Myspace

If anyone still actually used MySpace, I think it would be news to a lot of people. That notwithstanding, the OG social networking site made headlines yesterday for settling with the FTC over some major alleged privacy problems.

It’s just more proof that by going on the internet, you are basically getting naked and showing everyone your family jewels. No one should be surprised by stuff like this anymore, but let’s see the details of the allegations, as well as what MySpace has to do now….

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Back in 2009, some teen girls in Indiana had a sleepover that lived up to any teen boy’s fantasy version of one. After racy photos from the summer slumber party made their way to the principal’s office, two of the athletes in attendance were suspended from school sports for the year. That’s, like, totally unfair, said the ACLU, which helped the students sue the school, alleging violation of their First Amendment right to post slutty photos of themselves online.

The girls took photos of themselves “playing” with “phallic-shaped rainbow colored lollipops,” in the court’s words. It sounds like the oh-so-innocent unicorn horn lollipop to me. Though unicorns are usually associated with purity and virginity, these girls took the horn in a different direction, using it in photo shoots that simulated various sexual positions. I’ll leave the descriptions to the court, which wrote one of the racier opinions [pdf] I’ve ever come across (via Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Law Blog)….

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Image representing MySpace as depicted in Crun...

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….

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

Many large law firms forbid their lawyers from visiting social-media sites at work. Some have actual software blocks, preventing sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from loading on firm computers. Other firms tacitly discourage visiting these sites, since six minutes wasted on them are six minutes that could have been billed.

Small firms are less likely to have these policies or blocking programs, mainly because small firms are less likely to have any policies. Or IT departments.

This is partly a generational issue. On the one hand, you’ve got the Millennials, who are used to having IM chats, Pandora songs, and Facebook walls running in the background while they bash away at Lexis or Microsoft Word. On the other hand, you have more-senior (or just plain “senior”) lawyers, for whom the Interwebs are something to either be feared or restricted to off-duty hours.

Generationally, I’m somewhere in between. I’m 43, placing me at the early end of Generation X. Millennials make me feel old. When I started hiring twenty-something lawyers, I found their IM chats in the background jarring. But I quickly learned that this had no impact on their ability to get work done. They were far more able to multitask than I was, and it seemed silly to make a rule about social-media sites.

Also, a facility with social media comes in handy in a litigation practice. For example, several years ago, a client of ours fired an employee for taking unauthorized time off. The young female professional sought a leave in December to have some elective surgery — to wit, breast implants. (Note for law students: The phrase “to wit” must never be used unironically. And if you ever find yourself writing “to wit: a shod foot,” you need to leave the practice of law immediately.)

The young woman’s employer didn’t seem to a have a fundamental problem with her getting … enhanced. The problem was the timing. The holiday season was their busiest time of year, and they couldn’t afford to lose her then. But she went and did it anyway, and they fired her for the unauthorized leave.

You can imagine what happened next….

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