Social media

Social media round-up: November 2016

November was another stellar month for followers of everything social media, but not so much for the social media companies. Facebook in particular had an ‘uh oh oh’ month, after which its executives must feel like you will after checking out this 2012 Eurovision Song Contest entry …

First, a few interesting stories that defy categories, such as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia dismissing a controversial racial discrimination case under 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1976 (Cth) sparked by comments posted to Facebook, a personal injury lawyer accusing Employers Mutual Limited, a workplace injury insurer, of illegal conduct involving social media surveillance, while QBE North America releases a White Paper on the role of social media in fighting insurance fraud, Facebook standing accused of enabling racial discrimination in its advertising program, the White House’s plans for the digital transition of the presidency in the social media age, president-elect Donald Trump and his infamous Twitter account, a cruel Facebook ‘practical joke,’ and Instagram testing a new shopping feature.

I also delve into social media’s latest Achilles’ heel, their increasing role as media gatekeepers and the proliferation of fake news, by exploring how Balkan teens make a fortune out of supporters of president-elect Donald Trump by creating fake conservative pro-Trump news sites, introducing Paul Horner, one of America’s own fake news writers, suggestions that fake news on Facebook may have influenced the outcome of the US presidential election, Google struggling with fake news in search results, Denzel Washington falling victim to the fake Trump news factory, Google and Facebook altering advertising policies to target fake news on the internet, and over 70 rights groups sending a letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg concerned about the social media company’s increasing media gatekeeper role.

Then, I look at intellectual property and copyright, including the Supreme Court of the United States expressing an interest in the now legendary Dancing Baby copyright case, and the Australian government threatening to sue a grandfather over the reproduction of the Medicare logo and colour scheme on the website he set up to campaign against cuts to Medicare.

I continue with crime (and punishment), as former Playboy playmate Danielle Mathers is charged with criminal misdemeanor in California over a privacy breach in a gym locker room, and revenge porn gets the attention of Australia’s Federal Government.

Next, I look at free speech issues, as Freedom House releases its 2016 report on freedom of the net, reports that Facebook is preparing to hand the censorship of Chinese users to a Chinese government-controlled third-party in order to re-enter the Chinese market, and Sierra Leone cracking down on students over sharing messages on WhatsApp.

I reflect on defamation, by revisiting the case of the super-mullet, now fortified by that other social media phenomenon, the ‘Streisand effect’, looking at the case of a journalist in Buthan being sued by a prominent business man over sharing a Facebook post and a Dutch journalist facing prison in Panama for criminal libel, and Google is in the defamation crosshairs, again.

I follow with tales of abuse and harassment, including British barrister Ian Millard’s expulsion from the bar over ‘seriously offensive’ tweets, which is a timely reminder for legal professionals to observe proper decorum on social media, Turkish journalists increasingly being subjected to abuse and threats, Australia’s vaccination war claiming an innocent victim on social media, an unfortunately placed television graphic unleashing a social media lynch mob on the Boston Globe’s political reporter, the unabated vicious racial abuse of African-Americans in the United States, PacketSled CEO Matt Harrigan being forced to resign after he makes assassination threats against president-elect Donald Trump on Facebook, international charity Ditch the Label releasing the results of a study into online harassment and bullying, and Twitter announced a new tool designed to address online abuse – then, in a move you couldn’t make up, it pushed an ad for a white supremacist organisation into users’ feed, while it started cracking down on Alt-Right trolls and white supremacists (but the Alt-Right pushed back).

Privacy follows, as the latest case of ‘sharenting’ shaming hits the Australian media, and Facebook ‘pauses’ data sharing with WhatsApp first in the United Kingdom, and later across Europe.

I also discuss some regulatory developments, with Italy’s competition authority opening no less than two investigations into WhatsApp, China’s Cyberspace Administration issuing new regulations for video live-streaming effective from 1 December, Russia cranking up the pressure on LinkedIn, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission taking on Meriton Serviced Apartments over alleged misleading and deceptive conduct designed to minimise the number of negative online reviews at TripAdvisor.

The former Managing Director of Twitter Australia shares some Twitter tips in a look at corporate social media.

Finally, some workplace related issues, such as interesting new amendments to the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, in Illinois in the United States, commencing from 1 January.

And the tweet of the month is a tie between author J.K. Rowling and the Australian activist group GetUp!

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia dismisses a controversial racial discrimination case under 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1976 (Cth) sparked by comments posted to Facebook

I reported on this case in February, noting that it failed to settle in the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and would be heard by the Federal Circuit Court (FCC).

Justice Jarrett of the FCC delivered his judgment in Prior v Queensland University of Technology & Ors (No. 2) [2016] FCCA 2853 earlier this month, ruling that the case should not proceed because the plaintiff ‘does not enjoy reasonable prospects of successfully prosecuting her proceedings’ against the defendants.

While the case had been used in countless political point scoring exercises in the last few years, the decision of the FCC illustrates that the courts are perfectly capable of managing 18C complaints in a fair and reasonable manner.

As for the young people who lived through three years of proceedings, and those who observed the case, hopefully this was a valuable lesson in considering carefully what they post on social media.

While the court found their comments did not breach 18C, their online behaviour was still immature, belligerent, and entirely unnecessary.

I have always been of the view that the protections provided by 18C are appropriate and necessary. If a person is unable to make their point in respect of a person’s race, colour, or national or ethnic origin without resorting to offending or insulting comments, or falling within the ancillary protections provided by 18D, perhaps that person needs to build better arguments.

Unrelentingly pushing for changes to section 18C by Cory Bernardi and his fellow right-wing conservatives, without acknowledging the significance of the protections provided by 18C, and the role s18D plays in offering a range of reasonable defences, is disingenuous and dishonest.

‘Reasonableness’ and ‘good faith’ are standard and long-established legal tests in a plethora of Australian legislation when it comes to undesirable behaviours we wish to discourage as a society. And racism is certainly one of those undesirable behaviours in a progressive, liberal, multicultural democracy such as Australia.

But more importantly, a society where offending and insulting people based on their race is perfectly acceptable, is really the kind of world we wish to create for ourselves?

The AHRC also came under fire from the conservative side of politics for ‘allowing’ the matter to proceed to the FCC, although the Commission and the Commissioner have long been the targets of a sustained political campaign over their uncompromising stance on human rights.

As the AHRC highlighted, the law on 18C is well settled and critics are wrong to assert that 18C makes the mere ‘causing of offence’ unlawful.

Critics also appear to labour under a fundamental misunderstanding of the role and powers of the AHRC.

Once the AHRC receives a complaint of racial discrimination it is required to investigate the facts and attempt to conciliate the matter. This matter failed to settle in conciliation and was subsequently terminated by the AHRC in August 2015, as is its usual practice.

The AHRC itself cannot initiate or prosecute a racial discrimination complaint, it has no judicial powers, it can make no legally binding determinations as to whether unlawful discrimination had occurred, and has no statutory powers to prevent a complainant proceeding to the courts once the AHRC terminated the complaint.

The complainant alone may decide whether to pursue the matter further through the courts, however the AHRC itself has no role to play in any subsequent proceedings, as was the case here.

Nevertheless, the repeal of 18C had become a cause célèbre for the Australian conservative movement, together with the watering down of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination law, destroying the Safe Schools program designed to protect LGBTI students, and delaying marriage equality as long as possible – the theme is noticeable …

Personal injury lawyer accuses Employers Mutual Limited of illegal conduct involving social media surveillance

Lawyer John Cox alleges in his submission to the NSW parliamentary review of the workers compensation scheme that the workplace injury insurer is engaging in conduct that arguably breaches:

  • section 308H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which prohibits unauthorised access to or the modification of data held in a computer to which access is restricted by an access control system;
  • section 8 of the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (NSW) which prohibits the collection of personal information by a public sector agency through unlawful means; and
  • section 14 of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW) which makes it an offence to communicate or publish information from the use of a data surveillance device used in contravention of the Act.

Mr Cox takes particular issue with what he refers to as ‘desktop investigations,’ being an ‘investigation into a claimant’s online history and social media activity.’

It is my experience that social media for many sufferers of PTSD, especially ex police officers, (who often feel cut off from their police colleagues once medically discharged) is one of the only social engagements they have. Even a cursory internet search will reveal many forums and websites ex police officers with PTSD become engaged with and obtain support from in respect of their current circumstances. One of the significant forums is the Forgotten 000’s Facebook page, formerly known as the Forgotten 300. While some may not necessarily agree with all the content on that page, I know that it is a very important resource for ex police and a valuable forum. For many of my clients, social media sites such as Facebook are the only or the main tool by which they are able to engage with friends, family, and support services. Many are unable to engage socially outside of their homes and as a result spend a lot of time on Facebook. For some of them, Facebook is the only significant way that they engage with the outside world. Given their privacy concerns, most ex police officers deliberately use pseudonyms on social media and engage the highest security settings, especially in respect of Facebook.

Mr Cox asserts in his submission that such desktop investigations are illegal, a significant breach of the subjects’ privacy, significantly increase and exacerbate the trauma and often the psychological illness of claimants, and ‘whatever their legal status, the process involved is so excessive, heavy-handed and intrusive, that it is one that neither EML nor the New South Wales Police Force should be engaged in’.

QBE North America releases White Paper on the role of social media in fighting insurance fraud

Meanwhile, a White Paper released by QBE North America titled ‘Innovations in Using Social Media to Fight Insurance Fraud, Improve Service,’ highlights the legitimate role social media surveillance can play in detecting and proving insurance fraud.

In order to process the extremely high volume of information presented by social media, sophisticated data analytical tools are employed to identify instances of insurance fraud.

As a fraud-fighting tool, social media is a welcome addition to the many resources available to investigate claims. Insurance fraud costs the industry an estimated $80 billion a year—with some studies suggesting that as much as 10% of all property and casualty claims are scams. The threat of fraud never stops, and its perpetrators constantly evolve their tactics to find new angles of attack. Finding new methods to fight fraud is critical to keeping premiums down and policies affordable.

The relevant new technologies include:

  • text-mining, used for cross referencing notes, emails, service calls, and interview records with Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and other social media posts;
  • social customer relationship management, which can identify activity on social media related to recent claims;
  • predictive modelling, which can help spot suspicious activities before claims are paid out;
  • cross-leveraging of data sources, such as telemetry obtained from devices installed in motor vehicles, coordinated with social media information; and
  • social network analyses, which can uncover hidden relationships between people which may be relevant to assessing claims.

Beyond fighting fraud, social media can also help improve customer service offerings in a variety of ways, from helping to quickly identify worst hit areas during natural disasters, to revealing situations of increased risk which then enables insurers to respond with tips on safety measures, and informing insurers of changes in customers’ circumstances which may warrant the review of the scope of their cover.

Facebook stands accused of enabling racial discrimination in its advertising program

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit investigative journalism outfit, reports that Facebook is permitting advertisers to exclude users from advertising campaigns on the basis of their race.

An investigation by ProPublica revealed that advertisers on the social platform are able to exclude specific groups referred to as ‘Ethnic Affinities,’ despite the fact that the exclusion of people based on race, gender, and other factors, are prohibited in the United States under federal law in the areas of housing and employment.

The screen capture image provided by ProPublica shows the ability to exclude ‘African Americans’, ‘Asian Americans’, and ‘Hispanic’ people.

According to ProPublica, their housing-category ad (but not an ad for housing) which excluded minority groups was approved in 15 minutes.

Facebook initially responded by noting that their advertising policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement, or predatory advertising practices.

However, Facebook later employed what seems to have become its standard operating procedure of late, playing catch-up by announcing that it would introduce changes to its advertising products by building tools that will detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for the type of ads that would be in breach of anti-discrimination laws, and amending its advertising policies to be more explicit about the matter.

It is unclear whether similar features are offered to Australian advertisers on Facebook but, if so such features, used in an inappropriate manner, could also be in breach of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

The White House’s plans for the digital transition of the presidency in the social media age

It may seem that social media has been with us forever, but in reality President Barack Obama was the first truly social media president of the United States of America.

This means that, for the first time, the White House needs to plan for the digital transition of the presidency, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Social media may seem trivial to many even in this context, but the reality is that the social media activities of the administration are being treated as any other records, such as handwritten notes, faxes, and emails, and are being preserved as part of the public record with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

On Twitter, for example, the handle @POTUS will be made available to the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, on January 20, 2017. The account will retain its more than 11 million followers, but start with no tweets on the timeline. @POTUS44, a newly created handle maintained by NARA, will contain all of President Obama’s tweets and will be accessible to the public on Twitter as an archive of President Obama’s use of the account. In addition, President Obama’s tweets will also be archived at NARA, where they will be preserved and accessible in the same manner as all other Presidential records.
The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age, The White House (31 October 2016)

Donald Trump and his Twitter account

During the US presidential campaign Donald Trump’s Twitter account was the gift that kept on giving – mostly to comedians and his political opponent and enemies.

Just days before the election his aides appeared to have finally wrestled control of his Twitter account from his volatile hands, probably fearing the damage he might do as the campaign entered the finishing straight. Perhaps it was Mrs Melania Trump, after all she did promise that fighting cyber-bullying would be one of her priorities as First Lady. Starting with her husband would have been a sensible move.

President Obama couldn’t resist the temptation to comment on the news at a rally for Hillary Clinton:

If somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes.

The joke turned out to be a prophecy though, as president-elect Mr Trump is now only a few months away from holding the nuclear codes … and the presidency’s Twitter account!

A cruel Facebook ‘practical joke’

22-year-old Scottish lad pulled a cruel practical joke on his mum by changing her name on Facebook to ‘A Honkin Jobbie.’ If you are not familiar with Scottish slang, ‘honkin jobbie’ means a ‘huge poo.’

Given Facebook’s policy prohibiting frequent name changes, she is stuck with that name for … 60 days!

The lesson from all this? Never leave your devices unlocked, and lying around because they offer easy access to your social media accounts and private details – especially if you have a cheeky Scottish lad for a son.

Instagram tests a new shopping feature

If you have been concerned about your inability to shop via Instagram, fear no more! Instagram is testing a new shopping feature which will make it easier for users to buy products from US retailers via the App.

To test the new experience, 20 US-based retail brands including Kate Spade, JackThreads and Warby Parker will share posts that have more depth, making it easier for Instagrammers to review, learn about and consider the items that interest them. Each post will have a tap to view icon at the bottom left of a photo. When tapped, a tag will appear on various products in the post—showcasing up to five products and their prices. Once a tag is selected a new detailed view of the product will open. This functionality will bring important product information to the consumer earlier in the journey, all without having to leave the Instagram app to search. Then, if the consumer taps the Shop Now link from the product details view, they’ll go directly to that product on the business’ website, making it easier for them to buy the product they want.

Social media’s increasing role as media gatekeepers, and the proliferation of fake news

Balkan teens make a fortune out of supporters of president-elect Donald Trump by creating fake conservative pro-Trump sites

The investigative team at BuzzFeed News identified over 100 pro-Trump websites being operated just in the town of Veles, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The sites operated by Macedonian teens care little about the presidential fortunes of Mr Trump or the US election. The sole aim of the sites is to get traffic and clicks, to earn money through Google AdSense.

And the best way to get the necessary volume of traffic and clicks? Outrageous and sensationalist stories which are largely manufactured and completely false, but feed the desire of Mr Trump’s supporters for conspiracy theories and shocking revelations.

As a result, this strange hub of pro-Trump sites in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now playing a significant role in propagating the kind of false and misleading content that was identified in a recent BuzzFeed News analysis of hyperpartisan Facebook pages. These sites open a window into the economic incentives behind producing misinformation specifically for the wealthiest advertising markets and specifically for Facebook, the world’s largest social network, as well as within online advertising networks such as Google AdSense.
“Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that ‘if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it,’” said a university student in Veles who started a US politics site, and who agreed to speak on the condition that BuzzFeed News not use his name.

Earlier in the year, some in Veles experimented with left-leaning or pro–Bernie Sanders content, but nothing performed as well on Facebook as Trump content.

Introducing Paul Horner, one of America’s own fake news writers

Not all fake American news is made in Macedonia. Some are American made.

Paul Horner, a 37-year-old man from Arizona, is one of America’s most prolific fake news writers.

He first came to fame back in 2014, convincing people that he was a Facebook executive working on introducing a monthly user-fee, then a 15-year-old sentenced to life for ‘SWATing,’ then an up-and-coming actor slated for a role in a, non-existent, Big Lebowski sequel, and for a while he was Banksy …

He re-entered public life with a bang during the recent American presidential campaign with viral fake news stories such as ‘The Amish in America commit their vote to Donald Trump; Guaranteeing him a presidential victory’, ‘Obama signs executive order banning the national anthem at all sporting events nationwide’, and ‘Donald Trump protester speaks out: “I was paid $3,500 to protest against Donald Trump”.’

The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey tracked him down once again for an interview, in light of recent stories about the effect of fake news on the outcome of the presidential election. Mr Horner’s comments were eye-opening and truly troubling.

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.
Paul Horner

Incredulously, not all fake news is made by ‘professionals.’ Sometimes all it takes is a clueless businessman from Austin, Texas, such as Eric Tucker, and an equally clueless and ignorant social media echo-chamber.

For example, the right-wing, nationwide conspiracy theory about anti-Trump protesters being bused to post-election protests was started by a a clueless, ignorant, now deleted, tweet by Mr Tucker.

I’m also a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption.
Eric Tucker

Mr Tucker tried to correct the error, but his follow-up tweet had little traction.

In reality, the buses Mr Tucker photographed were hired by Tableau Software, a company holding a conference in Austin, Texas, involving more than 13,000 people.

Did fake news on Facebook influence the outcome of the US presidential election?

The issue of fake news spreading like wildfire on Facebook had come to a head in a multitude of in-depth analyses that followed the controversial US presidential election. If you follow my monthly round-ups you would be aware that the editorial policies of Facebook have been a long-festering issue of public interest.

If you would like to see the scale of the problem, visit just about any Donald Trump support page on Facebook (eg. ‘Donald Trump For President,’ which has over two million likes, and ‘Donald Trump for President 2016,’ with over a million likes).

You will be hard-pressed to find a news story posted on the feed of those groups that’s not completely fake, or which takes the tiniest kernel of truth, and wraps it in some insane conspiracy theory, which can often almost ruin, and even threaten, the lives of innocent people.

When hundreds of thousands, if not millions, spread these stories as ‘news,’ unabated and with impunity, the consequences can be severe.

Related stories:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on social media platforms to make public their proprietary algorithms (31 October 2016)
Facebook not letting dodgy conservative stories trend is the least of our problems (11 June 2016)

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook executives long-insisted that Facebook is not a media company, and that its existing policies are appropriate and sufficient to deal with the information flowing through the social network. In the post-election washout Mark Zuckerberg felt compelled to address the issue again on his own Facebook page.

However, experts are beginning to disagree with Facebook’s official position.

There is an enormous amount of misinformation on Facebook and other social media.
Professor Mark Pearson, BA, DipEd, MLitt, LLM, PhD, Professor of Journalism and Social Media, School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, Griffith University

A recent Buzzfeed News report also revealed that some Facebook employees are so concerned about the social network being exploited by political opportunists that they have put together an unofficial task force dedicated to combatting fake news on the platform, and to challenging Mark Zuckerberg’s denials that the matter is becoming a serious issue.

And you can tell the issue is taking on growing significance when Mark Zuckerberg addresses it twice in just a few days and, despite earlier denials of fake news being a problem on Facebook, he outlines a plan to combat the issue.

But make no mistake, this is not a simple issue to resolve; not even for Facebook or Google.

The problem is much larger than any one social media company. The problem is a complex interaction of cultural, political, philosophical, and social factors, and we can’t expect the founders and CEOs of social media companies to solve all these issues for us.

The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically. We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.

Google struggles with fake news in search results

Facebook is not alone dealing with the fake news dilemma. Google’s search results are not immune either, as its algorithm struggles to differentiate between real news and fake news and satire.

Following the election the top search result on Google for ‘final election result’ pointed to a fake news site, with a fake news story about Donald Trump leading the popular vote, which is completely false.

In reality, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes, her lead growing each day as counting continues, now representing a lead of over 1.5%, but she failed to secure the number of electoral colleges required to win the presidency.

Fake 70 News

These types of fake news stories also raise the question whether they are more appropriately characterised as propaganda. If so, arguably they are likely to cast a dark and dangerous shadow over the fourth pillar of our democracy: the media, including social media.

But Google’s algorithm is not sophisticated enough to differentiate between real and fake news, or propaganda, and it’s anyone’s guess why Google is even permitting the fake (or propaganda?) news site ’70 News’ to feature in its search results at all.

Denzel Washington falls victim to the fake Trump news factory

Even Denzel Washington couldn’t escape the fake Trump news factory.

A news story alleging he praised and supported president-elect Donald Trump, originally manufactured back in August, went viral again on Facebook, forcing his publicist, Alan Nierob, to correct the record: ‘The story is 100% complete fabrication.’

Ironically, just as I was reading about the concerns regarding the proliferation of fake news on Facebook, and the denial of the fake news story involving Mr Washington, Facebook served up that false story in my own news feed!

Denzel Washington hoax

Google and Facebook alter advertising policies to target fake news on the internet

The old proverb, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating,’ may be the ultimate arbiter of whether fake news had become a significant issue, and when Google and Facebook are considering to forgo advertising revenue, the pudding must surely be rancid.

Despite denials that fake news represents a significant problem for social media, both Google and Facebook announced that they would alter their advertising policies to ensure that fake news sites could not benefit from spreading manufactured news in order to rake in advertising money.

Google proposes to prevent such sites utilising Google’s AdSense to make money, and Facebook’s response also involves altering its advertising policies.

This means that while the social media giants may remove the direct monetary incentive for the creation of such sites, the sharing of fake stories on Facebook, and fake stories turning up in Google searches remain unaddressed.

With 62% of adults saying they receive their news via social media, the unabated presence of fake news represents a very serious issue.

As media represents the fourth pillar of our democracy, which now incorporates social media, the matter goes to the core of the quality of our democracy itself.

However, it is hard to see how social media companies that rely on ‘clicks,’ users sharing stories, and those stories going viral, would be motivated to genuinely crack down on viral fake news stories.

Over 70 rights groups send a letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Following countless stories of mysterious, and not so mysterious, Facebook censorship episodes, and concerns over algorithms artificially narrowing exposure to information, over 70 rights groups sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling on Facebook to improve its conduct.

We the undersigned 73 organizations are deeply concerned with the recent cases of Facebook censoring human rights documentation, particularly content that depicts police violence. This includes but is not limited to: the deactivation of Korryn Gaines’ account, the removal of iconic photographs, reports of suppression of indigenous resistance, continued reports of Black activists’ content being removed, and the disabling of Palestinian journalists’ accounts following your meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister.

It is critical that Facebook be a platform that supports the protection of human rights above all else and does not discriminately apply its policies on the basis of race, creed, national origin, gender, and/or sexual orientation. When the most vulnerable members of society turn to your platform to document and share experiences of injustice, Facebook is morally obligated to protect that speech.

This latest appeal only adds to the chorus of growing concerns about the role social media companies, in particular Facebook, play in filtering information globally.

Related stories:
Social media round-up: October 2016
Social media round-up: September 2016
Social media round-up: August 2016

Intellectual Property & Copyright | Crime (and punishment) | Free Speech | Defamation | Online Abuse | Privacy (and security) | Regulatory Issues | Corporate Social Media | Workplace

Intellectual Property & Copyright

The Supreme Court of the United States expresses an interest in the now legendary Dancing Baby copyright case

SCOTUS has not yet decided whether to get involved in this decade long copyright litigation, but it now invited the Solicitor General of the United States to make a submission to the court on the issues involved.

Related stories:
The ‘Dancing Baby’ heads for the Supreme Court of the United States (29 August 2016)
Copyright (28 February 2016)
The dancing baby, YouTube, Prince and Universal Music (17 September 2015)

Australian government threatens to sue grandfather

AGS MedicareRetired, 66-year-old grandfather of two, Mark Rogers received a letter from the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS), giving him two days to shut down the website he set up to campaign against cuts to Medicare.

The AGS takes issue with the use of the ‘’ domain name and related social media presence, the incorporation of the distinctive green and yellow Medicare branding and colour scheme at the top of the website’s pages, and the reproduction of the Medicare logo and colour scheme in revolving banners on the site.

As Mr Rogers highlighted, there is some level of irony in the government pursuing him over speaking out about his concerns regarding the future of Medicare, while engaging in a public relations battle to weaken section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) in the name of freedom of speech.

It is worth noting that the Medicare logo is also being similarly used by the Prime Minister, the Health Minister, various Coalition MPs and the Labor Party.

For now, the retired grandfather standing strong against the government in his David v Goliath fight. GetUp! is backing Mr Rogers with a petition calling on the government to back down.

Stop using the enormous legal resources at your disposal to intimidate everyday Australians like Mark Rogers. Your attempts to silence community voices on Medicare will only make them louder.

Crime (and punishment)

Former Playboy playmate Danielle Mathers charged with criminal misdemeanor in California

Danielle Mathers was charged under section 647 of the California Penal Code after she secretly photographed a 70-year-old woman in the locker room of her gym, and proceeded shared the photo on Snapchat with the caption: ‘If I can’t unsee this, then you can’t either.’

She is now charged with wilfully and unlawfully using a concealed camera to secretly photograph another identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in a changing room where that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person.

One can only speculate what Ms Mathers was thinking at the time, but it beggars belief that as a woman she thought it appropriate to body-shame an elderly woman at the gym.

Although later she apologised, LA Fitness revoked her membership and the Los Angeles city prosecutor charged her over her conduct. She now faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanour count of invasion of privacy.

Revenge porn gets the attention of Australia’s Federal Government

I reported previously on various States taking steps to criminalise the scourge of revenge porn.

Related stories:
South Australia criminalises ‘revenge porn’ (31 October 2016)
NSW Government announces plans to criminalise ‘revenge porn’ (26 September 2016)
Another online pornographic scandal (29 August 2016)
The ongoing fallout from the proliferation of revenge porn (25 July 2016)
Revenge porn continues to plague the internet (27 June 2016)
Revenge porn continues to be a serious issue (30 May 2016)
Privacy in New South Wales (23 March 2016)
Crime (and punishment) (28 February 2016)
Chrissy Chambers (22 September 2015)

Now the Federal Government announced that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner (formerly the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner) will have its responsibilities expanded, including the development of a new online reporting tool which will allow victims of revenge porn to report incidents, and access support.

This is about empowering women to take control online. The expanded role for the eSafety Commissioner will help women manage technology risks and abuse, and give women the tools they need to be confident when online.
Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women

The government will also issue a Discussion Paper next year looking at establishing a civil penalties regime for the victims of revenge porn, arguing that criminal proceedings are too drawn out. However, such an approach, to what many considers should be a criminal offence, is likely to prove controversial.

An Advisory Panel to the Council of Australian Governments on ­reducing violence against women and their children, headed by Ken Lay, former Victorian police chief, and Rosie Batty, former Australian of the Year, had also recommended that revenge porn be made an offence.

Governments should:
• introduce and enforce strong and consistent penalties for adults who distribute intimate
material without consent
• improve community understanding of the impacts and consequences of distributing intimate material.
COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children – Final Report

The Federal Opposition is also of the view that the government should introduce specific new criminal offences to deal with the issue, and in 2015 they introduced a Bill to that effect into Parliament, which lapsed when the federal election was called earlier this year: Criminal Code Amendment (Private Sexual Material) Bill 2015.

The Bill has been reintroduced by Labor last month but, given the government’s proposed alternative approach, its faith remains unclear.

The Bill contains important new offences that will prescribe appropriate penalties for persons involved in image-based sexual exploitation, also known as ‘revenge porn’. The offences reflect the community’s increased use of telecommunications to engage in harmful and abusive behaviour of a sexual nature and the harm that can be caused.
Explanatory Memorandum

Free speech

Freedom House releases 2016 report

Freedom House is a non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

Freedom of the Net is an annual report produced since 2009 that analyses, and assigns numerical ratings to, the state of internet freedom around the world.

The 2016 report paints a sobering picture, finding that internet freedom had declined for the sixth consecutive year around the world.

67% of internet users now live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship and punishment, and 27% live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or liking content on Facebook.

In the past year, social media users had been arrested on the basis of their social media posts in 38 countries.

Of the 65 countries assessed by Freedom House, 34 have been on a negative trajectory since June 2015, with China named as the year’s worst abuser of internet freedom, and Turkey and Brazil both earning a downgrade.

Messaging Apps, such as WhatsApp, are now also attracting increased government censorship attention, in addition to public social media platforms.

Political opposition has been a favourite target of internet censorship around the world, with the criticism of authorities, corruption allegations and memes featuring highly, and so has resources for LGBTI people.

Overall, it has been another bad year for internet freedom, and the trajectory is disconcerting.

Is Facebook preparing to hand the censorship of Chinese users to a Chinese government-controlled third-party in order to re-enter the Chinese market?

As if Facebook didn’t have enough troubles already, news broke this month that Facebook developed a censorship software tool, capable of suppressing posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas, and is preparing to hand control of that tool in respect of Chinese users to a third-party Chinese operator, in order to be allowed to re-enter the Chinese market.

While Facebook ‘struggles’ with fake news in the West, it seems it may have been able to allocate the resources required for developing a tool to censor real news in China.

So much for making ‘the world more open and connected’?

Sierra Leone cracks down on students over sharing messages on WhatsApp

The intersection of free speech and social media is particularly contentious in the Middle East and large parts of Africa.

The latest flare up occurred in Sierra Leone where a student was arrested for sharing a message on WhatsApp she did not create. Theresa Mbomaya, a 23-year-old student, is being held at a maximum security prison for sharing a post calling for a protest over rising petrol prices.

She has been charged with ‘incitement contrary to law and publishing false information,’ while the government also issued a statement calling for social media operators to be held criminally responsible for content posted to their services, regardless of who the author is.

The government of Sierra Leone, a country which is still recovering from a decade-long civil war, has been increasingly intolerant of dissent and public criticism.


Super-mullet meets the ‘Streisand effect’?

Last month I reported on the defamation action by Ali Ziggi Mosslmani, after a picture of him sporting the king of all mullets went viral around the world, and became an internet meme.

The matter returned to the District Court of New South Wales for a preliminary hearing, and Judge Gibson reportedly queried whether bringing the action is resulting in a textbook case of the ‘Streisand effect,’ and whether it is drawing increased attention to the images in question.

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread the information is increased.

We also learned that Mr Mosslmani is being home schooled now, after his school allegedly asked him to leave over the unflattering publicity.

Mr Mosslmani’s claim has also been amended and now argues that the articles in question suggest that he is ‘a stupid person’ because the word ‘mullet’ colloquially means ‘stupid.’

Judge Gibson questioned the new argument but allowed the amendment, and The Daily Telegraph continues putting up a strong fight defending itself.

And the saga of the mullet continues …

Bhutan journalist sued by prominent business man over sharing a Facebook post

Bhutan is known for its ‘gross national happiness,’ but there are a few people there at the moment who will be bringing the index down.

Our first unhappy person is Dr Shacha Wangmo, a woman in the middle of a property dispute with prominent local business man, Sonam Phuntsho.

Dr Wangmo posted a Facebook comment detailing her family’s dispute with Mr Phuntsho. The post included allegations of forgery, and nepotism in the judiciary.

Our second unhappy person is Namgay Zam, a highly respected journalist in Bhutan.

Ms Zam shared the Facebook post of the ‘brilliant 26-year-old medical doctor fighting hard to get justice for her family for her perspective,’ as a ‘human-interest story.’

Enter our third unhappy person, local business man Mr Phuntsho, the target of Dr Wangmo’s Facebook post.

Mr Phuntsho promptly sued both Dr Wangmo and Ms Zam for libel and petty misdemeanour, seeking 2.59 million Bhutanese Ngultrum (the equivalent of 10 years’ average salary of a local management executive) over the Facebook post. If she is found guilty and can’t pay up, the alternative is three years in jail.

The claim against Ms Zam creates serious concerns about the freedom of the press in the tiny Himalayan kingdom, which held its first democratic election in 2008 as it transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a democracy peacefully.

A complicating factor is that the Chief Justice of Bhutan is the son-in-law of Mr Phuntsho.

Ms Zam has now initiated a global petition calling for an inquiry into the Chief Justice’s conduct.

Ever since the Facebook story of Dr. Shacha’s went viral, the Chief Justice has been assassinating my credibility as a journalist in public spaces. And soon after the defamation suit was filed against me by his father-in-law, I learnt that the Chief Justice at an official gathering of judges, where the judge presiding over my case was also present, had expressed his legal opinion that Dr. Shacha and I ought to be punished for what we have done.

Moreover, I have learnt that he has openly shown three journalists a file on me relating to the Facebook post with names of people who have shared/liked/commented on the post. In short, he appears to have engaged in witch-hunting. I have come to know that he has said he will sue me in the future. He has, thus, apparently assumed the role of investigator, prosecutor and judge. This is the Chief Justice of Bhutan at whose district court I am litigating a defamation suit with his father-in-law.

Interesting, and decidedly unhappy times in Bhutan.

Dutch journalist faces prison in Panama for criminal libel

Meanwhile in Panama, investigative journalist Okke Ornstein is in jail, facing a twenty-month prison sentence, over articles he published on his blog about the business practices of Canadian businessman Monte Friesner.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, Mr Freisner has been previously convicted in the United States over the type of offences Mr Ornstein wrote about on his blog, and was also facing criminal prosecution in Panama.

Google in the defamation crosshairs, again

Jarrod Sierocki is following up his defamation victory in which a record payout was awarded by the Supreme Court of Queensland, over materials posted about him online. Last April he was awarded a total of $260,000 plus interest from five defendants who were each found to have defamed him.

The Brisbane business man now filed an amended statement of claim against Google (the original claim against Google was filed in 2013), alleging that defamatory materials which were removed weeks after the landmark damages ruling were ‘subsequently again made available’ through Google search results. The amended pleading asserts Mr Sierocki had requested that Google remove the relevant materials from its search results nine times since 2013.

Related story:
Google (21 March 2015)

Mr Sierocki says the materials harmed his professional standing and cost his business, Insolvency Guardian, income. He is claiming damages, plus aggravated damages over the ‘hurt’ compounded by Google’s alleged, seemingly inexplicable, reversal of search results. Reportedly, Mr Sierocki will be seeking damages totalling $2.6 million. No doubt, Google will be defending the matter vigorously.

The amount of damages to be awarded will be determined by the judge, guided by s34 of the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) which states that ‘in determining the amount of damages to be awarded in any defamation proceedings, the court is to ensure that there is an appropriate and rational relationship between the harm sustained by the plaintiff and the amount of damages awarded.’

Pursuant to s35 of the Act damages for non-economic loss are capped, however that cap may be exceeded in exceptional circumstances, such as where ‘the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the publication of the defamatory matter to which the proceedings relate are such as to warrant an award of aggravated damages.’ Exemplary or punitive damages are not available for defamation in Queensland.

This is certainly a case to keep an eye on!

Online abuse

British barrister Ian Millard expelled from the bar over ‘seriously offensive’ tweets

Ian Millard, a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler had his right to practice law revoked in the wake of a series of tweets which has been considered ‘seriously offensive,’ targeting Jewish, Muslim, and black people.

The tweets in question included the following statements:

Pro-Zionist, pro-Jew expenses cheat Michael Gove, now diminished shrunk to his true level (2 inches off the ground). Liar.

@HeretoWhiteMan thank you. When one looks at that little Jew, one has to wonder what the French people saw in him, as he gesticulates etc.

Juden sind hier unerwunsch [Eglish translation: ‘Jews not wanted here,’ and was accompanied by a depiction of a swastika]

A million British people forced to use foodbanks and all the Jew Shapps can say is to parrot a list of hackneyed propaganda phrases.

So-called *Black Friday is just that in the UK. 95% blacks and browns, with the odd white chavscum here and there. UK finished?

The Disciplinary Tribunal of the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service found that Mr Millar breached Core Duty 5 of the Bar Standards Board Handbook.

Core Duty 5
You must not behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in you or in the profession [CD5].

The Tribunal looked at seven tweets posted by Mr Millard and held in respect of each tweet that they were ‘seriously offensive and were likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in Mr Millard or in the profession.’

It would appear however that the expulsion by his peers did not mellow nor deter Mr Millard …

This matter is a timely reminder for legal professionals that while they are entitled to use social media, like everybody else, their use of social media is circumscribed by their regulatory and professional obligations.

Most recently the District of Columbia Bar had a closer look at the intersection of the legal profession and social media. The DC Bar issued two separate Ethics Opinions this month, one on the use of social media for marketing and personal use (Ethics Opinion 370), and another on the use of the medium in providing legal services (Ethics Opinion 371).

The opinions are detailed and lengthy, but essentially boil down to this: it’s okay for legal professionals to use social media as long as they comply with the applicable regulations, rules, and professional obligations, and don’t bring their profession into disrepute.

When lawyers use social media to promote their practice, they must continue to adhere to the relevant regulations, rules, and professional obligations in exactly the same way as if they were using more traditional forms of communication.

When communicating on social media, lawyers must also be careful to avoid creating a conflict of interest, or the perception of it, by stating views that may conflict with the interests of a client, and the disclosure of confidential information relating to clients and cases.

It is also important that lawyers conduct themselves on social media in a manner that does not bring their profession into disrepute, perhaps by taking a cautionary note from Mr Millard’s saga.

Turkish journalists increasingly being subjected to abuse and threats

Since the attempted Turkish coup d’état in July, the political situation in Turkey has been volatile.

Related stories:
Twitter releases latest transparency report on removal requests (26 September 2016)
Arrests in Turkey over social media & Twitter censors Turkish Journalists (29 August 2016)
The case of Turkey’s Sedef Kabas (3 November 2015)

Free speech generally, and journalists in particular, have been targeted in the wake of the government crackdown by affiliated online lynch mobs targeting everyone perceived as critical of the government, and President Erdogan.

The International Press Institute has been documenting the abuse and had identified countless abusive and threatening messages targeted at journalists, from humiliating and sexual insults to outright threats of violence:

Our review found that abusive behaviour, or verbal abuse, was one of the main tools used in campaigns on Twitter targeting journalists in Turkey. In 69 of the 250 messages analysed so far, government supporters and Turkish nationalists targeting journalists online engaged in one of three types of verbal abuse apparently intended to incite conduct against journalists, to impeach their credibility or to shame them into silence.

Australia’s vaccination war claims an innocent victim on social media

Australia hasn’t been immune to the global vaccination war between those who believe vaccination causes a myriad of illnesses and side effects and those who side with accepted mainstream medical opinion. Sadly the war is becoming increasingly divisive, hostile, and unconstructive.

The latest victim of the war appears to be a Ballina man, Mr Peter Tiernan, who has been publicly accused on the Anti-Vaccination Australia Facebook group of being ‘Reasonable Hank,’ an anonymous anti-anti-vaxxer blogger despised by the anti-vaxxer community.

The unfortunate physiotherapist, his wife and children, had been promptly attacked by the anti-vaxxer community online, and are being subjected to social media and real life harassment, and even received death threats.

Mr Tiernan went public to end the harassment, insisting the anti-vaxxer community made a mistake, because he is not the notorious blogger – Reasonable Hank is believed to be a gentleman by the name of Mr Peter Tierney.

Despite his desperate attempts to clarify the situation, the anti-vaxxer community refuses to let up on Mr Tiernan and his family. One of the leaders of the anti-vaxxer community, Sydney naturopath Brett Smith responded on his blog rejecting Mr Tiernan’s denials.

Then along came a Bad Pharma wet dream. I mean where do you find a semi-coherent bloke, semi-articulate, can spell, amusing at times and willing to spend 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Xmas and New Years Eve, online, stalking, abusing, slandering, defaming, woman, vaccine damaged families, naturopaths, homeopaths, chiros, nurses, widwives, doctors, you name it, if Bad Pharma didn’t approve this killer attack poodle was skitched on them. Where could you possibly find an ever ready bunny like this?

Along comes our steaming pile of poo, Reasonable Hank. Now like most effective Pharma trolls and cowards, of course, he had to remain anonymous. You can’t spend your entire waking life slandering all of these poor vaccine damaged families and also have the courage to do it under your own name. So no, Hank, in a crafty bit of wordsmanship altered his name from Peter Tiernan to Peter Tierney. Nice one Shank. nudge nudge wink wink.

Reasonable Hank Exposed, Septic Skeptics (2 November 2016)

It’s impossible to tell at the moment with certainty whether Mr Tiernan is Reasonable Hank or not, although as I noted above he denies it, but it appears that the anti-vaxxers may have made a colossal mistake in their identification.

Either way, they are not backing away from their attacks on Mr Tiernan and his family. The police is investigating the threats, and I suspect there will be more to this story.

Unfortunately placed television graphic unleashes a social media lynch mob on the Boston Globe’s political reporter

Mr Tiernan wasn’t the only victim of a combination of mistaken identity and an excitable social media lynch mob this month.

Matt Viser, the Boston Globe’s political reporter, appeared on a CNN program during which a graphic appeared across the screen leading to the mistaken belief by many that Mr Viser is the founder of the controversial neo-Nazi Alt-Right movement, and holds some troubling beliefs.

Cue the vicious social media mob baying for blood … Mr Viser almost immediately became the target of a Twitter campaign, despite his desperate attempts to correct the record.

While social media can be an excellent tool for business, the exchange of ideas, and global social interaction, it can also whip up a practically unstoppable digital wildfire of ignorance in minutes.

The unabated vicious racial abuse of African-Americans in the United States

Racism is a social ill that continues to plague the United States.

It would appear that the presidential campaign of, and comments made during that campaign by, Donald Trump and his surrogates sadly encouraged and validated racist sentiments already festering in American culture.

Related stories:
US elementary school teacher’s aide fired over racist Facebook posts (31 October 2016)
The racial and misogynistic abuse of American comedienne and actress Leslie Jones (25 July 2016)

The latest in a series of appalling recent incidents of racism on social media came out Clay County in West Virgina, and yet again targeted the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

Taylor racism

What stands out from this incident is that the original post was made by the Director of the government-funded Clay County Development Corp., and was then gleefully endorsed by Mayor Beverly Whaling responding: ‘Just made my day Pam.’

‘Facepalm’, and ‘crying emoji’ 😢 are the only appropriate response to this story.

What makes the story worse, if it could be made worse, is Ms Whaling’s daft response to the controversy: ‘My comment was not intended to be racist at all.’

A petition calling for the termination of both woman from their respective position had surpassed over 80,000 signatures.

Ms Taylor was subsequently removed from her position, and Mayor Whaling had tendered her resignation.

Another incident involved an Alabama police officer referring to First Lady Michelle Obama, among other less than complimentary things, as ‘fluent in ghetto’ on Facebook by sharing a racist meme.

Officer Joel Husk was promptly fired for violating his department’s social media and code of conduct policies.

However, as I noted before, Australians can’t afford to feel too smug about such incidents of blatant racism in the United States, as our Aboriginal people have been subjected to identical abuse in recent times, including the repeated, notorious racist online trolling of Adam Goodes.

Related stories:
The latest appallingly offensive Adam Goodes memes on Facebook
Growing tired of our racism

PacketSled CEO Matt Harrigan forced to resign after he makes assassination threats against president-elect Donald Trump on Facebook

The story of Matt Harrigan is another lesson in how not to make ‘jokes’ on social media.

The PacketSled CEO responded to the election outcome by posting to Facebook: ‘I’m going to kill the president. Elect.’ and ‘Bring it secret service.’

Later he responded to a comment with: ‘Nope, getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the whitehouse that suits you motherf****r. I will find you.’

Mr Harrigan did receive a visit from two agents of the Secret Service, but it appears that no action will be taken against him.

Meanwhile, PacketSled acted immediately, distancing itself from the comments, and placing its CEO on administrative leave.

The next day Mr Harrigan walked the plank and tendered his resignation, immediately accepted by PacketSled, giving us another invaluable case study on careless social media abuse ruining careers.

Ditch the Label releases results of a study into online harassment and bullying

The study, conducted in partnership with Brandwatch, analysed 19 million tweets over a four-year period in the United States and the United Kingdom, looking at hate speech and bullying.

The study found that racial intolerance led social media hate speech, followed by misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic language.

In the US, southern states showed the highest concentration of pejorative racial language with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Southern Carolina standing out.

The study showed social media bullies appear to be most active on Sundays, and talking about politics is the most likely factor to result in bullying, followed by sports, food, music, and … bullying.

Twitter takes new steps to address online abuse

Twitter announced this month that it would offer a new tool to users designed to help them better protect themselves from online abuse, recognising that the ‘amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years.’

While that’s an understatement, the new tool will no doubt be a welcome relief to many. Especially, as a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League reinforced growing anecdotal reports of a significant increase in political, anti-semitic, misogynistic, racist, and homophobic trolls abusing and bullying Twitter users on mass.

The alt-right — a loosely-defined group of right-wingers who traffic in online harassment and hate memes — was already a virulent online force before Americans cast their ballots on Tuesday. Now that their candidate has been elected president, they’ve made it clear they’re not about to recede from Twitter back to the dark corners of the internet from whence they came.

Quite the opposite, it seems.
Trump’s army of trolls are empowered and Twitter is paying the price, Mashable Australia (15 November 2016)

The new tool expands the ‘mute’ feature of Twitter, by making it available in notifications, and enabling users to mute ‘keywords, phrases, and even entire conversations’ they don’t wish to see.

Twitter’s comments suggested it would also ramp up the enforcement of its policies, and to many users that can’t come fast enough.

And finally, on enforcement, we’ve retrained all of our support teams on our policies, including special sessions on cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct, and implemented an ongoing refresher program. We’ve also improved our internal tools and systems in order to deal more effectively with this conduct when it’s reported to us. Our goal is a faster and more transparent process.

Twitter was true to its commitment, and news started to filter through about prominent Alt-Right trolls and white supremacists finding themselves with their accounts suspended in an almost immediate crackdown on users in breach of Twitter’s (long-overlooked) policies.

Twitter must also hope that by providing a safer environment to users, it will be able to start growing its user base again after some recent stagnation in growth, believed to be largely connected with people’s desire to avoid being bullied on the platform.

Unfortunately, in a very badly timed coincidence, just as Twitter was promoting its new anti-harassment tool, and started suspending white supremacists, users noticed a promoted item in their news feed for the white supremacist group New Order, advertising themselves to Twitter users at large … you just can’t make this stuff up!

Admittedly, Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey came out swiftly, and personally apologised over the white supremacist ad slipping through their review process.

The Alt-Right is pushing back against the crackdown, by creating new false accounts as cover for their trolling operations.

The Daily Stormer, a right-wing fascist site, with such charming news categories as the ‘Jewish Problem,’ is already urging followers to create fake Twitter profiles, claiming it had already created thousands of such profiles for cover because, as they put it, alternative social networks will ‘not ever going to bring in Jewish journalists or left-wing celebrities for us to confront’:

When you have time, create a fake black person account. Just go on black Twitter and see what they look like, copy that model. Start filling it with rap videos and booty-shaking or whatever else these blacks post. Read through their posts to get an idea of how they post. You need to be able to post in a manner which is indistinguishable from normal black tweeters.

We already have nearly a thousand of these accounts with post histories, so it won’t matter that some of yours are going to be new.

Twitter is about to learn what happens when you mess with Republicans.
Twitter begins purge of Republican accounts, The Daily Stormer (16 November 2016)

That’s what Twitter and the rest of society is dealing with. Charming …

I would call that without hesitation a ‘basket of deplorables’.

Privacy (and security)

The latest case of ‘sharenting’ shaming hits the Australian media

‘What is “sharenting”?’ I hear you scratching your head.

Welcome to the latest social media term which combines the words ‘sharing’ and ‘parenting,’ and it concerns parents sharing images of their children on social media.

Relates stories:
French parenting gets a new twist (23 March 2016)
Austrian girl sues her parents over embarrassing childhood photos on Facebook (26 September 2016)

The latest public discussion over the issue in Australia was set off by an article in The Daily Telegraph, admittedly not a bastion of Australian journalism, by Angela Mollard, having a bit of a go at Zoe and Hamish Blake over posting pictures of their son Sonny to Instagram.

Of course, in typical Telegraph fashion the piece is balanced and not at all alarmist or sensational … oh, wait – you are not allowed to have an article in the Telly about children without a reference to predators and ‘paedophiles’:

We don’t know if pictures of gorgeous blue-eyed boys like Sonny, happily showering with his dad, and innocently posted to the internet, are being shared by paedophiles.

From what I can see, parenting is difficult enough without a Telly journalist, and others, sledging your parenting publicly, and bringing extra, unnecessary attention to the pictures in question. The images are adorable and show a loving family, and a very happy toddler.

View this post on Instagram

Ay. We're tawkin heyah.

A post shared by ZOË FOSTER BLAKE (@zotheysay) on

We live in the social media age, and parents will make their own decisions about whether to share, and if so how much, or not to share images of their children on social media, guided by their own comfort levels.

You should respect their decision and make your own regarding your children, and hope they won’t sue you later … Live, and let live.

Facebook ‘pauses’ data sharing with WhatsApp in Europe

From the United Kingdom to Germany, Italy and the European Union’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, serious concerns have been raised since WhatsApp announced changes to its privacy policy to facilitate sharing users’ data with parent company Facebook.

Facebook first responded to the concerns of the UK Information Commissioner by agreeing to ‘pause’ the sharing of UK WhatsApp users’ data, and a few days later the company reportedly decided to extend that pause across the European Union.

As Facebook and WhatsApp’s data sharing arrangement continues to be challenged by regulators across the European Union, its ultimate faith remains to be seen.

Regulatory Issues

Italy’s competition authority opens two investigations into WhatsApp

In September, Italy’s privacy watchdog opened an investigation into WhatsApp’s privacy policy changes.

Now, Italy’s competition authority, the Autorità Grante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), announced two separate investigations into WhatsApp.

The first investigation is looking into whether WhatsApp effectively forced users to accept its updated ‘Terms and Conditions,’ in particular the sharing of their personal data with Facebook.

The second investigations is directed at the possibility that some contractual clauses in WhatsApp’s ‘Terms of Use’ are oppressive, such as the unilateral right granted to the company to change the provisions of those terms, the exclusive termination right granted to WhatsApp, the exclusions and limitations of liability favouring the company, and the choice of jurisdiction in case of disputes being restricted to US courts.

China’s Cyberspace Administration issues new regulations for video live-streaming effective from 1 December

The Cyberspace Administration of China issued new restrictive regulations for video live-streaming, requiring streaming services to log user data and content for 60 days and provide information on users who stream content deemed threatening to national security or social order.

Under the new regulations both users and streaming providers are liable for breaches.

Service providers are expected to be well-staffed and have the technical ability to stop live-streams immediately if necessary, including if the live stream undermines national security, destabilises society, disturbs social order, infringes upon others’ rights and interests, or disseminates obscene content.

Russia cranks up the pressure on LinkedIn

I reported last month on the Russian federal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, warning LinkedIn over their failure to comply with Russian data protection laws requiring social media companies to host the data of Russian members in Russia.

The matter now escalated with a Moscow local court formally finding LinkedIn in breach of Russia’s data protection laws. The judgment enables the regulator to instruct internet service providers to start blocking access to the business network’s web address and indications are that Roskomnadzor intends to do so, unless LinkedIn complies with Russian law, or is able to find middle-ground with the regulator.

While Russia insists that the new data protection laws have been enacted to protect users’ privacy, the law is widely believed to be a tool designed to enable the Russian government to get its hands on Russian social media users’ data easier.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission takes on Meriton Serviced Apartments over alleged misleading an deceptive conduct

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that it commenced Federal Court proceedings against Meriton Serviced Apartments (MSA), alleging it engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in order to minimise the number of negative online reviews at TripAdvisor.

MSA is accused of engaging in a technique called ‘masking,’ design to reduce guests’ opportunity to complain on TripAdvisor. The practice involved adding the letters ‘MSA’ to the email address of guests who made a complaint at the front desk, causing a TripAdvisor feedback form, which was meant to be sent to every guest, bounce.

Former employees blew the whistle on the practice, resulting in a year long ACCC investigation and the Federal Court proceedings.

We allege that Meriton’s conduct was a deliberate practice, undertaken at the direction of Meriton’s senior management, aimed at minimising the number of negative reviews. This practice was likely to create a more positive or favourable impression of the standard, quality or suitability of accommodation services provided by Meriton.

Consumers rely on independent review platforms like Trip Advisor when making purchasing decisions. If reviews are manipulated to falsely create a more favourable impression about a provider, consumers may choose that provider on the basis of that falsehood over another accommodation provider who has not engaged in misleading conduct.
Sarah Court, ACCC Commissioner

Corporate social media

Former Managing Director of Twitter Australia shares some Twitter tips

In a piece for the Financial Review, Karen Stocks, the former Managing Director of Twitter Australia, shared some useful tips about how to engage an audience on Twitter.

Elon Musk tweeted about a specific product launch and it added 4 per cent to the share price, from that one public tweet. So it’s a very powerful platform to get your message out.

Ms Stocks advises to use your voice, share your humanity, engage with others and add your point of view, and be sociable, kind, and observe the social graces by saying thank you every once in a while …


Amendments to Illinois’ Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act commence from 1 January

The amendments to the Act were passed in July this year and, according to the official synopis, were designed to make ‘unlawful for an employer or prospective employer to request or require an employee or applicant to authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer, to request or require that an employee or applicant invite the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee or applicant, or join an online account established by the employer.’

The latest amendments expressly prohibit and employer from:

  • requesting, requiring, or coercing any employee or prospective employee to provide a user name and password or any password or other related account information in order to gain access to the employee’s or prospective employee’s personal online account or to demand access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s personal online account;
  • requesting, requiring, or coercing an employee or applicant to authenticate or access a personal online account in the presence of the employer;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to invite the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee or applicant;
  • requiring or coercing an employee or applicant to join an online account established by the employer or add the employer or an employment agency to the employee’s or applicant’s list of contacts that enable the contacts to access the employee or applicant’s personal online account; and
  • discharging, disciplining, discriminating against, retaliating against, or otherwise penalising an employee for refusing any of the above.

The Act also deals with inadvertent disclosures, for example if an employer comes across information that would enable the employer to gain access to the employee’s personal online account through an employer-provided device due to network security or data confidentiality provisions. If that happens, an employer won’t be liable for possessing the information in question if the employer deletes that information as soon as reasonably practicable once the employer becomes aware that the information in question was received, unless the employer uses that information or enables a third party to use the information.

The law does not prevent employers from implementing lawful workplace policies in respect of the use of their electronic equipment, including the internet, social networking sites, and email.

Tweet(s) of the month

This month, Tweet of the month is a tie between J.K. Rowling and Australia’s GetUp!

J.K. Rowling is featured for her sharp response to a British tabloid’s reaction to the judgment of the High Court in R (Miller) -v- Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin), which held that as a matter of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom the Crown, acting through the executive government of the day, is not entitled to use its prerogative powers to give notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, for the UK to cease to be a member of the European Union, and the matter requires a Parliamentary vote to proceed.

GetUp! also had a sharp and witty retort to One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, over his report titled ‘On Climate, CSIRO Lacks Empirical Proof,’ in which he yet again calls for an independent inquiry into the CSIRO, Australia’s federal agency for scientific research, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Senator Roberts, a UN Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist and a climate science denier, with a background in the mining industry, and ‘business leadership,’ repeatedly and publicly demonstrated his lack of understanding of the scientific process, but that did not prevent him from conducting his own ‘climate investigations‘ that ‘led to deep understanding of the foreign control wrecking our country.’

I will be taking a well-earned break in December, and Social media round-up will return in January 2017.

Read more ‘Social Media Round-Up

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