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Monthly Archives: October 2018

Facebook on PBS Frontline


Facebook on PBS Frontline

This week Frontline is airing two episodes on the growth of Facebook and how the social media provider impacts user privacy and democracy around the world.  Here is the write up of the program.

On Monday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, FRONTLINE presents The Facebook Dilemma. This major, two-night event investigates a series of warnings to Facebook as the company grew from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room to a global empire. With dozens of original interviews and rare footage, The Facebook Dilemma examines the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.

Law Enforcement and Social Media


Law Enforcement and Social Media

Interesting article that highlights how the police use social media to conduct undercover investigations. This Facebook picture resulted in one criminal defendant receiving 15 years in prison.  Law enforcement had been monitoring the defendant’s Facebook page for more than two years before the picture was posted.

Theroot.com: The Wildly Unregulated Practice of Undercover Cops Friending People on Facebook

A Lawyer’s Guide to Keeping It Professional on Social Media


A Lawyer’s Guide to Keeping It Professional on Social Media

Good practical advice for attorneys and law students using social media.

Facebook Faces Scrutiny Under GDPR


Facebook Faces Scrutiny Under GDPR

The EU’s recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will face an early test as the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) has determined that approximately 3 million EU residents recently had their Facebook accounts breached.  The 3 million EU residents were in addition to millions of other Facebook users who also had their accounts breached.  Facebook states that they are working with the IDPC on this breach.  However, one question on the minds of many is whether Facebook, as required by the GDPR, informed the IDPC about the breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of the issue.  Failure to do so could lead to the imposition of fines against Facebook.

For more on this story go here.

From Town Square to Twittersphere: The Public Forum Doctrine Goes Digital


Dawn Carla  Nunziato

From Town Square to Twittersphere: The Public Forum Doctrine Goes Digital

Government officials like President Donald J. Trump and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan are increasingly using popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to connect and interact with their constituents and to solicit public comment on matters of public importance – whether on officially-designated government platforms (like https://www.facebook.com/GovLarryHogan/) or on unofficial platforms used for the same purposes. In recent years, government officials have increasingly turned to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook in place of (and in addition to) actual town halls and other real-space forums to solicit public participation in policy formulation and to engage with their constituents. When such interactions between government officials and their constituents occur in real space like town halls, they fall comfortably within the scope of the First Amendment’s public forum doctrine, which provides strong protections for freedom of speech and assembly, and prohibits government officials from discriminating against or silencing speakers based on their viewpoint. However, when such interactions take place in cyberspace — on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook — the application of the First Amendment’s public forum is somewhat less clear. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are privately owned, which raises issues for the application of the First Amendment’s public forum doctrine. The public forum doctrine (which provides the greatest protection for free speech in general, as well as against content and viewpoint discrimination) traditionally applies to government-owned or government-controlled — not privately-owned — property. The private ownership of social media sites also raises issues for the application of the First Amendment’s state action doctrine, which provides that the restriction of speech by and through private actors does not implicate the First Amendment except in narrow, limited circumstances.

This Article examines whether and to what extent government officials’ use of social media sites to interact with their constituents constitutes a public forum and what this forum analysis means for the ability of government officials to block or censor constituents on their social media sites. Such issues have recently arisen in the context of President Donald Trump’s blocking of constituents with whom he disagrees on his @realDonaldTrump/Twitter account. Similar issues have arisen in the context of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s and Virginia County Commissioner Phyllis Randall’s blocking of constituents on their Facebookpages, in response to being asked challenging questions. The recent Supreme Court case of Packingham v. North Carolina sheds some light on the application of the public forum doctrine to social media sites and the use and misuse of such sites by government officials. In particular, Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the Court in Packingham extends his functional, expansive conception of the public forum doctrine to non-traditional forums that function as forums for public discourse. In Part I of this Article, I examine in detail the circumstances surrounding recent incidents in which government officials have blocked constituents from following them on Twitter and from commenting on their Facebook pages. Part II undertakes an analysis of the historical development of the public forum doctrine, its recent development in the digital age, as well as the government speech doctrine and the contrast between public forums and government speech. In Part III, I apply the forum analysis developed in Part II to the recent incidents of government officials’ blocking constituents from accessing their social media sites, with an in-depth analysis of the Trump/Twitter lawsuit in particular, and conclude that such social media sites constitute public forums in which viewpoint discrimination is illegal. Part IV provides suggestions to government officials for developing policies governing social media accounts that comply with the dictates of the First Amendment, and a brief conclusion follows




Starting in 2020, California will require the following disclosures on social media political ads funded by outside money:

(1) information on the committees that paid for them, and

(2) top three contributors

These requirements are an extension of what is required for ads on television, print, and radio.  According to the sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act (AB 2188). Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, “AB 2188 will build on the improvements provided with AB 249 by extending those requirements to social media.”

For more on the new law go here.

Celebrities Use Social Media to Influence Legislators

Taylor Swift

Celebrities Use Social Media to Influence Legislators

The article below highlights the power of celebrities to influence the voting decisions of California legislators.  When certain celebrities get behind specific pieces of legislation the likelihood of passage increases significantly.  I would only note that this trend is not relegated to CA but occurs across the nation.  For example, go here to see Taylor Swift’s use of social media to urge her fans to become politically active.

LATimes: Celebrity advocates use social media to influence which California bills become law