Social Media

The Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC to examine so-called “native advertising.”  This term refers to the practice of blending advertisements with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media and is sometimes also referred to as “sponsored content.”  As an FTC blog post explains, “[w]hatever the name, it’s for sure ads in digital media are starting to look a lot more like the surrounding content.  What are the consumer protection implications now that those lines appear to be blurring?”

According to the Commission, the workshop builds on previous Commission initiatives, such as the Dot Com Disclosures guidance and the Endorsements and Testimonials guidance, to “help ensure that consumers can identify advertisements as advertising wherever they appear.”  The FTC noted a number of questions and topics that may be covered at the workshop, including:

  • What is the origin and purpose of the wall between regular content and advertising, and what challenges do publishers face in maintaining that wall in digital media, including in the mobile environment?
  • In what ways are paid messages integrated into, or presented as, regular content and in what contexts does this integration occur?  How does it differ when paid messages are displayed within mobile apps and on smart phones and other mobile devices?
    Continue Reading FTC Announces Workshop To Examine Native Ads

New Jersey has enacted restrictions on the ability of employers to access employees’ social media accounts, becoming the twelfth state to enact such legislation. More than 30 state legislatures have considered bills on the topic in 2013, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Restrictions in New Jersey

New Jersey’s new law, signed by Governor Chris Christie on August 29 and effective December 1, generally prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that employees or prospective employees “provide or disclose any user name or password, or in any way provide the employer access to, a personal account through an electronic communications device.” Employers also may not require individuals to waive the law’s protections or retaliate against individuals who refuse prohibited requests or file complaints with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development about violations of the law. An earlier version of the law, passed by the legislature but vetoed by Gov. Christie, also would have allowed aggrieved individuals to file civil suits for injunctions, damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Continue Reading New Jersey Restricts Employer Access to Employees’ Personal Online Accounts

Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, recently made headlines by committing to purchase an 18% stake in Weibo, China’s largest microblogging platform, for $586 million. The deal reportedly gives Alibaba an option to increase its stake to 30%.

The alliance will allow Alibaba to drive more web traffic to its e-commerce sites.  With over

On April 29, Craigslist was successful in fighting off a motion to dismiss filed by three screenscraping sites (3Taps, Padmapper and Lovely) in its pending litigation in the Northern District of California.   In Craigslist Inc. v. 3Taps Inc., No. CV 12-03816 (N.D. Cal.), Craigslist sued these sites, alleging that their scraping of Craigslist content

The SEC has confirmed that public companies can use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate material information, provided that investors are alerted in advance that information will be disclosed in this fashion.

This guidance came in a Report of Investigation under Section 21(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, issued on April 2, 2013.  The underlying investigation concerned Netflix, Inc., and its CEO Reed Hastings.  Last July, Hastings announced on his personal Facebook page that June 2012 marked the first month that Netflix had streamed more than one billion hours of content.  No press release or Current Report on Form 8-K accompanied the Facebook post.  Despite prior announcements that it was nearing a billion hours of monthly streamed content and the fact that its revenue model is subscription-based, the price of Netflix common stock increased 16% over the next trading day.


Continue Reading SEC Approves Use of Social Media to Communicate With Investors, But Warns Companies to Proceed With Caution

Florida lawmakers have proposed that the government be required to obtain a warrant before searching the contents of “portable electronic devices” or tracking their locations.  The bill, S.B. 846, was introduced by State Representative Jeff Brandes and would go into effect on July 1, 2013.

The proposed Florida law would apply to “portable electronic devices,” such as cellphones.  The bill defines a “portable electronic device” as “an object capable of being easily transported or conveyed by a person which is capable of creating, receiving, accessing, or storing electronic data or communications and that communicates with, by any means, another entity or individual.”  The bill specifically prohibits two different government actions.  First, the “contents and communications” of a portable electronic device, which include “data or information contained in or transmitted from” the device, may not be searched or seized by the government without a warrant.  The warrant requirement is subject to certain exceptions in the bill, such as searches related to national security, missing children, emergencies that are reasonably believed to involve death or serious physical injury, and existing exceptions to the warrant requirement.


Continue Reading Proposed Florida Law Would Require Warrants for Cellphone Searches

Path, a social networking mobile app, has agreed to enter into a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) regarding charges that the company deceived consumers by collecting contact information from users’ mobile address books without notice and consent.  The agreement also resolves charges that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) by collecting personal information from children under  13 years old without parental notice and consent.  Path did not admit any liability by entering into the consent decree, which is for settlement purposes only.

The FTC alleged that the Path application included an “Add Friends” feature that allowed users to make new connections within the app.  Users were given three options when using the “Add Friends” functionality:  “Find friends from your contacts,” “Find Friends from Facebook,” or “Invite friends to join Path by email or SMS.”  Regardless of which option was chosen, Path automatically collected and stored contact information from the address book on the user’s mobile phone.  The FTC argued that this practice was contrary to representations made in the company’s privacy policy that only certain technical information, such as IP address, browser type, and site activity information, was automatically collected from the user.  Under the settlement, Path agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program and obtain biennial, independent privacy assessments for the next twenty years.
Continue Reading FTC Settles Deception, COPPA Charges Against Social Networking App Path

Recently, Netflix settled a lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) that alleged that its online closed captioning practices violated the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).  As a part of the settlement, Netflix agreed to caption all of its “Watch Instantly” programming by September 30, 2014.  Until then, Netflix will provide a mechanism on its site for deaf and hard of hearing users to search for programming with captions. 
Continue Reading Netflix Settles Online Closed Captioning Litigation

On Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued a decision that extends until January 1, 2014 the deadline for all online video programming distributors (“VPDs”) to implement user controls in connection with their delivery of Internet Protocol closed captioning.   Prior to this decision, VPDs that provide applications or plug-ins in order to deliver video programming had until September 30, 2012 to add the next-generation closed captioning capability, which offers users an array of control features.  In the same decision, the Media Bureau refused a request to extend the September 30, 2012 deadline for VPDs to be able to render basic online captioning.
Continue Reading FCC Extends Online Closed Captioning User Control Mandate Until January 2014