy begs the same question presented by Jordan Edwards’ family’s choice to not immediately offer their son up as a martyr: what in the law might the family use to protect their slain child’s name and likeness from unauthorized use? The mechanisms ordinarily utilized to protect against unauthorized uses of names and likenesses are the right of publicity and the right to privacy. In this article, I’ll consider whether these mechanisms are up to the task of enforcing the wishes of Jordan Edward’s family or the next family that finds itself seeking privacy and dignity in the wake of horrible tragedy.

Law Students and Social Media

ABA Law Students and Social Media

Law Students and Social Media

Here is an article that I recently wrote for the ABA in which I encourage law students to proactively use social media.  While I acknowledge the potential pitfalls, I think they are outweighed by the benefits to students.

ABAforlawstudents.com: Law students and social media: Do they mix?

Prosecutors and Social Media



Prosecutors and Social Media

Here is the latest example of a prosecutor, Michael Selyem, using a personal social media account to make derogatory comments about public officials and ethnic/racial groups. In this case, the target of Mr. Selyem’s social media posts was Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), former first lady Michelle Obama, immigrants, and Mexicans.

With respect to Congresswoman Waters Mr. Selyem wrote

“Being a loudmouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now”

The prosecutor has been placed on Administrative Leave.  Unfortunately, this was not the first prosecutor nor will it be the last to make inappropriate comments on social media.

To read more about this story go here.

Facebook and Censorship


Facebook and Censorship

Here is an example of the collateral damage that occurs with censorship conducted by social media platforms.  In this case, it was the Declaration of Independence, which contains the following language:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions

Fortunately, Facebook was ably to quickly rectify its mistake.

LATimes.com: Facebook censored a post for ‘hate speech.’ It was the Declaration of Independence