It's a social world out there.

Posts Tagged ‘social media

Social media outlets are leading law enforcement to criminals in ways other forms of communication never could.  The legal implications of social media expand far beyond the negative infringements on copyright and defamation that have been covered in earlier posts, the implications of social media have also had their positive effects on the legal system. Laws continue to struggle to keep up with technology, however, they are making the jobs of law enforcement officials easier in many ways.  Criminals are using many social media outlets to communicate just like everyone else.  And like many other these criminals are not realizing how far their tweets and facebook status’ might go, or who might read them and where they might be used again them.

My posts have many times before mentioned how social media posts are being used in criminal trials to prove guilt or innocence.  The constant connectivity lends users to on many aspects of their personal lives, for criminals this is meaning they are leaving a trail.  According to a  recent Washington Post article, criminals, specifically gang members use of social media outlets, facebook and twitter in on the rise.  These groups are using the new media communication tools to share all kinds of incriminating information, and most of it is open for law enforcement to see relatively easily.  Officials use the anonymity of the internet and pose as young women to gain entrance into groups where they become privy to an ongoing conversation between members. (1) It is also common practice for social media services to comply with law enforcement requests, making their investigations run that must more smooth.

No matter the content users should always realize that the information they are posting can be used against them, in this case it is a good thing.  Officials are finding information through social media they never would have otherwise.  The increased use of social media among gang members may seem scary members of sites such as twitter and facebook, but it is good to know law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring the activities here. Just how law enforcement will continue to take advantage of the interaction taking place online is unknown, but it is clear this type of lead tracking works well and is being accepted as legitimate evidence, therefore it is likely they will continue to employ these tactics as well as explore further possibilities of social media tracking.

1) WATKINS, T. (2010, February 2). Use of Twitter, Facebook rising among gang members – – nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from


Athletes have been training all over the world for months, preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics that will begin later this week.  This year viewers will see new options for following the games, many of them will come in the form of social media.  Twitter and Facebook pages for the games and many of its teams and athletes will be a flutter with news and results. Social media will play back up to NBC coverage, but will likely be taking a much more prominent role for viewers interested in the 2010 games in Vancouver.

Social media in 2010 is a powerful enough communication too for the Olympic committee to regulate how athletes use it.  Regulations and laws around the Olympics are strict and are revisited year-to-year to ensure equality among competitors.  This year, the committee decided that in order to protect infringements on copyrights and contracts athletes have restricted use of social media. They can use social media outlets, but exactly what they can post is restricted. Although it seems just what is and what isn’t acceptable maybe understood differently from athlete to athlete. A recent CNN story on this issues revealed that some athletes will be “benching” themselves from their twitter and facebook accounts in order to avoid complications.

The legal issues the Olympic committee is trying to avoid lie with endorsement contracts, sponsor references to those not partnered with the Olympics and the committees desire to avoid those who aren’t journalists acting as if they are.  It is interesting to see the committee honor journalists in ways they aren’t seeing as of late.  The Olympics is an event that should be reported by trained journalists, and not by the athletes themselves. In years past athletes wouldn’t have been able to report up to the minutes stats, feelings and news as they can today.  The article  outlines just how athletes should feel they can use social media services throughout the games.

“‘Athletes are free to blog during the Games,’ says Bob Condron, the Director of Media Services for the United States Olympic Committee. ‘And Twitter is just a blog that’s written 140 characters at a time.’

There are some restrictions on what athletes can do online during the Olympics. According to the IOC Blogging Guidelines for the 2010 Games, athletes and other accredited people must keep their posts confined to their personal experiences.

‘You can’t act as a journalist if you aren’t,’ says Condron. ‘You need to do things in a first person way.'” (1)

This article and the social media coverage around the games is another example of how social media use is requiring legal restrictions.  The Olympic committee did the right thing in thinking ahead about how athletes would use their social media outlets and how this could cause infringements on many Olympics sponsor regulations.  However, athletes have also been quoted saying they will be taking to social media to report on their Olympic journeys, it should be an interesting winter games, tune in on NBC or your favorite social media outlet!

1) McClusky, M. (2010, February 5). Athletes confused by Olympic social media rules – – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from

The completion of this independent study around the legal implications of social media will be in the form of a research paper.  My of reading and research thus far  have made one thing clear, the legal system, is having trouble keeping up with technology, therefore I will work to research the following question:

How can the US legal system and its current communications acts handle the issues that have arisen—such as copyright infringement, users privacy, and defamation—considering the rapid growth of social media and networking?

Technology advances have happened at a rate in recent years that no one has been able to keep up. It seems that when users get used to a service, application or device it changes entirely. This has made the legal issues around technology hard to form. Although a foundation has been laid,  it is pretty clear at this point that, for the most part all internet use is public, what you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
To begin I would like to add a personal note about how a text message helped convict a serial arsonist near my hometown recently. Early in the morning two days after Christmas this year, a man in Northampton, Massachusetts set fires to numerous homes and cars.  The fires destroyed the property of many and killed two innocent men as they sleep in their home.  A text message he sent that night from his mobile phone is being used against him in the trial. (Story here) That is just one small example of how uses of technology are keeping a close eye on and sometimes helping to convict criminals.
A November 2009 story from CNN more fully describes the kinds of cases that are taking place in courtrooms across the nation.  These cases involve many new media including, Twitter, Facebook and Google Earth. The article starts by pointing out these cases would have before been “impossible” years ago.  Many of the cases named in the article point to issues of libel, defamatory and “derogatory” comments about products or services.  Millions of users flock to Twitter to do nothing other than complain about and review goods.  Courtney Love did just this when she took to her Twitter account to complain about a fashion designer she used. This case is yet to reach a verdict. New technologies are making it hard for courts to decide on laws, as these laws are working in an ever evolving world of media and always come with a set a very different circumstances.  It is unlikely a concrete set of guidelines will ever be in place around social media, however, what you do online can almost always be used against you.  Always use social media and the internet as a whole with care.
1) Tanneeru, M. (2009, November 17). Can the law keep up with technology? – – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from

After watching the Future of Journalism hearing given to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation I had to think long and hard about many of the comments made during the hearing. Much of what was said is going unnoticed by Web 2.0 users. Each day millions of people log in to hundreds of social media sites to gain access to information. The kind of information they find online, generations before them found through the airwaves, via newspaper and more traditional media such as television. These kinds of services that have provided  news and entertainment to the world have almost always come with a price.  The internet and the news it now provides in a minute-by-minute format is gaining momentum over traditional journalism.  Newspapers readership has been on a steady decline for years. Big name publishers have been closing their doors in major cities across the country, all because readership in looking to the internet where news services are often free.

I knew these things were going on, I’ve kept pretty up-to-date on why, where and when these companies are choosing to back out of the newspaper industry, but someone had not considered how this was changing journalism and investigative reporting.  Some of the comments made about how these changes are making tenure newspaper reporters feel are intriguing. These journalists took pride in a craft they had worked long and hard at perfecting. They went to go everyday to research stories, find leads and produce results like Watergate. Today, anyone can call themselves a journalist, anyone can write for the world to see, and many of these, untrained, people are quite successful in doing so.  Does this mean we are losing out on what was once a trade, a skill that took time to learn and perfect?  When high school students go to college and study journalism what does that mean they want to be? What kinds of jobs will these people hold?

These questions lead me to ponder how social media is most often free of charge, thus many of the people who produce information are not being paid.  Twitter has little to no form of income, people just share news, the same goes for Facebook and Craigslist. These kinds of services have led many away from searching classifieds and looking to the newspaper for news. I wondered, “Can this change? Could these free services begin charging their users fees?” Sites like Flickr begin with a free service but if users want to get the most from the site must upgrade and pay a small fee, could sites like facbeook and twitter employ this same idea? I turned to my facebook to the answer. Asking, “Working on some grad school research and need your help FB friends! How many of you would pay for social media outlets you use? Things like twitter and facebook…if yes how much would you consider reasonable?” All told I got 19 comments,  12 of those said they would absolutely not consider paying, 5 said they would consider it and 2 said they would. My favorite comment was the following, which I feel, while blunt, holds valuable insight.

“Facebook is like smoking. Everyone says they don’t need it until they realize that it has become a huge part of their lives. furthermore, even though cig prices have doubled in the last 10 years, so has the number of smokers. people would pay….oh yes, people would pay.”

I think the above comment holds a good amount of truth. I know I would pay, online services are my main form of both news and entertainment. I need the services I use online to be productive in my professional, social and academic life. What I would pay, I am not sure. I do know that these services, if they have to could charge. Major newspaper sites like already charge a subscription fee for most of their content. In 2010, we are at a place where businesses not only need a website, they must put further consideration into how it will affect their business model and revenue.  Watching the senate hearing gave me so much to think about with regard to how social media and its legal implications will look in the future. I would urge you to take the time and watch it.

1) Ibargüen, Alberto (2009) Statement to US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at The Future of Journalism hearing

The wide spread of social media across the world today has led businesses and individuals to consider the legal implications around this use.  As all journalists know libel is an issue to always be aware of, the introduction of social media and, more specifically social networking, has lead to an increase in the likelihood of this crime being committed.  As wikipedia states about these laws; “In law, defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for spoken words), and libel (for written or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always,[1] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).” (1)Here we can see why social media is changing how these laws must be enforced and these crimes committed. In order to fully understand how best to learn and teach social media is it vital to look at the legal issues that surround this medium.

Week 1 – Legal Issues and the Internet – a look at the legal definitions that are effecting social media

Week 2 – Legal Issues and Social media

Week 3 – Legal Issues and Privacy on social networking sites

  • Readings
    • Social Networking and the Law – Social Networking and the Law: Virtual Social Communities Are Creating Real Legal Issues. (n.d.). American Bar Association – Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice. Retrieved January 2, 2010, from
    • Read Social Networking Sites – boyd, danah, (2007), “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.”  MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    • The Future of Reputation Chapter 6-8 – Daniel J. Solove. The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
    • Magid, L. (2010, January 20). Kids pack in nearly 11 hours of media use daily | Safe and Secure – CNET News. Technology News – CNET News. Retrieved January 21, 2010, from
  • Tweets – Post 8 tweets relating to social media and/or legality and the internet
  • Blog – Write two 300-word entries around readings

Week 4 – Legal Issues around mobile social media use

Week 5 – Successes and failures – what has/has not worked for sites and businesses thus far with regard to social media

  • Readings
    • Part 1 & 2, Goldsmith, J., & Wu, T. (2006).Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.
    • WATKINS, T. (2010, February 2). Use of Twitter, Facebook rising among gang members – – nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from
  • Video
  • Tweets – Post 8 tweets relating to social media and/or legality and the internet
  • Blog – Write two 300-word entries around readings
  • Sources – Complete list of sources to be used for final paper. Should include 6+ sources, most of which are books and scholarly work.

Week 6 – Looking Forward

  • Readings
    • Part 3, Goldsmith, J., & Wu, T. (2006).Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.
    • NY Times Article RICHTEL, M. (2010, January 16). Driven to Distraction – Pedestrians, Too, Are Distracted by Cellphones – Series – The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from
    • AP Article – Press, A. (2010, January 30). – Business – Social media rivals aim to become indispensable . Retrieved January 31, 2010, from Press, A. (2010, January 30). – Business – Social media rivals aim to become indispensable . Retrieved January 31, 2010, from
  • Tweets – Post 8 tweets relating to social media and/or legality and the internet
  • Blog – Write two 300-word entries around readings

Week 7 – Conclusion – Final Paper

  • Complete final draft of 2500-word paper
  • Tweets – Make 5 tweets about final paper topic
  • Complete final self-assessment for independent study

The independent study will be set up to ensure that I am able to read and write equally on the topic. Before the course begins I will find audio, video and text sources and form a schedule for myself based on the 7 weeks (topics outlined above) to explore these materials. I will write two 300 word blog posts weekly regarding readings on the topics. During Week 4 I will form a research question proposal for the final paper to Sharon Kleinman for approval, with this I will include a self-assessment of the work completed that point. During Week 5 I will make a formal proposal of the sources I will be using for the paper.  At the end of week 7 I will provide a 2,500 word paper using resources I found throughout the course to summarize my findings.

1) Defamation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from

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