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We’ve all been there. We search the web daily looking for that funny meme or that inspirational quote to share with our “friends.” Maybe we are taking a break at work, or distracted while studying in the library when we see it: the perfect picture to post on Instagram. Often we download this picture off of Google or Tumblr. We then upload it to Instagram after choosing the perfect filter and hashtag to capture the essence of the photo.

What we often fail to realize is that this is ILLEGAL. When we sign up for Instagram, the fine print, which no one bothers to read, contains language that asserts that YOU own the pictures you post, or at least have the creator’s permission to post it. This is usually never the case. Furthermore, most people believe that this copyright infringement or violation of intellectual property rights can be resolved by giving “credit” to the creator in a comment under the picture. While this is likely to cure any hostile feelings of the creator, you can still be sued.

One section of the Instagram “contract” states, “you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of Content you post on through the Instagram Services.” In essence, if you post without permission, you’re screwed. Instagram has taken careful steps to shield itself from liability. Instagram users should, likewise, protect themselves. We need to recognize our legal limitations when posting someone else’s work.

It is often said that each picture says a thousand words. In the case of Instagram, one of these potential words is “lawsuit”. Be cautious of what you post and where you get it from. Not only do we need to protect ourselves from suit, but we need to ensure we are respecting the works of others.

For more information, look to http://thesocialu101.com/6-things-everyone-should-know-about-instagram/.


It finally happened.  My mother joined Facebook.  I’m not sure what the current population of planet earth is, but it’s probably around 1.28 billion.  I know this because that’s how many people are currently using Facebook[1].

A few years ago when the company went public, people started complaining about a perceived lack of privacy.  Most people were concerned that the constantly evolving format created a need to always be aware that what you were posting would be directed to the appropriate audience.  What many people hadn’t yet realized was that Facebook had begun mining information at an unprecedented rate.

Sign-in to Facebook today and notice that those shoes you just considered purchasing are now featured prominently on your news feed.  That Google search you just performed has now caused advertisements to display alongside your profile.  It almost seems like Mark Zuckerberg is stalking us.  Taking their data-mining scheme to the next level, Facebook has gone on a spending spree.  They recently purchased popular apps Instagram and Whatsapp.  Those who use these apps have probably noticed that you can login to them using your Facebook information.

As the complaints have increased, Facebook has come up with a proposed solution – the “anonymous login.”  What it will do is allow users to login to third-party apps without giving any personal information to that app.  However, Facebook will still verify your identity, know what app you’ve signed in to, and they’ll know how often you sign in and how much time you spend on that app[2].

It seems that “anonymous” doesn’t really mean what we thought.  Where should the data-mining line be drawn?

[1] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/3/

[2] http://mashable.com/2014/05/01/facebooks-anonymous-login-is-evil-genius/

We all follow at least one person who pops up in our Instagram feed way too often.   They’re not the one posting group photos.  They’re not even posting photos of their food.  They’re the one who has perfected the angle to tilt their IPhone in order to get the best “Selfie”.  And they have the perfect filter to go with it.  We know their gym schedule.  We know when they’re getting ready for their night out.  We know when it’s bed time.  Their Selfies allow us to follow their schedules very closely.

For us followers, we can’t help but wonder- What are they thinking? Don’t they know they look ridiculous?  But for the repeat “Selfie” offenders, it could be a sign of an actual addiction.

For some people, the lyrics “first, let me take a Selfie” may ring true to a psychological disorder.  In one serious case, “A British male teenager tried to commit suicide after he failed to take the perfect selfie. Danny Bowman became so obsessed with capturing the perfect shot that he spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies.”[1]

Instagram users, especially the biggest “Selfie” offenders, may feed off the idea of receiving more and more “likes” on their photos to validate that people are in fact enjoying viewing their Selfies.  On celebrity instagrams, for example, Kendall Jenner, you see thousands of comments saying “LB for LB.”  This means that if you like one of that user’s photos, they will like one of yours back.  And for the Selfie addict, what better way to feel validated than to receive likes from random strangers?

What do you think? Can posting too many selfies be a sign of an actual addiction?

[1] http://www.realfarmacy.com/scientists-link-selfies-to-narcissism-addiction-mental-illness/#yQqQKLJZuagJXysL.99

Facebook has become a major part of most of our lives. We wake up and we check our social media accounts with the expectation that something has changed since we last checked them before bed. We use Facebook to keep in touch with long distance friends, close friends, and sometimes to meet complete strangers. But will becoming so social in our social media lives create anti-social behavior in our real lives? Will the next generation, born into social media, lack the social skills that the previous generations had no choice but to acquire?

Edward is on Facebook and notices a status posted by his Facebook friend and real life acquaintance, Tommy. The status reads, “Popped a Molly I’m sweatin’…amazing night.” Edward has now learned something about Tommy that he did not know; that he does drugs. At this point Edward comments on the status, “really mature, grow up”, and unbeknownst to Tommy, Edward immediately defriends him because he does not want to be associated with that type of behavior. The next time that Edward sees Tommy in person, he completely ignores him and their virtual and real friendship ceases to exist.

Before the existence of Facebook, Edward would have either never found out about Tommy’s drug use or learned through Tommy himself. In the former situation, Tommy and Edward would likely still be friends. In the latter situation Edward would have told Tommy to his face what he had said in the comment and would have told him that he no longer wanted to be friends. Facebook has allowed people to end relationships with the click of a button. Social media subscribers no longer have to approach a person face to face and can easily avoid an uncomfortable situation, if they choose. This can be beneficial in situations where the individual is known to be aggressive or violent and social media can be an alternative outlet in dealing with confrontation. But this reliance on Facebook also has its detriments.

A major concern is how the dependence on social media will, in the long run, affect the way in which we conduct ourselves in real time, face to face, in the real world. Those of us who have lived for most of our lives without social media have already learned the importance of relationships and the skills needed to conduct ourselves socially. Having lived without social media for the most critical years in our development and learning social etiquette is something we will retain no matter how much social media we use. But what about children who do not know a life without social media? Clearly, children are becoming social media users at a younger age. Children are saying things on social media that they probably would not in the real world. How will social media effect future generations? Will these generations still be able to grasp and utilize social skills regardless of their life long use of social media?

Difficulty with Reconciling the Fourth Amendment and Social Media.

In a November 29, 2012 New York Times article entitled Panel Approves a Bill to Safeguard E-Mail, Charlie Savage details a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee which would require a warrant in most cases where the government seeks e-mail from internet service providers. Currently the government is able to obtain e-mail either by warrant or subpoena. The government’s choice is dictated by the Stored Communications Act and series of court decisions which have interpreted it. Savage indicates that the bill is not expected to make it through Congress in 2012, instead the bill would be subject to negotiations during 2013. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Patrick Leahy argues that e-mails stored by third parties should be afforded the same protection as papers stored inside of an individual’s home. According to Senator Leahy, an architect of the Stored Communications Act, as technology changes the law which protect privacy must also change.

In a December 26, 2012 Huffington Post story entitled Netflix Social Sharing Bill Passes Without Email Privacy Protection, the writer, referring to the bill sponsored by Senator Leahy, points out how Congress passed the “Netflix amendment” to the Video Protection Act, but dropped the e-mail privacy provision. In the article the writer argues that the failure to include the privacy provision leaves the Stored Communications Act intact, making it relatively easy for law enforcement officers to gain access to open stored e-mail. The author of the article seems to suggest that Congress’s failure to pass the bill, put the interest of Facebook users who want to share a “Michael Bay movie marathon” with their friends over the privacy rights of everyone.

There is no argument that our privacy rights deserve protection. Under the Fourth Amendment a person has a right to be secure in their houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure. In Justice Harlan’s concurring opinion in Katz v. United States, a test for the reasonable expectation of privacy was developed. The “Katz Expectation of Privacy Test” considers whether (1) the individual subjectively by his conduct has “exhibited an actual expectation of privacy” and (2) whether the individuals subjective of privacy is “reasonable” from an objective view.

Most people would agree that ensuring Fourth Amendment protections is more important than a bill which enables Netflix users to share a “Michael Bay movie marathon” with everyone on Facebook. However, applying the “Katz Expectation of Privacy Test” to contemporary social media may not be as simple as it appears. Since the enactment of the Stored Communications Act, the courts have been able to apply the original language of the Act with constantly evolving technology. In some of the cases the court has held that the individual exhibited an actual expectation of privacy but that the expectation was not reasonable from an objective view, while other courts have held the opposite view. Irrespective of how the courts have decided, many of them struggled, albeit successfully, with reconciling the Fourth Amendment with social media.

As a result of these court decisions, law enforcement and prosecutors have developed guidelines which ensure their actions are in accordance with the Stored Communications Act and judicial precedent. Despite Congresses inability to pass the 2012 e-mail privacy provision, it is hard to imagine that members of Congress are more concerned about a Michael Bay movie marathon than they are about our Fourth Amendment rights. Even if the unimaginable were true and Congress was indifferent to our rights, the courts will continue to determine if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Nevertheless, one can assume that Congress may be having the same difficulty reconciling the right of privacy to the ever changing world of social media.

You’re sitting in Starbucks enjoying a cup of Joe thinking how nice it would be if a friend could stop by and join you. With the imminent launch of Facebook’s latest gimmick, Nearby Friends, finding a friend in close proximity to you for coffee becomes instantaneous and effortless; provided you both have opted-in to and turned on the new service.

Nearby Friends is Facebook’s latest attempt to connect people in person rather than online. As quoted in Josh Constine’s Huffington Post article,

Facebook Launches “Nearby Friends” With Opt-In Real-Time Location Sharing To Help You Meet Up, Andrea Vaccari, developer of Nearby Friends, explains the goal of the newest technology is to “make it really easy to discover when someone is around you, and meet up and spend time together.” Nearby Friends will become available within the next few weeks for mobile phones using iOS or Android operating systems. If a Facebook user, only those 18 years or older, chooses to opt-in to Nearby Friends, an icon will appear next to that user’s friends who have also selected to participate in the service. Participants in Nearby Friends will receive notifications from Facebook when friends are within their proximity. Facebook allows users to be discriminatory by giving users the option to share their proximity with all friends or with only specific friends; additionally, an individual’s exact location will not be disclosed, only his proximity to another user. If a user wants to know the specific location of a friend, he can send that friend a forty character message through the Nearby Friends service and ask for his exact address. When Nearby Friends is not specifically turned on, a user’s location is not available to others. However, if a user turns Nearby Friends on and forgets to turn it off, his whereabouts will always be available for all of his participating friends to see.

I guess I understand the benefits to Nearby Friends. It is a great way to find company at a moment’s notice. It easily facilitates an impromptu gathering of friends. However, part of me can’t help but think that Nearby Friends makes society a little lazier. It takes the effort out of picking up the phone and telling a friend you want to see them, then working together to make a meeting happen. There’s something nice about letting someone know that you want to carve time out of your busy life specifically for them, rather than relying upon pure happenstance. But what happens when a user forgets to turn off Nearby Friends when he doesn’t want his relative location disclosed? I can anticipate the trouble that will ensue if one is found to be somewhere he shouldn’t. Whether the user’s behavior at that time is inappropriate or not is irrelevant; it is a realistic issue that can arise from participating in the service. Although leaving Nearby Friends activated at inopportune times is the result of the user’s own negligence, it is not unreasonable to believe that people will forget to turn the service off when they want to go about their business without being bothered by others; if one forgets to turn off Nearby Friends, that luxury becomes obsolete.

I think it is obvious that I most likely will not participate in the new service; however, I will probably be in the minority. I do see the benefit of knowing when a friend is close-by when one is in want of some companionship. However, making a phone call or sending a text message can serve that function, as well. I don’t need my cell phone to disclose my location for me. But perhaps my thinking is just old fashioned…

Revenge Porn is a sexually explicit picture or a video published on the Internet without the subject’s permission, most commonly by a disgruntled ex-partner or someone angry with the pictured person. A link to the true identity of the pictured person is usually attached to the posting so as to assure that the person’s identity is connected to the nudies. It is undoubtedly malicious; aimed at embarrassing and humiliating the pictured person. Often, the image or video is created with the subject’s permission, or is even taken by the subjects themselves. After all, most of us are guilty of “selfies” that should never see the light of day, much less be shared on social media (as evidenced by the Weinergate). However, an inadvertent posting of “sexting” is a far cry from the devious maleficence of revenge porn. So vile and abusive is the nature of this public humiliation, that some state legislatures (and some countries) have passed laws that criminalize revenge porn. Should revenge porn be criminalized at state or federal level or is this uncivil behavior better addressed in civil courts?

Less than a month ago, Wisconsin was the third state this year (after Utah and Idaho) that passed a law criminalizing revenge porn. The Wisconsin law makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to distribute without permission an image of a “nude or partially nude person or of a person engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” California and other states have passed similar laws and about 20 states have proposed this legislature. California however makes an exception for “selfies.”

There have also been civil suits brought against those that posted unauthorized nude images. In Texas, a woman prevailed in a civil suit and was awarded $500,000 in damages – the largest award to date for this type. What about liability for harassment by sites that provide a platform for these types of postings (such as “Is Anyone Up?” or “You Got Posted”)?

“Is Anyone Up?” site founder, Hunter Moore, said “[p]eople threaten me with lawsuits every day, which is funny, because it fuels the site.” Moore shut the site down in April 2012 because he was tired of combing through the daily submissions to weed out daily contributions of child porn. He later opened a new platform. The site’s motto was “pure evil.” Hunter Moore and his subsequent site did eventually land in trouble and arrested by the FBI when a mom of one of his victims spent 2 years tracking down all the victims and finding evidence that he had obtained some of the pictures by hacking people’s computers and other untoward ways that swept him under the reach of existing laws against identity theft and unauthorized computer access.

Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 U.S.C. § 230), which was passed as part of Communication Decency Act of 1996, provides protection to internet providers and intermediaries (including bloggers that allow contributions) from law suits under any State or local law that is inconsistent with that section. So, unless the “pure evil” was contributed by Moore himself or picked out, commissioned, paid for or obtained by hacking (or unless it violated any other federal law), any state laws against providing a platform for such content would be preempted by this federal protection. Thankfully, “Mr. Pure Evil” has lived up to his name with such fervor that he violated some laws and thus exposed himself to liability. However, had he been more careful, his site would still be up and running.

However, a recent proposal for a federal law criminalizing revenge porn, if passed, would mean that websites hosting this type of content would be unable to raise the Section 230 defense. This would go a long way to preventing a wide distribution of this content, however, there are obvious First Amendment issues that may stand in the way of this federal legislature. Some countries already criminalize revenge porn; for instance, Israel classified revenge porn as “sexual harassment” which can result in 5 years in jail. The Australian State of Victoria also recently passed a law making revenge porn illegal. It will be interesting to see whether such a federal law will pass or survive a constitutional challenge in the US.

 As we all know, through social media, information disseminates with lightning speed.  Instantly, millions are up to date and provided conclusions to a variety of stories and issues. Users simply acquire, retain, and click (i.e., re-tweet, like or dislike), easy-peasy- free of thought.  Is this troubling?  Robert Frost once said “Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing.  That’s voting.”

Accordingly, if a re-tweet is nothing more than a vote for the product of the analysis of others , and if clicking Facebook’s “like” button simply allows over 1 billion users to avoid intellectual expression all together, are we setting a trend abandoning 2500 years of trans-disciplinary critical thinking?  Is this dangerous to future generations?  Is this a good trend, beneficial perhaps?  Is it worrisome that social media allows so many to routinely supplant active argumentation? 

In 1987, the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defined critical thinking as “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.  In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.   Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.”

Thinking is thus to be contrasted with:  the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated.  If this is true, it means that the net intellectual engagement in context- for millions of social media users- amounts to nothing more than a preferential re-tweet, and/or clicking “like”/“dislike,” with a smile. 

But with only so many users, social media remains a form of entertainment.  One may argue: Relax!  It’s fun.  There are plenty of people left who still read and think!  Okay, but what happens when 5 or 6 billion people become devoted users?  How much fun would that look like?  Perhaps it is just evolution?

  Could it be that “thinking” is simply a natural process that will adapt to social media and evolve accordingly, in a beneficial way?  Perhaps an active mode of thinking- where the thinker consciously separates facts from opinions and challenges assumptions- is becoming outdated? 

After hearing all of the frighteningly careless stories of social media use by jurors, it is nice to finally read some encouraging news on the topic.   A recently published article in the Duke Law and Technology Review titled “More From the #Jury Box: The Latest on Juries and Social Media,” has revealed that juror instructions on the use of social media appear to be highly effective in deterring juror use of social media during trial.  The authors’ conclusions are based on the results of a survey of jurors in federal and state courts on their use of social media during their jury service.  The surveys began in 2011 and have continued through the publication of this article in order to get a complete picture of juror attitudes toward social media and determine whether the landscape is changing.  The results of the survey strongly supported the notion that jury instructions are the most effective tool in mitigating the risk of juror misconduct through social media.  This is certainly a step in the right direction, as the surveys have helped to identify a potential solution to this recent problem that the rise of social media use has ushered in.

The article points out that “[t]he impartial jury has survived the telephone, the radio, the automobile, and the television.  There is no reason why it cannot survive Facebook and Twitter, too.”  Though jurors have always been instructed to refrain from discussing the trial with anyone, practically speaking there was nothing to stop a juror from going home and calling everyone in their phonebook to chat with them about the trial.  Tweeting or posting on Facebook about the trial would not only likely reach a much wider audience, but this misconduct can also be more easily detected due to the lax privacy settings of many social media users.  Social media has also simply given jurors additional opportunities to disobey the law, particularly when many are accustomed to alerting all of cyberspace to their every move and thought.

The good news is that jurors appear to respond well to instructions—the survey results indicated that those who were tempted to use social media during trial but refrained from doing so, acted accordingly based on admonishments from the court to abstain from using social media.  Specifically, the authors of the article offer three suggestions regarding when and how to administer these instructions to the jury, including early and often, as well as recommending that relevant content be included in the instructions and examples of prohibited activities be provided.

What I find odd about these suggestions is that they indicate that jurors are not willfully disobeying the court’s instructions, but instead are simply forgetting—or worse, not knowing—that they are not supposed to be tweeting or posting about the trial.  I had always assumed that jurors who participated in these prohibited activities knew that their social media use was unlawful and were either maliciously attempting to sabotage the trial, or, more likely, merely hoping or assuming they wouldn’t be caught.  What the reality of the situation is, according to this survey, might be more troubling to me than what I had initially assumed, because it points to a disturbing level of ignorance about the legal system and the importance of their role as a jury member.

Therefore, it seems that until jurors intuitively assume that they should refrain from using social media during trial, specific and frequent instructions on the matter is the best solution to prevent this misconduct.

A teen was arrested for Tweeting an airline terrorist threat. A 14 year old Dutch girl named Sarah with twitter name @QueenDemetriax tweeted to American Airlines the following: “@AmericanAir hello my name’s lbrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”

In response American Airlines wrote to Sarah from their official Twitter account saying “we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.” Moments after their response, Sarah replied saying “I’m just a girl” and that her initial tweet was simply a joke that her friend wrote! She had also posted a tweet apologizing to American Airlines and stating that she is scared now.

Sarah turned herself in to the Dutch police station, where the police department stated that they are taking her tweet seriously since it is an alarming threat. The girl was charged with “posting a false or alarming announcement” under Dutch law. It was unconfirmed whether the FBI was involved or not but she gained thousands of followers on Twitter as a result of this incident. Could this be a new trend in order to gain popularity or recognition? Should Sarah be punished and if so how?


Others are now tweeting similar tweets @AmericanAir and other airlines. Kale tweeted @SouthwestAir “I bake really good pies and my friends call me ‘the bomb’ am I still allowed to fly?” Donnie Cyrus tweeted @SouthwestAir “@WesleyWalrus is gonna bomb your next few flights.” ArmyJacket tweeted @AmericanAir “I have a bomb under the next plane to take off” There are many other tweets with similar language all aimed at airlines.

There are no reports yet of any of these follow up twitter threats being reported to the appropriate authorities. Are these tweeters going too far? These tweets can potentially be translated into legitimate threats or have they now crossed into the realm of freedom of speech?

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