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About This Blog


The Social Media Law Blog is a forum for lawyers, compliance personnel, human resources managers, and other professionals who are struggling with the legal implications of social media across a broad variety of topics. Working professionals and Bloomberg BNA editors may share ideas, raise issues, and network with colleagues to build a community of knowledge on this rapidly evolving topic. The ideas presented here are those of individuals, and Bloomberg BNA bears no responsibility for the appropriateness or accuracy of the communications between group members.



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April 18, 2014

Employer’s Discovery of Weightlifting Photos Doesn’t Lead to Dismissal of Lawsuit

Should a jury be permitted to evaluate the credibility of a plaintiff claiming his employer aggravated his workplace wrist injury by requiring that he immediately return to work when the employer found photos on social media of him weightlifting? One court said yes.

April 11, 2014


The Internal Revenue Service may not have the tens of millions of Twitter followers that Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have, but it is actively engaging with taxpayers through the platform as well as other forms of social media.

April 4, 2014

Did You Mean to Share That With Everyone?

Do some social media users need the occasional reminder to check their privacy settings? Facebook is testing out a "privacy checkup" box with selected users that may reveal the answer.

March 28, 2014

Will WhatsApp’s Commitment to Privacy Change?

Is WhatsApp Inc.'s stance as a privacy-friendly mobile application in jeopardy if Facebook Inc. acquires the company? Two advocacy groups, in a request for investigation sent to the Federal Trade Commission, argued yes.

March 21, 2014

Study: Social Media Is a 'Critical' Area of Concern for Internal Auditors

A priority for internal auditors is managing the risks related to the use of social media within companies, a study released March 19 from Protiviti Inc. said. Protiviti is a consulting firm that serves major corporations with finance, technology, operations and internal audit problems.

March 14, 2014

FDA Addresses Social Media

Pharmaceutical companies have been wary of dipping their toes into social media marketing. That may change once the Food and Drug Administration carries through on its pledge to give the pharmaceutical industry four draft guidance documents addressing social media drug marketing.

March 7, 2014

EEOC to Address Social Media on March 12

Is the increasing use of social media in the workplace affecting the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will address the issue at a March 12 public meeting at agency headquarters in Washington.

February 27, 2014

Privacy Beyond the Grave

The privacy preferences that Facebook users made during their lifetimes will remain constant after they die, the company said Feb. 21, announcing a switch from its policy of restricting all memorial accounts to a friends-only setting.

February 21, 2014

Flawed Facebook Settlement?

Did a federal district court err in approving Facebook Inc.'s Sponsored Stories class action settlement in August 2013? At least two groups of objectors believe so.

February 14, 2014

Wisconsin Privacy Bill Addresses Landlords, Tenants

Most state legislatures have focused in recent years on restricting the ability of employers and educational institutions to demand access to the personal social media accounts of current and prospective employees and students. The Wisconsin Legislature, which in late January sent a similar social media bill to the governor, added landlords to the list of those facing limitations.

January 16, 2014

State Lawmakers Weighing Social Media Privacy Legislation

State legislatures in 2014 will continue to address whether employers and educational institutions should be permitted to request the user names and passwords of employees and students.

January 10, 2014


When the head police officer in Dallas decides to fire an employee, he tells the world.

December 6, 2013

Are Privacy Rights Implicated by Facial Recognition Technology?

After uploading photos you took at a party, you see that Facebook's technology somehow identified your friends and suggested tags for each person in the photos. Is that facial recognition technology a helpful tool, or does it violate the privacy rights of those in the photos?

November 25, 2013

#AskJPM? On Second Thought, Don't

Was proof needed that a Twitter event can go awry? Really awry? Or that social media should not be trifled with?

November 8, 2013

Broader Access to Social Media in Iran?

Iran's minister of culture and Islamic guidance Nov. 4 said the government should lift its filtering of Facebook and other social networking platforms, according to Iran's government-controlled news agency.

November 1, 2013

Iowa Supreme Court Tackles Live Tweeting, Blogging

Journalists covering trials used to dash outside the courthouse and run to a TV camera or their computer during breaks to report on prominent cases. Today, however, reporters can provide live updates to readers by tweeting during a trial or uploading a new blog post, so long as they are armed with a laptop or smartphone inside the courtroom.

October 24, 2013

Facebook Addresses Violent Video Controversy

Facebook Oct. 22 said it was strengthening enforcement of its graphic content policy, which attracted attention after critics-including U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron-alleged the company was permitting impressionable users to see overly disturbing content.

October 18, 2013

Teens Can Go Public on Facebook, Adults Can Appear in Ads Via Google

Recent policy changes could have the effect of increasing the online presence of teenagers who post on Facebook and adult users of Google+.

October 10, 2013

Australians Don’t Trust Social Media to Protect Privacy

Only nine percent of respondents to a survey conducted by the Australian government said they considered social media trustworthy in protecting privacy.

October 4, 2013

BBNA Social Media Portfolio Available

Bloomberg BNA recently released Corporate Practice Series Portfolio No. 91, Social Media Law, co-authored by David A. Bell, a partner at Haynes & Boone LLP. Bell recently discussed several aspects of social media use and how to mitigate the legal risks it presents in, among other areas, employment, marketing and M&A due diligence. The following is a shortened version of Bell's interview, which is available in full to BBNA subscribers.

September 27, 2013

I’d Like to Add You to My Professional Network

"I'd like to add you to my professional network." Did that LinkedIn invitation come from the executive you traded business cards with at a recent conference? Or did the professional social networking company put you together with a prospective contact after "hacking" into your friend's e-mail account, as was claimed in a recent lawsuit?

September 20, 2013

MacArthur Foundation to Decline Facebook Settlement Funds

Thanks, but no thanks. That was the response of one of 14 organizations selected to receive assigned percentages of the several million dollars remaining in Facebook Inc.'s $20 million Sponsored Stories litigation settlement.

September 13, 2013

Two Companies Request FTC Review of Proposed COPPA Parental Consent Methods

The Federal Trade Commission recently asked the public to comment on two applications that would allow social media networks and other online services to obtain parental consent for the collection of children's personal information in compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule.

August 30, 2013

More Transparency on National Security Requests?

Should social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter be permitted to share exactly how many times the U.S. government has made a request for user information because of national security, or is that information too sensitive to be shared with a high level of specificity?

August 23, 2013

LinkedIn Will Soon Allow High Schoolers

Motivated high school students considering where to attend college are a new target for LinkedIn Corp., which announced in an Aug. 19 blog post that it will lower its minimum age to 14 in the United States next month.

August 15, 2013

Social Media Companies, Legislators Seek Transparency on PRISM

Major U.S. social media companies are seeking approval to release data about government surveillance requests, and legislators in August introduced bills that would increase transparency and oversight in the wake of news reports making public a government surveillance program called PRISM.

August 9, 2013

FTC’s Revised COPPA Compliance Guidelines May Impact Social Media Companies

The Federal Trade Commission's latest updates to its frequently asked questions on complying with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act may help answer lingering questions social media companies, advertising networks, and others may have following the July 1 effective date of the commission's amended COPPA Rule.

August 1, 2013

LivingSocial Reports Drop in Profitability Due to Cyber-Attack

Online daily deal company LivingSocial Inc. said it had a drop in profits in April and May partially because of a cyber-attack that exposed the encrypted passwords and other information of up to 50 million customers, a spokeswoman for the company told BNA July 30.

July 19, 2013

Privacy Group Asks FTC to Investigate Jay-Z Mobile App

A mobile application touting the release of rapper Jay-Z's new album has come under fire for the app's requirement that users connect with their social media accounts, among other privacy claims.

July 12, 2013

Should Facebook Inform Users of an Imposter Account?

A teenager who does not have a Facebook account finds out that another person is impersonating her on Facebook and many of her friends are receiving inappropriate comments from that account. What obligations, if any, should Facebook Inc. have when it is informed about the imposter account?

June 21, 2013

Parties Ask for Final Approval of Facebook Sponsored Stories Class Action Settlement

On June 28, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California will hold a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for final approval of the class action settlement in Fraley v. Facebook Inc., No. 3:11-cv-01726-RS. Both the plaintiffs and Facebook have expressed their support for the final approval of the $20 million settlement agreement, subject to several caveats.

June 13, 2013

Courts Continue to Differ on Social Media Discovery

In two opinions this month—coincidentally both involving the alleged use of excessive force by police—federal district courts came to opposite conclusions regarding whether to permit broad social media discovery.

June 7, 2013

Taco Bell Responds Promptly to Viral Photo

A company's brand reputation can take decades to build, and in the social media age, seconds to be imperiled. Taco Bell Corp. faced that problem after a man posted a photo June 2 allegedly depicting an employee licking multiple taco shells at a Ridgecrest, Calif., store on the company's Facebook page.

May 31, 2013

Rapper Eminem Alleges Facebook Home Ads Infringe Copyright

Two companies owned by rapper Eminem May 20 filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against Facebook Inc. and its advertising agency, alleging ads for new mobile software application Facebook Home infringe the copyright of his song Under the Influence.

May 23, 2013

Disputed Ownership of a Twitter Handle

Under what circumstances can Twitter Inc. take away an account holder's handle, particularly when a company desires the account name? A lawsuit filed earlier this month in an Idaho trial court may help answer that question.

May 17, 2013

Claim Fails Against Employee Who Lagged In Updating LinkedIn Page After Firing

Michael Loatman's write-up regarding a court's dismissal of a fraud lawsuit against a fired employee over an alleged failure to update his LinkedIn profile, which appeared in BNA's Social Media Law & Policy Report, is available online to both subscribers and nonsubscribers.

May 16, 2013

States Consider Barring Access to Students’ Social Media Accounts

New Mexico recently became the latest state to enact legislation barring post-secondary education institutions from demanding that current and prospective students turn over their passwords and other social media account information.

May 15, 2013

New Jersey Governor Asks Legislature To Narrow Scope of Social Media Privacy Bill

A Bloomberg BNA correspondent's write-up regarding a request by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) that the Legislature narrow a social media privacy bill that would regulate employers in the state, which appeared in BNA's Social Media Law & Policy Report, is available online to both subscribers and nonsubscribers.

May 10, 2013

COPPA Rule Changes: Be Ready for July 1

Websites and online services that will be affected by the amended Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule need to prepare for the rule's July 1 implementation date after the Federal Trade Commission rejected calls by industry to push back the date.

May 9, 2013

LivingSocial Reveals Cyber-Attack, Notifies 50 Million, Says No Credit Data Breached

Katie Johnson’s write-up regarding LivingSocial Inc.’s response to a recent cyber-attack, which appeared in both BNA's Social Media Law & Policy Report and Privacy & Data Security Law Resource Center, is available online to both subscribers and nonsubscribers.

May 3, 2013

Legislative Roundup

A federal lawmaker failed to convince his colleagues to adopt a social media privacy amendment to a federal cybersecurity bill, but legislators in several states have had better luck, as a number of bills recently became law.

April 10, 2013

CISPA: Will Social Media Companies Come on Board?

A cybersecurity bill (H.R. 624) that the House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to mark up April 10 has received pledges of support from many telecommunications and information technology companies, but no prominent social media companies have publicly expressed their support for the measure so far.

March 18, 2013

Service of Process via Social Media Becoming a Reality?

Courts and one state (so far) have considered allowing social media websites like Facebook to be used for substituted service of process, though the authenticity of user accounts remains a key issue.

March 15, 2013

Update in Federal Video Privacy Law Prompts Launch of “Netflix Social”

Netflix March 13 announced it will take advantage of recent amendments to the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) by launching Netflix Social, which it said will permit users to share their favorite movies and shows with friends.

March 1, 2013

Facebook, Twitter: We Were Targets of ‘Sophisticated’ Cyber-Attacks

Social networking companies Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. are among several major companies that have admitted recently to being the victims of cyber-attacks.

February 22, 2013

Dealing With the Digital Accounts of the Dead

Should the executor or administrator of an estate have access to the digital accounts of the deceased? Or should those accounts, which often include social media, be off limits?

February 1, 2013

English Court: Nude Celebrity Pics Made Public on Facebook Ruled Private

The English High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Jan. 17 granted an injunction barring British tabloid The Sun  from publishing seminude photos of Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet's new...

January 28, 2013

Privacy Advocates Claim Facebook Graph Search Allows Easier Access to User Data

Facebook Inc.'s recent introduction of "Graph Search" has raised questions among privacy advocates about the new search tool's ability to find information about Facebook users.

January 18, 2013

Norway Ombudsman: Counterfeit Ads on Facebook a Problem

Facebook is not doing enough to ensure that ads for counterfeit goods and scamming schemes stay off its site, the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman stated in a follow-up letter to a meeting with the social media giant.

January 15, 2013

A Look Back on 2012 . . .

BNA's Social Media Law & Policy Report launched in 2012, which was a busy year for social media law. This blog post examines three major trends from last year.

December 14, 2012

California Bill Would Apply Password Protection Law to Public Employers

Earlier this month, California Assembly Member Nora Campos (D) introduced a bill apply the state's new password protection provisions to public employees.

December 7, 2012

Pinterest Updates Terms of Service to Allow Business Accounts

Pinterest, the social networking site on which users post and share pictures on virtual "pin boards," has updated its terms of service to allow business accounts and commercial activity.

November 26, 2012

Lawmakers Voice Dissatisfaction With Responses From Data Brokers

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers Nov. 8 said that how data brokers collect and use consumer information remains a mystery despite receiving details from nine companies, including several that collect information from social media websites.

November 23, 2012

Twitter Suspends, Reactivates New York Times Parody Account

Twitter suspended but now has reactivated @NYTOnIt, a parody account dedicated to poking fun at some of the New York Times’ lifestyle stories, after a trademark infringement complaint from the media giant.

November 16, 2012

California Agency Considers Proposed Disclosure Rules for Payments to Bloggers

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Dec. 13 is set to consider a proposed regulation that would require campaigns to disclose payments to bloggers and those who post campaign content on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

November 8, 2012

DHS Report: Agency Complying With Privacy Promises in Social Media Monitoring

An agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security likely was monitoring social media communications when determining the impact of Hurricane Sandy, but a Nov. 8 DHS report promised that it was not collecting personally identifiable information (PII) from everyone who tweeted about #Sandy.

November 2, 2012

Courts Split on Social Media Bans for Sex Offenders

Is social media so pervasive in modern society that banning its use by a disfavored group is unconstitutional, even when there is a significant governmental interest in favor of the restriction?

October 22, 2012

New Hampshire to Consider Two Social Media Bills

Add New Hampshire to the list of states considering limiting employer access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants.

October 5, 2012

Surveyed Hospitals Report Hike in Social Media Use, Most Seek to Build Their Brands

Use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media outlets is up at hospitals and health systems surveyed in a study released Oct. 4 by the CSC Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices. But hospitals are using social media mainly to help build their brands rather than impact treatment or patient outcomes, the study found.

September 28, 2012

Should Middle Schools Teach Students Proper Social Media Use?

A New Jersey assemblyman Sept. 27 introduced legislation to include proper use of social media as a core curriculum topic for students in sixth to eighth grades.

September 24, 2012

New Jersey Social Media Privacy Bill Advancing

New Jersey lawmakers are closer to becoming the latest to approve legislation aimed at reining in demands by employers or educational institutions for social media passwords or access.

September 21, 2012

Solomon Faces Scrutiny Over Role in Wal-Mart Social Media Policy Case

Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, was the subject of an investigation by the agency's inspector general, and it is possible he may face further scrutiny by the Department of Justice. The IG has said that Solomon reviewed Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s social media policy while holding stock in the company.

September 7, 2012

Judge’s Facebook Friendship With Attorney Leads to Disqualification

Florida judges who use Facebook or similar social networking sites may want to consider re-examining their online friends.

August 31, 2012

California’s Governor Mulling Pair of Social Media Bills

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) must decide by Sept. 30 whether to sign or veto a pair of bills meant to protect employee and student social media accounts from the perceived problem of overly curious employers and colleges.

August 24, 2012

Facebook Acquisition of Instagram Receives Antitrust Clearance

Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram was notable because it employed only about 13 employees and did not have any revenue. Did Facebook offer a king's ransom to prevent a potential rival competitor from emerging?

August 10, 2012

HHS Anti-Bullying Contest Uses YouTube Submissions

Social media website YouTube appears to be the video-sharing platform of choice for at least one federal agency, which is requiring all entrants to an anti-bullying video contest to use YouTube for submissions in lieu of sending DVDs.

August 6, 2012

FTC Seeks to Clarify When Plug-Ins and Ad Networks Are Responsible Under COPPA Rule

The Federal Trade Commission Aug. 1 proposed additional modifications to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, which were formally published Aug. 6, in a move that would clarify that plug-ins and advertising networks that collect personal information from children through another's site or service are covered by the rule.

August 3, 2012

Nutrisystem’s Pinterest Board Has Ad Disclosure Requirements

Disclosures required by the Federal Trade Commission's Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising are necessary even when using emerging social networking platforms, according to a June 29 case report from the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that dealt with Nutrisystem Inc.'s "Real Customers. Real Success" Pinterest board.

August 2, 2012

Illinois Becomes Second State to Protect Employee Social Media Accounts

Illinois is now the second state after Maryland to limit employer access to the social media accounts of employees and job applicants after Gov. Pat Quinn (D) Aug. 1 signed into law H.B. 3782, which amends the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act.

July 27, 2012

Custody Ruling Shuts Down Child’s Facebook Account

Add a child's use of Facebook to the list of topics dueling custodial parents might fight about. It also might be an issue for a court's custodial decree.

July 26, 2012

Judicial Notice of LinkedIn Profile? Sorry, No

Taco Bell wanted to argue that a plaintiff's consumer protection lawsuit was "an utter contrivance that is the classic example of a lawyer-driven strike suit." To illustrate, the fast food company asked the court to take judicial notice of the plaintiff's LinkedIn profile page showing he was a paid extern at a law firm.  The court refused.

July 18, 2012

Law Requires FDA Guidance on Social Media

Section 1121 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187), signed into law by President Obama on July 9, tasks the agency with issuing guidance on its policy "regarding the promotion, using the Internet (including social media), of medical products that are regulated by such Administration."

July 6, 2012

Delaware Legislature Passes Student Social Media Password Bill

Schools will be unable to request user names or passwords from applicants or students if Gov. Jack Markell (D) signs a bill that unanimously passed both chambers of the Delaware Legislature.

July 5, 2012

Twitter Releases First Transparency Report

Government requests for Twitter Inc. user information in the first half of 2012 overwhelmingly have come from the United States, according to the company's first transparency report, which it released July 2.

June 21, 2012

Louisiana Continues Focus on Sex Offenders

Louisiana has garnered national attention for its new law that requires registered sex offenders to post the details of their conviction on their social media profiles.