Articles Posted in Social Media

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A U.S. magistrate judge has made an important ruling that will allow plaintiff’s counsel to serve notice of a lawsuit on the defendant via Twitter. The ruling may help to set precedent in similar cases where a party in the U.S. wants to sue a foreign defendant.

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The case at hand was brought by St. Francis of Assisi. A non-profit that provides help to refugees, the organization wanted to sue the Kuwait Finance House, Kuveyt-Turk Participation Bank and an individual named Hajjaj al-Ajmi. Service on the first two defendants was relatively straightforward, but the plaintiff was having difficulty locating al-Ajmi.

St. Francis of Assisi was alleging that the three defendants had funded a Christian genocide in countries like Syria and Iraq. However, service of the complaint had to be completed before the case could proceed. Al-Ajmi had already been identified by the United Nations and the U.S. government as a financier of terror group ISIS. He is known to have organized numerous Twitter campaigns to raise funds for the organization under several different Twitter handles.

That’s why counsel for plaintiffs petitioned the judge for the opportunity to serve the complaint on al-Ajmi via Twitter. Traditional methods had already failed. Plus, because Kuwait is not a signor of the Hague Convention, it wasn’t possible for service to be completed through some sort of centralized or government authority.

Ultimately, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granted the plaintiff’s request to serve notice via Twitter. Writing that Twitter was “reasonably calculated to give notice” and that the effort “is not prohibited by international agreement,” Beeler opened the door not only for St. Francis of Assisi, but also for other plaintiffs who want to serve a lawsuit on a foreign national that seems to be able to avoid service by regular means.

The ability to serve a lawsuit via Twitter doesn’t guarantee that al-Ajmi will respond or that he will ever pay any money that the court may decide is owed to the plaintiffs. Nonetheless, the fact that such unconventional service is being allowed may prove to be beneficial for other plaintiffs in similar situations.

 

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Most people think Snapchat is just a fun messaging app. They use it to send photos and videos that self-destruct seconds after being viewed. Snapchat also features an app that makes it possible to creatively alter photographs. Known as “Lenses,” this app is what makes it possible for the photo’s subject to sport floppy dog ears, hearts instead of eyes or a floral headband. Now, this capability is at the center of a potential class action lawsuit.

Magnified illustration with the word Social Media on white background.

Illinois residents Jose Martinez and Malcolm Neal filed a complaint in Los Angeles in May of 2016, arguing that Snapchat violated their state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. The law is aimed at preventing biometric identifiers from falling into questionable hands and sprang from concerns about how the necessary technology used to collect biometric identifiers might be used without the user’s knowledge or permission.

The lawsuit contends that Snapchat is collecting and maintaining detailed biometric information on their customers. This is being done without the knowledge and consent of the users, which is contrary to Illinois’ law.

Snapchat categorically denies the allegations, arguing that their service is not capable of collecting complex biometric information that would allow them to identify the face of one user as opposed to another. Instead, they say that the technology involved is merely for object recognition, which makes it possible for the program to determine which objects in a photo are faces and where the eyes, nose and mouth are located. Moreover, Snapchat denies that they are in any way storing the data that is used in the Lenses app.

Snapchat is not the first social media platform to be sued over similar technology. Both Facebook and Google are facing legal battles relating to face-recognition software that automatically identifies particular people in photographs.

This lawsuit is only in its beginning stages. It was moved to the federal courts in July 2016, and Snapchat may be facing stiff fines if their software is determined to be guilty of violating Illinois’ law. This incident demonstrates the powerful need for businesses to understand the laws of states where they will be operating.

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Facebook is facing a federal lawsuit based on their practice of sending text messages to people who have been given recycled cell phone numbers.

search%20cell%20phone%2061969338-001.jpgWashington, D.C. resident Christine Holt is not a Facebook member. Nonetheless, when she got a new cell phone number, she began receiving text messages from the social network. The messages asked Holt what she was up to and kept her up to date on the activities of her “friends.” Holt requested that the company stop sending her text messages, but the practice continued.

Because Holt’s new cell phone number was previously used by someone else, it seems likely that the text messages are actually aimed at that prior user, who probably granted Facebook with permission to send messages. However, Holt never granted such permission, and she became annoyed when her requests that the company desist seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Holt hired Edelson, PC to represent her in a potential class action lawsuit. The complaint speculates that there may be thousands of potential class members who are receiving the same nuisance text messages. The practice is particularly troublesome because many of these people are not Facebook users. This provides them with extremely limited options when it comes to contacting the company. Ostensibly, the new owner of the cell phone number should be able to text “stop” to the offending number, which should effectively remove them from the autodial list. When this doesn’t work, frustrated people are left with little choice but to take legal action.

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, it is illegal for companies to embark on a text-messaging campaign without first obtaining written permission from the recipient. Violation of this law can result in a $500 fine per incident. With the social network sending multiple messages to potentially thousands of cell phone users, the damages to the company could be significant.

This situation makes it clear that it is always best to proceed with caution when it comes to contacting potential customers via text messaging. Relying on obtaining written permission is always the best way to go to avoid potential legal action.
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Millions of people are Facebook users, and most of them post photos to the social media network. If you’re one of them, then you’re probably familiar with the technology that enables Facebook to ask you if you want to tag “William” and “Mary” when you post a photo of yourself with your friends.

Social%20Media%20Magnified%2044298834-001.jpgFacebook is able to provide this service thanks to its “Faceprint” software, which the company rolled out in 2010. Faceprint is a biometric database that measures unique characteristics in human faces to identify them. When a new picture gets posted, the software immediately performs a scan to look for matching profiles in its biometric database, which allows it to suggest tagging other individuals.

Many Facebook users are troubled by what they believe is the invasiveness of the technology. This is particularly true in Illinois where members of the social network have filed a lawsuit saying that the use of the software violates state law. Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act stipulates that companies must obtain written consent for gathering this kind of information. Moreover, companies are required to create and publish a schedule for destroying any data gathered.

Facebook counters the lawsuit by arguing that only the laws of California can be used to lodge legal disputes with the company. The social networking giant goes on to say that all Facebook users accept an agreement in which they consent to disputes being governed by California’s laws. Hence, the claimants in Illinois do not have a valid case.

This particular suit involves Facebook users Carlo Licata, Nimesh Patel and Adam Penzen, but it’s not the first or the only one of its kind. An earlier lawsuit filed by Frederick Gullen, who is not himself a Facebook user, was rejected by an Illinois judge because the company’s connections with the state are too tenuous. However, a similar case against Shutterfly in Illinois has been allowed to move forward because the Internet-based photo company actively offers its services to Illinois residents.

Time and the Courts will decide if this latest Illinois lawsuit against Facebook will be allowed to move forward.
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An ongoing series of setbacks appears to be forcing San Francisco-based Yellow Cab Co-Op to file for bankruptcy. Company executives sent a letter to each of the cab drivers who work for the co-op in December of 2015 that lays out a plan for the future. Drivers can expect to maintain their employment, but things may have to change dramatically for the co-op to be financially viable again.

Taxi%2028530953-001.jpgOne of the setbacks that is having a detrimental effect on Yellow Cab’s bottom line is the upsurge of passengers using tech-based competitors like Uber and Lyft. Both of these apps are widely used on smart phones, enabling users to catch rides quicker and often at a lower rate than those charged by cab companies.

However, representatives from Yellow Cab argue that Uber and Lyft drivers are not subject to the same rigorous background checks that they must undergo. Also, cabbies opine that many of the drivers who work with Uber and Lyft just don’t know the city streets as well as they do. Cabbies further cite their superior insurance protection as an additional reason why customers should choose their service over the services of their rivals.

The other setback that is affecting Yellow Cab’s profitability is the amount of money they’ve had to shell out as a result of personal injury litigation. Company officials note that they have been ordered by courts to pay numerous sizable settlements in the last couple of years. One of these cases in particular, Fua v. Sanchez, resulted in an eight million dollar award to plaintiff Ida Fua. The left side of Fua’s body was paralyzed when the Yellow Cab she was riding in crashed into other cars at 60 mph. This award, combined with other sizable judgments, severely impaired Yellow Cab’s financial stability.

Yellow Cab is likely to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy soon. This reorganization bankruptcy will discharge many of the company’s debts, and neither drivers nor passengers should be affected. However, company officials say that they will need to hire more drivers if they want to become more profitable in the future.
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Anyone who has ever joined LinkedIn knows that the social media giant sends out numerous emails. It’s fairly annoying, and the company doesn’t make it easy to opt out of their communications. That practice has gotten LinkedIn in some serious trouble. The company will be paying out at least $13 million next year in a settlement agreement that they recently signed.

Social%20Media%20Magnified%2044298834-001.jpgThe settlement agreement ends a class action lawsuit against LinkedIn. Known as Perkins v. LinkedIn, the case related to the website’s “Add Connections” function. Plaintiffs allege that the company did not provide adequate notice regarding the emails it would send to contacts in the member’s email address book. If LinkedIn users signed up for the Add Connections function, they were able to import contacts from any external email accounts. LinkedIn would then send an invitation email to many of these contacts. Contacts who ignored the email for a certain amount of time might receive up to two additional, reminder emails.

The court decided that while LinkedIn members who signed up for Add Connections did consent to have invitation emails sent to their contacts, they did not provide consent for the company to send any follow-up emails. Moreover, users were not asked for and did not give consent for their names and likenesses to be used in any follow-ups to the invitation email.

As part of the class action settlement, LinkedIn was not required to admit any wrongdoing. Similarly, the company denies each of the allegations made in the complaint.

LinkedIn users who are thought to be members of the class may have already received an email from the company letting them know about the settlement. Each email included a unique, 15-digit number to identify the claim. Others who feel they may be entitled to a portion of the settlement may apply to become a class member until December 14, 2015. Analysts suggest that class members may only receive about $10 each, but the lawsuit was aimed at punitive measures against LinkedIn. This outcome serves as a reminder to all companies that full disclosure of all email practices is imperative.

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Labor Day is upon us. Summer is unofficially over. Many kids have started school and the rest will start in a few days.

About Labor Day

Happy%20Labor%20Day%20%2064937021-001.jpgLabor Day is always celebrated on the first Monday of September. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.
It is the day Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole.

Some Interesting Labor Day Facts

 This year, more than 35 million Americans will travel over Labor Day weekend.

 It is estimated that over 350,000 of them will choose Las Vegas as a destination.

 President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.

 Labor Day gas prices are the lowest in 5 years.

 Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season (it starts on Memorial Day), when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs; 818 per second!

Take this weekend to celebrate the fruits of your labors… wear white, enjoy a bar-b-que, eat some hot dogs and whatever you do, stay safe and have fun.

We are glad to have you as part of the Sylvester, Oppenheim & Linde team!

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More than one judge has approved the use of social media for service of process. Now a judge has approved a bid to use websites like Facebook for informing potential participants of a class action lawsuit.

Social%20Media%20Compass%2054107999-001.jpgThe New York Federal Court has decided to allow plaintiffs in the case Mark v. Gawker Media LLC to notify other potential plaintiffs of the lawsuit via social media. Gawker, which is an online media company, is being sued by a class of individuals who were once hired as unpaid interns. The interns assert that Gawker violated the Fair Labor Standards Act along with portions of New York labor law.

Plaintiffs already involved in the case felt that there were many other potential class members, yet they were uncertain how to reach them through traditional means, such as U.S. mail. They knew that many former Gawker interns were devoted to social media, and this gave them the idea that these services could be used to spread the word about the lawsuit.

Their initial proposal to the court was rejected as being far too broad and more likely to simply advertise the lawsuit than to actually target likely potential class members. Plaintiffs originally wanted to use a “GawkerInterns” Twitter account with assorted hashtags along with a LinkedIn profile. Their plan also involved Tumblr, Reddit and Facebook.

The court suggested a more personalized and targeted approach, citing that the plaintiffs’ original suggestion seemed more like an attempt to punish Gawker than to provide notice to potential class members. Plaintiffs may still use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but their approach must be more specific and less public. Moreover, the notices that will be provided to other former interns will include much of the approved language that is traditionally utilized in such notices.

The New York federal court seems to be taking a prudent approach to the use of social media in legal matters. They understand that there is a fine line between appropriately advising potential class members and merely contributing to a negative online media campaign. This case may set an important precedent for future class actions.

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The National Labor Relations Board made a landmark decision recently, when it ruled that employees have the right to use their employer’s email system to send communications regarding union organizing.

Email%20%2081091615-001.jpgThe decision came in response to a matter involving Purple Communications of Rocklin, California. Company policy forbade employees from using the email system for “activities on behalf of organizations or persons with no professional or business affiliation” with Purple Communications.

A union was attempting to organize certain employees within Purple Communications. They filed a protest over election results at a couple of the company’s worksites because the restrictive email policy prevented employees from freely conversing about the election. Union organizers also filed a complaint of unfair labor practices because employees were being restricted from engaging in a legally protected activity. An administrative law judge initially found in favor of Purple Communications, but the union organizers decided to appeal that decision.

The board reversed its decision, finding that employees who have already been granted access to a workplace email system do have the right to use that system for protected communications relating to matters about working conditions and union organizing as long as such communications were made during non-working hours. Nonetheless, companies may still have the right to restrict such emails if they can show that such a ban is necessary for disciplinary reasons or to maintain production activities.

Holding that communication is a basic building block of legal organization efforts, the board effectively reversed earlier decisions. Members of the board agreed that email is ubiquitous in the modern workplace and that it is essentially a “gathering place” for employees to discuss their rights and working conditions.

The board notes that employers still maintain the right to monitor emails to meet management objectives. Moreover, the ruling does not apply to employees who do not ordinarily have access to the company’s email system or to third parties, like union organizers, who request such access. This new decision may make it necessary for employers to make amendments to existing email policies so as not to run afoul of this new precedent.
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The Internet is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Take the divorce matter that was recently ruled on by a judge in New York. The ruling is one of the first times that service of process by Facebook has been allowed.

Social%20Media%20Magnified%2044298834-001.jpgNormally, service of process is performed in person. A process server or law enforcement officer delivers the legal papers to the party to the lawsuit at their home or place of business. It may also be possible to mail the papers to that party’s last known address. These are effective means of notifying parties that a lawsuit has been filed or of the commencement of some other type of legal action.

However, the courts are occasionally stymied when it comes to tracking down people for process service. That’s what happened in the unusual divorce of Ellanora Baidoo and her estranged husband Victor Blood-Dzraku. The two married in 2009, but never cohabitated. Baidoo began divorce proceedings in New York. However, she was finding it difficult to track down her spouse. He is unemployed and his last known address was vacated in 2011. The U.S. Post Office had no forwarding address information for Blood-Dzraku.

It seemed like Baidoo would have to resort to notice by publication to inform her husband about the divorce. Publishing divorce notices in newspapers is a practice that’s been used for centuries. Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper notes that this type of service can be time consuming and expensive. When Baidoo showed that she regularly communicates with Blood-Dzraku via Facebook, Cooper decided that service by Facebook would suffice in this instance.

Baidoo’s attorney must now send Blood-Dzraku proper notice via a private message on Facebook. For three consecutive weeks he is required to send the same notice, unless the erstwhile husband confirms receipt.

Cooper’s decision is rather groundbreaking. He calls social media process service the “next frontier in the developing law of the service of process.” While some attorneys agree with the court’s assessment of the situation, others remain dubious. Cooper’s solution seems a logical one in circumstances where a party is dodging service or is otherwise difficult to locate.