Social Networking Websites

Thoreau admonished us that we cannot “kill time without injuring eternity.” But what did he know? That proto-hippie pond-fetishist could not have imagined today’s world, where our collective attention spans have shriveled to goldfish levels and so much actual productive white-collar labor can be, to an observer, indistinguishable from simply loitering in front of a computer screen. Unless someone is looking over your shoulder, nobody knows whether you’re on PACER or playing Angry Birds.

We asked you, the ATL readership, where you turn for distraction when you don’t feel like billing or studying. The results of our research poll, after the jump….

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The real Elizabeth Sky

The Internet may be infinite, but people still are constantly fighting over online real estate. It happens in the porn industry, and it happens to celebrities. Even Miami Dolphins cheerleaders have to fight for their right to party at their own website.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently ruled in a dispute between two models using the stage name Elizabeth Sky. The defendant allegedly went on a campaign across the Internet to destroy the other model’s social networking presence. Will the real Elizabeth Sky please stand up, please stand up, please stand up.…

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Sorry to disappoint the snake-oil salesmen, but in this small post I will buck the trend, and debunk the fallacy of non-practicing lawyers who write books about social media for lawyers. Here, today my friends, I will tell you everything you need to know about the complicated and scary topic of: how to talk to people on the internet like a normal person.

Facebook

If you think Facebook is code for “high school,” you’re correct. But if you live in the same town you went to high school, why not connect with your loser friends who have some mid-level job? They need lawyers. Yes, as part of reconnecting with your past you’ll experience the joy of seeing that girl you wanted to date has moved to some small crap town and married Jim, who’s prematurely bald but “an awesome husband,” but so what?

Do not post every single picture you take of your kids, dogs, in-laws with your kids, kids with your dogs, the 189 pictures of your vacation, or “fake” complain about the first class service on some airline. You’re practicing law, not creating a family scrapbook.

Do not have a Facebook fan page for your law firm. No one should ever be a fan of a law firm. You are not a “rock star” and even if you were, rock stars do not ask people to be their fans. It just happens with good music. Asking people to be your “fan” may also violate your state bar ethics rules, if that kind of nuisance interests you — you know, ethics rules….

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When a tipster sent us an e-mail with the subject, “Court awards $700,000+ in sanctions for destruction of FB page,” I thought it sounded like it might be interesting. Because hey, that’s a lot of money.

I didn’t realize it would also be one of the most depressing legal news stories I’ve read since this tragic murder-suicide.

The three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar sanction award was levied against the widower of a woman killed in a car accident and the widower’s lawyer. The ruling was an abrupt table-turn for Isaiah Lester, who had previously won a $10 million wrongful death suit against the driver whose truck overturned and killed his wife.

Keep reading for the depressing details….

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Remember how everyone used say, “Don’t post anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want your boss to see. But if you do, just make sure you set your privacy settings so that your boss can’t see.”

Well, things have changed. Now, when companies enter workman’s compensation or personal injury litigation, courts will sometimes order discovery on password-protected Facebook information.

On Thursday, a New York appeals court ruled that a company could not see the plaintiff’s protected data, but not simply because it was private. Let’s see what happened…

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New ATL columnist Brian Tannebaum.

So, looks like I’m going to hang out here for a little while writing weekly about small-firm and solo law practice issues. I’m as shocked as you are that I was asked to type over here – as I actually practice law, in a suit, in an office, with other humans, with a desk, and have real live clients who actually need legal services. I’ve done so for 17 years.

I’m also not the law review type. I wrote one sentence of a law review article in law school and threw it in the garbage. Since that day, no client has asked about my law review experience or cared when they were sitting next to me in a courtroom, so save your writing critique. To those who pay for advice from lawyers practicing 17 months, stop reading now. I can’t predict the future as it pertains to the practice of law, as the people doing that around the internet are mostly unfamiliar with the practice of law, and I can’t tell you how to be rich and famous via Twitter or a Facebook Fan Page.

Not to further disappoint, but I’m not here to play to the pajama-wearing, Starbucks-dwelling, sell-documents-and-pretend-I’m-a-lawyer-and-insist-this-is-how-all-law-will-be-practiced collection of lawyers. And to the resident cheetos-eating basement-dwelling “my law school sucks” whining anonymous commenting crowd here, start typing now – it will help drown out the possibility of you actually learning something….

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Four months ago, you revised your company’s policy on employees’ use of social media. The policy said all the right things: When employees use social media, they should respect the rights of others and treat people with dignity; obey the company’s code of business conduct; maintain corporate confidences; and so on.

Unbelievably, some recent communications from the National Labor Relations Board suggest that each of those provisions (except for the “and so on”) could actually cause your company some labor pains. Why?

Here’s the easy part: The National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in “concerted activities” for the employees’ “mutual aid or protection.” Those words apply across the workforce and are not limited to unionized employees. An employee acting solely on his or her own behalf is not engaging in “concerted activities.” On the other hand, consider an individual employee who is working with (or on the authority of) other employees, or is trying to induce a group of employees to act, or is bringing group complaints to the attention of management. The NLRA may protect all of those activities, and an employer may violate the NLRA if it maintains a rule that could reasonably “chill employees in the exercise of their” rights.

What does that mean for the three examples suggested in the opening paragraph of this post?

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Rapper or criminal mastermind?

I am constantly amazed at how dimwitted some criminals can be. We have covered them in these pages before, from the guy who left evidence of his violent plans open on his desktop, to the robber who reached out to his victim via Facebook.

On Thursday in Pennsylvania, a federal jury convicted Anthony D. Elonis on four counts of threatening his estranged wife, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Berks County Sheriff’s Department, a kindergarten class, and an FBI agent. The vehicle for his litany of threats was none other than Facebook.

The case goes to show that producers of cool heist movies like Ocean’s 11 or The Italian Job have no idea of the context in which your run-of-the-mill petty criminal exists.

What did Elonis threaten to do? Some pretty bad stuff, actually. Keep reading to see why it is lucky he’s no criminal mastermind….

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Earlier this week, the federal government got some heat for allegedly violating the common man’s electronic privacy by snooping around in email and the like. Today we have a lawsuit from Kentucky accusing a tech company, specifically Facebook, of doing nearly the same thing.

What is going on? It’s almost like there’s no privacy anywhere anymore! (I’m kidding, of course: Privacy completely disappeared years ago.)

The suit, filed by an average Facebook user like you or me (well, most of you are lawyers, so not quite like you), claims a class of 150 million people, and damages of hundreds or thousands of dollars per class member. Exactly what heinous offense has Facebook supposedly committed?

I’m so glad you asked….

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On July 28, I asked for readers to share their tips for success on Twitter. Several readers and social media experts have weighed in on this topic. Apparently, the way to garner a loyal (and numerous) Twitter following is the same way you make friends: build relationships, communicate and engage one another, and share information and unique insights.

Yes, Twitter is like high school, except that anyone can be a cool kid. So, if you want to be a Twar (read: Twitter star), use the following tips….

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