Social Networking Websites

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Proving your case requires more than a screenshot.

The practice of “oversharing” on social networks has been a boon for law enforcement. Investigations regularly involve checking out people’s Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn profiles. Thus, it’s probably unwise to post about your involvement in a crime. Or about threatening a witness set to testify against your boyfriend.

While investigating Antoine Griffin, a murder suspect in Maryland, police checked out his girlfriend’s MySpace wall, where she had unwisely written (note that “Boozy” is Griffin’s nickname): “FREE BOOZY!!!! JUST REMEMBER SNITCHES GET STITCHES!! U KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!”

The “veiled” message was a little too transparent. During the trial, prosecutors used this as evidence that Boozy’s girlfriend, Jessica Barber, had intimidated one of their key “snitches” witnesses, affecting his testimony. They introduced a print-out of Barber’s MySpace wall into evidence. Boozy was busted and found guilty of the 2005 shooting. Seems like an open and shut case, right?

But Griffin appealed, in part because the prosecution had not proven that it was really his girlfriend’s MySpace profile, or that it was really something she had written. The Maryland Court of Appeals was sympathetic….

Read on at Forbes.com….

Many state and local courts do have cameras in the courtroom (unlike most of their federal counterparts), but other forms of technology are still frequently verboten. Some courts prohibit cellphones, laptops, and, in the traffic court I once attended, reading the newspaper.

Yet slowly, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, some enlightened folks in Massachusetts are introducing a local court to the joys of web cams and unnecessarily detailed twitter posts.

Spurred on by a large grant from the James S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the OpenCourt Project officially began on Monday at the Quincy District Court.

Seriously though, OpenCourt is pretty cool. How does it work?

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I’m done whining about Facebook privacy issues. Everyone should know by now that Facebook and privacy are basically mutually exclusive.

But every once in a while, someone does something stupid relating to Facebook privacy in a new, exciting way — like stealing a computer and posting photos of yourself on the owner’s page, or uploading placenta pics from your nursing-school class. We enjoy mocking covering such special occasions. It’s even better when Facebook bungles have larger implications.

Last week, an emergency room doctor in Rhode Island got reprimanded and fined $500 by the state medical board. (She had been fired from her hospital last year.)

Why? She posted information about a patient on Facebook….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

I understand using blogging as a form of business development for lawyers. I did it when I was in private practice. It produced the sorts of returns you might expect from the endeavor. And it makes sense that it might work: If you crank out basically a short article every day on one particular substantive area of law (and the piece is worth reading), you’ll develop an audience (and a reputation) over time, and that may yield opportunities.

But Twitter?

You can’t exactly prove your expertise in 140 characters. You can’t prove that you can write with clarity or grace. And you can’t even summarize information on the web to which you’re linking. All you can really prove is that you follow a topic and aggregate an interesting collection of stuff; you recommend things that you believe are worth reading. If you’re aggregating the good stuff in a particular field, then your followers should be clicking through your links to read what you’ve recommended.

So that’s today’s question: Are they? Do people click through and read information that someone recommends on Twitter?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Empirical Proof That Twitter Doesn’t Work!”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Social media: They’re all the rage.

And they should be. At a firm, if you could convince half of your lawyers to write intelligent, substantive blog posts twice a week in their areas of expertise, you could stop paying the public relations folks. You’d dominate the web, and reporters from traditional media would beat a path to your url, seeking ideas for stories and comments on hot topics.

(The same holds for many corporations, although it would be the business folks (who are responsible for generating business) and not the in-house lawyers (who are not) who should be hitting the keyboards.)

But firms and corporations don’t do this, for many reasons. First, firms are skeptical; they’re not sure this would work. Second, this requires a large, non-billable commitment of time; many firms (or individual lawyers) aren’t willing to put in the effort. Third, firms are legitimately nervous. What happens when we urge our lawyers or employees to go forth unto the web, and those folks go forth and write embarrassing or crazy stuff, which they inevitably will?

In fact, even if you don’t encourage folks to participate in online discussions, they’ll do it anyway. So social media policies have necessarily become the next rage: How do law firms and corporations protect their institutional interests without unduly interfering with their employees’ right to express themselves online?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

When 1,500 lawyers gathered at this week’s ABA TechShow in Chicago, an interesting thing happened:

The business card died.

When these lawyers weren’t listening to the dozens of cutting-edge seminars or browsing the exhibitors’ booths, they were making new friends and new professional connections. But instead of exchanging business cards, many of the attendees were trading Twitter handles — their online identities that begin with the @ symbol. (I’m @jayshep.) Massachusetts lawyer Gabriel Cheong (@gabrielcheong) told me that by the end of the conference, he had collected exactly zero business cards. (I immediately gave him one of mine. #irony) Instead of accumulating two-by-three-and-a-half-inch scraps of cardstock, he typed their Twitter names directly into his iPhone. (And I doubt anyone actually said, “Uh, I’m not on the Twitter.”) Molly McDonough (@Molly_McDonough), online editor at the ABA Journal, tweeted at the end of the conference: “For first time, I didn’t collect any biz cards at #abatechshow. Just made note of names and followed on Twitter.” Others retweeted (quoted) her tweet with approval.

So does this mean it’s time for small-firm lawyers to learn how to tweet?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I’m reporting to you live from Chicago at the 25th Annual ABA TechShow, where an amazing group of passionate lawyers from around the country have gathered to talk and teach about the future of law practice. While many of the programs deal with technology, the underlying theme seems to be that change is coming to our industry, and we should probably figure this stuff out before it’s too late.

As Elie reported yesterday, I had the chance to present at the IgniteLaw 2011 program, which made for a pre-Conference kickoff Sunday night. I’m not going to talk about my presentation here — suffice to say it included references to Blade Runner, cannibalistic English food, and Hale and Dorr’s WilmerHale’s invention of the billable hour in 1919. (That was the same year that Prohibition started. Coincidence? I think not.)

Instead, I’m going to talk about the constraints placed on every speaker — because they were frickin’ crazy.…

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Thanks to Ben Mezrich, David Fincher, and Aaron Sorkin, we all feel like we know the backstory of the creation of Facebook (shameless plug: please like the ATL Facebook page). It goes something like this: Mark Zuckerberg was a shady little brat, who screwed over his one friend while he was building what would become a multi-billion-dollar company. Roll credits.

Legally, just yesterday it seemed that Zuckerberg and Facebook were finally in the clear. The Ninth Circuit told the amazingly privileged Winkelvoss twins to go away, and it appeared that everybody could go back to masturbating to Facebook friends without worrying about who really owned the thing.

But not so fast. There is another outstanding Facebook lawsuit that has recently been amended and refiled in federal court. We’ve reported before on the claims of fraudster Paul Ceglia. Now he’s back, and he’s got some explosive new evidence to support his claims to 50% ownership in Facebook — as well as new counsel.

Is the evidence credible? It depends: do you trust DLA Piper?

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The Winklevoss twins might be hot -- but their case is not, according to the Ninth Circuit.

If you enjoyed The Social Network, then perhaps you should be grateful to Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The lawsuit they filed against Facebook and Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, gave rise to excellent entertainment. The movie wouldn’t have been possible without it.

But now the litigation is getting… old. And some people just want the Winklevoss twins to go away. Like three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In a ruling handed down today, rejecting the Winklevosses’s effort to overturn an earlier settlement with Facebook and Zuckerberg, the Ninth Circuit dispensed some stinging benchslaps. The opinion contains detailed and erudite analysis of both California contract law and federal securities law, but it can be summarized in four words: “Winklevii, STFU and GTFO.” (Feel free to use that in your headnotes, Westlaw and Lexis.)

Who wrote the opinion? None other than the ever-colorful Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of course!

Let’s see what His Honor had to say — plus learn about additional Kozinski-related and movie-related news….

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In 2009, a paramedic in Connecticut went home and complained about her boss on Facebook. Then she got fired.

“Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor,” 42-year-old Dawnmarie Souza wrote. A “17” is the code her company, the American Medical Response ambulance service, uses for a psychiatric patient. She also called her boss a “scumbag as usual.” Several people joined in the discussion thread.

Her company’s blogging and Internet posting policy prohibited employees from saying anything negative online about the company or its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board found out about Souza’s plight and filed a complaint against the company. In February, AMR agreed to change its Internet policy, as part of a settlement that fundamentally changes the consequences of poor Facebook judgment….

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