Archive for the ‘policies and guidelines’ Category

Suicide, Social Media, and Public Health

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The Washington Post has an excellent story pointing up the irresponsibility of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science in posting the following tweet – “Genie, you’re free” – that romanticizes the suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams, the who hanged himself on Monday.

@TheAcademy tweeting "Genie, you're free."

The story notes “[t]he starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light.”

Indeed, it’s pretty perplexing how AMPAS thought this was a good idea. The concern, of course, is that glorifying suicide may inspire copycat suicides. As NBC News reports, there was a significant increase in suicides among white women around Marilyn Monroe’s age when she killed herself in 1962.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has guidelines for responsible reporting and social media about suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline organization has social media guidelines as well.

They urge, when writing about suicide, to note that suicide usually has warning signs and to refer readers to helpful resources.

If you see someone on social media who is expressing thoughts of suicide, you can visit NSPL’s page on how to help. There are even specific instructions for what to do if you see suicidal users on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, You Tube, and MySpace.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website, or call 1-800-273-TALK.


Update on Pandora’s California Consumer Rights Notification

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Pandora logoA while ago I blogged about a page footer I noticed on internet-radio/jukebox sitePandora with a link to “Your CA Privacy Rights,” advising California residents of California Civil Code §1798.83 and entreating them, pursuant to that law, to “request and obtain from us once a year, free of charge, a list of the third parties to whom we disclosed their personal information (if any) for direct marketing purposes in the preceding calendar year and the categories of personal information disclosed to those third parties.”

I wrote Pandora and made this request just to see what would turn up. As I disclosed to Pandora in the request, I am not, and was not during the past year, a California resident. I asked them if they would honor the request nonetheless. Josh M at Pandora responded the same day to say:

Hi there,

Pandora Media, Inc. has not disclosed your personal information to any third party for the third party’s direct marketing purposes within the immediately preceding year.

Hope that helps and thanks again for writing.
Best Regards,

Josh M

Listener Support
PANDORA® internet radio
Need help? http://help.pandora.com

Interesting. I would have imagined they had.

I wrote in some detail about §1798.83 in my previous post last month.

Weibo.com Debuts “Truth” Point System

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Weibo.com logoSina Weibo – China’s Twitter-like microblogging site – has created a new point system to extend Chinese government influence over what is and is not deemed “true.” New guidelines forbid communicating content considered “untrue,” or which is deemed to “harm national unity,” or “destroy societal stability.”

This sort of speech has long been illegal in China. But with Sina Weibo’s burgeoning 300 million users, website policy may have more reach than the criminal law.

When creating an account on the site, which is also known as Weibo.com, a user gets 80 points of credibility, or 100 points if the user plugs in a government-assigned ID number to create the account and links to a cellphone. Then, whenever the Sina Weibo user communicates something deemed “untrue,” points are deducted. The more people to whom the “falsehood” is communicated, the more points are deducted. For instance, spreading a “falsehood” to more than a thousand other users results in a deduction of 10 points and a 15-day account suspension. Users can gain points by staying in compliance with government censorship policies. Once the points fall below 60, the user is deemed “low credit.” Once the points get to zero, the account is closed.

Sina Weibo has been a key means of the dissemination of information about disasters and government scandals that the Chinese government has tried to play down, deny, or bury. This new point system will presumably cause Weibo users to self-censor to avoid account closure, helping to allow the Chinese government to bring social media to heel.

More:

ACLU Sues to Stop Sheriff Harassment of Photographers

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Mosaic of photographs of random thingsSome of the thousands of photographs I’ve taken which, I am sure, the LASD would consider to be without aesthetic value. (More where those came from on Flickr.)

I’m always taking photos of random things. I think it’s fun. And photos are valuable for illustrating blog posts, among other things.

But a lot of law enforcement agencies consider photography to be a “suspicious activity.” You can be seriously harassed for street photography.

Happily, the ACLU is stepping in to do something about it. The ACLU is now suing to challenge a policy of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department that considers as “terrorism-related” the activity of taking “pictures or video footage with no apparent esthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.”

If I had a buck for every photo I’ve taken of “security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.,” then I would have a huge wad of cash. Enough to buy a full-frame digital SLR and maybe even get a sweet L-series 400mm telephoto lens.

And I’d run out and use it to take pictures of traffic lights, building entrances, and other stuff like that. And then I’d probably have to call the ACLU for help, because I could get into trouble like their latest plaintiffs Shane Quentin and Shawn Nee.

Quentin was targeted when he was taking photographs of refineries at night in south Los Angeles at night. (I’ve been meaning to do this myself the next time have some extra time down there. The refineries at night are stunning – fortresses of light, flame, fog, and exhaust. Highly photogenic in my book.) Well for his efforts, Quentin was frisked and placed in the back of squad car. He was kept there for about 45 minutes before he was let go.

It could have been me.

Nee’s misadventures are even harder to fathom. LASD deputies detained and searched plaintiff Shawn Nee when he was taking pictures turnstiles at an L.A. Metro station. This gives you an idea of where they were at: They asked Nee if he was planning to sell the photos to al-Qaeda.

Really. I’m not making that up. I mean, not only are they imply that he was in league with al-Qaeda, but that he was doing it for the money.

Then the LASD officers threatened to stick Nee on an FBI “hit list.” Okay, that’s absurd. Everyone who watches USA network knows that the CIA is in charge of assassinating terrorists on U.S. soil. But I digress.

On a separate occasion, sheriff’s deputies ordered Nee to refrain from taking photos along the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, outside the W Hotel. I mean, holy heck. If you aren’t safe taking pictures there – smack-dab in the middle of freaking Hollywood – where are you?

You can tell I’m upset. I’m using far too much italics.

The ACLU’s complaint [pdf], unlike this blog post, is a model of legal writing. For one, it’s written with a literary flair, yet it refrains from crossing the line into floweriness. Like this:

Photography is not a crime; it is a means of artistic expression. In public spaces, on public streets and from public sidewalks, no law bars Los Angeles residents and visitors from photographing the world around them, from documenting their own lives or using their lenses to find the sublime in the commonplace.

Nicely said. The complaint also is filled with footnoted references to essays, art reviews, and books. It’s very well-researched. A model pleading. Kudos to the ACLU. What’s more, this is a lawsuit that is badly needed to push back against an unhealthy trend. As the complaint says:

Over the past several years, law enforcement agencies across the country have implemented “suspicious activity reporting” programs, under which officers are trained to report certain categories of behavior believed to be potential indicators of terrorism. Many departments include photography as one such ‘suspicious activity’ that should be reported.

Mickey H. Osterreicher said in a letter to L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca that the aim is to get “at least” the L.A. Sheriff’s Department to revise departmental policy and instruct deputies correspondingly.

“Safety and security concerns should not be used as a pretext to chill free speech and expression or to impede the ability to gather news,” Osterreicher said.

More:

UK Anti-Terrorism Law Invoked Against Dad Who FB’d Photo of Daughter Eating Ice Cream in Mall

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Four-year-old girl eating ice cream on a seat fashioned like a pink Vespa scooter

The face of terrorism? (Photo: Chris White)

Chris White used his cell phone to take the adorable photo at right of his 4-year-old daughter eating ice cream in the Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland. And with that, Mr. White took his fateful step toward becoming a terrorist – or so it would seem in the view of authorities who then swooped down on him.

To be entirely frank, I would understand authorities accusing me of terrorism for bringing my 3- and 6-year-old boys into a shopping mall. They go berserk in public spaces. Generally, you can’t capture a non-blurry photo of my boys with a cell phone – they move too fast. Often they are moving fast in a way that constitutes an immediate threat to property and person. But this photo of Chris White’s daughter seems to me to have nothing-to-do-with-terrorism written all over it.

I will let Mr. White explain what happened in his own words:

Walking down the shopping mall a man approached me from behind as I was carrying my daughter in my arms. He came from behind me, cutting in front of me and told me to stop. That was quite a shock as I am wary of people with crew cuts and white shirts suddenly appearing in front of me [Me too. –EEJ], but then realised he was a security guard. He then said I had been spotted taking photos in the shopping centre which was ‘illegal’ and not allowed and then asked me to delete any photos I had taken. I explained I had taken 2 photos of my daughter eating ice cream and that she was the only person in the photo so didn’t see any problem. i also said that I wasn’t that willing to delete the photo’s and there seemed little point as I had actually uploaded them to facebook. He then said i would have to stay right where I was while he called the police …

The older police officer … said that there had been a complaint about me taking photos and that there were clear signs in Braehead shopping centre saying that no photographs were allowed. I tried to explain that I hadn’t seen any clearly displayed signs and that I had taken 2 photos of my daughter. … He then said that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act he was quite within in his rights to confiscate my mobile phone without any explanation for taking photos within a public shopping centre[.] … He then said on this occasion he would allow me to keep the photos, but he wanted to take my full details. Name, place of birth, age, employment status, address. … The police officer also said that the security guard was within his rights to now ask me to leave Braehead Shopping Centre and bar me from the premises which I was happy to oblige.

The UK Prevention of Terrorism Act apparently allows the UK’s Home Secretary or a court to issue a “control order” that can restrict a terrorist suspect’s liberty in various ways, including prohibiting the person from possessing a mobile phone. I don’t see in the act where it allows a police officer to exercise that power on the spot when confronting a person the officer believes to be a suspect. But maybe someone who understands UK law better can chime in on that.

Well, after Mr. White started a Facebook page called Boycott Braehead, the story was picked up by the BBC, and within hours the management of Braehead was apologizing and announcing a change in policy so that people will be able to take photos of friends and family. They are also saying they will implement the change at all 11 centers owned by the same company.

Meanwhile, the Boycott Braehead page has 22,381 likes. Check that: 22,475. (It’s going up as I write this.) Now it’s 22,498.

More:

NLRB Settles Case, Ambulance Company Agrees to Revise Overly Broad Blogging Rules

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board ended up settling its case against Connecticut ambulance company American Medical Response, who fired an employee for posting comments about her supervisor to Facebook.

Here’s how the NLRB explained it:

The NLRB … alleg[ed] that the discharge violated federal labor law because the employee was engaged in protected activity when she posted the comments about her supervisor, and responded to further comments from her co-workers. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others.

The NLRB complaint also alleged that the company maintained overly-broad rules in its employee handbook regarding blogging, Internet posting, and communications between employees, and that it had illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview shortly before the employee posted the negative comments on her Facebook page.

Under the terms of the settlement approved today by Hartford Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, the company agreed to revise its overly-broad rules to ensure that they do not improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work, and that they would not discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions.

The company also promised that employee requests for union representation will not be denied in the future and that employees will not be threatened with discipline for requesting union representation. The allegations involving the employee’s discharge were resolved through a separate, private agreement between the employee and the company.

Michelle Sherman on E-Discovery Applied to Blogs and Other Social Media

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Sheppard Mullin is one of those law firms that went full tilt on blogging as a means of rainmaking. They’ve got a ton of blogs. Not all of them are updated much. But their Social Media Law Update Blog is good stuff.

Michelle Sherman, an of counsel in the firm’s LA office, who has an interesting bio, has a post on how e-discovery rules apply to social media, including blogs. She recommends building off your e-mail policy as a starting point and checking regulations that are specific for your industry.

By the way, what’s interesting about her bio? She quit as a partner at Sheppard Mullin to do a year as an assistant public defender to do more trials. She then came back to an interesting mix of litigation and corporate advising.

Ha’p @kisbell.

WSJ on Employers Stepping on Social Media Mines

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Wall Street Journal logoFor a long time there’s been a lot of talk about how employees and job candidates are hurting themselves by posting to blogs, Facebook and Twitter. But, as The Wall Street Journal notes in a story today by Jeanette Borzo (page B6 in print), employers are increasingly causing a mess for themselves by way of social media too.

The American Medical Response case has a hearing next week, the WSJ reports. There, the employer is accused of violating federal labor law for terminating an employee based on postings to Facebook.

The WSJ article also discusses the case of restaurant managers of Hillstone Restaurant Group in New Jersey who broke into a password-protected MySpace page that employees had set up. The employees were using the MySpace page to gab about work. The restaurant group was sued for violating the Stored Communications Act, a federal law, and was ordered to serve up $3,403 in back wages and $13,600 in punitives. The suit was eventually settled pending appeal.

Now, on a bit of a sidenote, I thought it was noteworthy that the Wall Street Journal article disclosed the following:

(Myspace is a unit of News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.)

Isn’t that a little surprising? I mean, I of course know that Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace for half a billion dollars a few years ago. I just didn’t know that MySpace still existed.

Ha ha. And while we’re on that invective tangent, here’s Ross Pruden on how Facebook vanquished MySpace. Interesting business-managementy stuff.

(By the way, I’ll confess I’m a little loathe to link to a Wall Street Journal article when I know that they may dump it behind their paywall any minute. I’ve avoided the WSJ in the past because of that. But I’m letting it go this time.)

Is the Tyler Clementi Act a Threat to Free Speech?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

David French in the National Review Online argues that the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act (H.R. 6425) is a threat to free speech.

As I mentioned previously, the bill specifically targets cyberbullying and includes blogging activity within its coverage. My discussion of the bill is here.

French’s argument is that the bill has First Amendment problems because it lacks a requirement that the harassment be “objectively offensive.”

I see his point, but I think he’s off the mark. The text of the bill requires that the harassment be:

sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive so as to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a program or activity at an institution of higher education, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment at an institution of higher education

That seems to me to be limiting enough to protect legitimate expressive interests. At the same time it seems specifically tailored to protecting a person’s ability to benefit from a federally funded educational program.

In fact, the bill’s current limitations seem to be more protective of free speech interests than an “objectively offensive” requirement would be by itself.

An objectively offensive requirement would presumably make a jury issue out of how far the content of the speech deviates from community norms. That sounds to me like a device that could marginalize minority viewpoints and cause more First Amendment problems than it solves.

At any rate, I certainly disagree with French’s assertion that the law’s “primary effect will be a greater chill on free expression.” I think the primary effect would be communicating to gay students society’s revulsion at gay-bashing, as well as our commitment to allowing all students, regardless of sexual orientation, to benefit from America’s educational opportunities.

Did the Denver Post Give Lowcountry912 Implied Permission to Repost?

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I wrote about a breakthrough Righthaven copyright-infringement suit, filed on behalf of Righthaven’s new client, the Denver Post, against a local Tea Party activist blog from South Carolina, Lowcountry912.com.

Like many other newspaper websites, the Denver Post has inserted some clever code so that when you highlight some text and copy-and-paste it into another document – say an e-mail or a blog post – along with the text you copied, you also paste an additional bit of information that says “Read more” and then has the URL to go to see the story on the newspaper’s website.

Lowcountry912 has now removed their own reposting of the Mike Rosen column that they were sued over. But I saved a copy before they removed it. At the bottom of their repost, you see this:

Read more: Rosen: A letter to the Tea Partyers – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16147229#ixzz10NYc7ACn

Now, so you can tell what you are looking at, the pound sign (“#”) and the string of characters following the pound sign is an ID number that would have been unique to the site visitor that grabbed that text for Lowcountry912.

Why would a newspaper put this bit of code in? It seems clear enough that the paper understands you are copying-and-pasting, and the paper wants the recipient of your copied-and-pasted text to know where to go for more. That way the newspaper benefits from the free advertising you are doing for them.

So, here’s the $150,000 legal question: Does the insertion of the “Read more” text constitute an implied license to copy, paste, and redistribute?

I think so. The implication is that the newspaper knows you are copying and pasting, and they are okay with that.

But now there’s a twist. Are you ready?

When I went to the Mike Rosen column to test this out, and I copied and pasted the text into a blank document, here’s the tag I got at the end:

Read more: Rosen: A letter to the Tea Partyers – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16147229#ixzz17QO5FU6X
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

See what’s different? There’s two extra lines instructing you to read the terms of use. If you do, you’ll find what amounts to a short essay on copyright and fair use. It includes this:

The fair use rule generally does not entitle users to display the whole story or photograph on their website. To do so is a violation of our copyright and we will use all legal remedies available to address these infringements.

So here’s another $150,000 question: Did the Denver Post’s code insert the instruction to read the terms of use before the Righthaven lawsuit, back when Lowcountry912 copied it?

If you know, please let me know.

And if anyone has a copy of the Denver Post’s terms of use from before they linked up with Righthaven, I would love to see those.

India IT Firm Watches What Employees Blog

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Romit Guha and Dhanya Ann Thoppil in the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog: IT Firms to Staffers: Watch What You Blog.

The post discusses Wipro Ltd., the third-largest software exporter in India, and the troubles they have had with blogging employees, leading to Wipro’s new blogging policy for employees.

A Database of Company Social Media Policies

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Lawyer Doug Cornelius maintains a Social Media Policies Database, which aggregates links to a slew of policies on blogging and other uses of social media. It includes employer policies for employees and other policies. It’s a great resource.

(Ha’p: Megan J. Erickson’s Social Networking Law Blog)