Readers who were smart enough not to attend law school (congrats on that!) may not realize that a law school final is serious business. The vast majority of your classes during those three years will have you reading and discussing cases and listening to a professor for an entire semester; then you get one test and that’s your grade. No repeats. No making it up down the road. One and done. Scary stuff.
Readers of this (increasingly infrequent, sorry) blog also know that I teach a class on Social Media Law at the University of Texas School of Law. This past year was the third time I offered the class and it’s always interesting to see the issues that have emerged from year to year or even during the year I’m teaching. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the final, both because I want it to be interested and because I want the students to have ample opportunity to show what they’ve learned over the entire semester.
Below is the final from my 2015 class. (Here’s the final from last year and here’s the final from 2013 if you’re curious.) I wanted to post it now to give you some time to think about it (or discuss in the comments). Later I’ll post what ended up being the top grade in the class’ answer (yes, I asked for and received permission to post it).
Before I get into the text of the final, let me thank the inspiration for elements of these questions: my work SMaC team for pulling social media lessons from the movie Chef, the movie Real Genius, my youngest son Isaac who thinks “Poo-poo” is the funniest word ever (he’s not wrong), and many real world examples that I tweaked for this exam.
And now, the final exam:
Fresh out of law school and after passing your Bar exam, you are quickly snapped up by a hot new company called Pop-Up Pop-Ups (PU2). PU2 has a unique business model where they partner with other companies to create mobile marketing experiences. In the past, PU2 has worked with a volleyball company to hold an impromptu volleyball tournament in the middle of a city block. PU2 has also worked with fashion companies to hold flash mob style runway shows in unexpected locations such as rooftops and swimming pools. PU2 prides itself in organizing events that shock its audience and get people talking.
PU2 picks the locations for its events by identifying certain key social media users and targeting an experience around this individual, hoping that the individual will then be the origin for a cascade of social media posts that gets the word out about the event.
The CEO of PU2, Mr. Knowslittle, lets his staff handle the social media elements of the business. This past year he saw the movies Chef and Catfish and now thinks social media might be a risky area for him but he knows his team relies on social media to conduct their business. He has asked you to advise him on any practical or legal risks his business might face due to social media and to put them in perspective with the potential benefits his company could receive. Since he has never used any social media platforms but really enjoyed the movies Chef and Catfish, he would like you to use examples from these movies to help illustrate your points.
Compose an email to your CEO advising him about his company’s social media risks and potential rewards.
PU2’s latest marketing stunt involved building a giant pyramid in Times Square. An actor wearing sun-god robes stood on the top of the pyramid while a hundred other actors stood at the base of the pyramid and threw little pickles at the sun-god. Your CEO is unclear what this event was supposed to promote but it did receive a lot of attention on social media.
During the event, the well-known action movie star Arnold Schwarzeblecher (“Arnie” for short), was filming Total Recall 2: Totaller Recall nearby. Seeing all the commotion, he came to Times Square and proceeded to take part in the event. He laughed, he cried, he said it was better than Cats as he stood and threw little pickles. Several bystanders saw Arnie participating in the event and they all took pictures and videos and posted their content to social media.
When Arnie returned to his trailer he had several urgent messages from his public relations team. They saw all the posted content and, even worse, so did a number of entertainment websites who are now running articles that Arnie is working with PU2 to promote…whatever the pickle throwing event was supposed to promote.
Arnie’s team is demanding you pull down all content using Arnie’s image. Your CEO, Mr. Knowslittle, has received some of these demands as well. Not only does he want to keep the content up but he’d also like to start posting some of these pictures and videos directly from all PU2 social media accounts (“Whatever those are,” he says, because he still doesn’t really get it).
Compose an email to your CEO addressing the demands from Arnie’s public relations team as well as Mr. Knowslittle’s desire to post this content from PU2 accounts.
Your CEO, Mr. Knowslittle, has sent the head of Human Resources to speak to you about an employee matter. The Marketing Department had extended an offer to a new Event Manager, Helen Clueless, a week ago. Helen accepted the offer almost immediately and the team had been thrilled to bring in their newest team mate.
Some of Helen’s strengths which carried her through the interview process were her extensive social media skills and ability to build online communities. She had built her personal brand on Twitter and had an account with over 20,000 followers at the time of her interviews. The hiring manager, unsure of how to handle Helen’s Twitter account during the interview, was especially careful not to read the content of Helen’s tweets and ensured that everyone involved in the hiring process did the same.
After the Times Square pickle throwing, Helen tweeted out several messages that are highly critical of PU2. Some examples include:
- I cannot believe I’m starting a job next week with this company. #picklethrowing
- Sure, the job pays well, but am I going to work on stupid events like this for the rest of my life? #picklethrowing #worstjobever
- Please, Twitterverse, find me a job before I start working for these morons. #picklethrowing #willworkfortweets
- Just wish my last gig hadn’t fired me for that drug bust. #justpot #legalizeit
The last tweet caught the attention of HR in particular and they then reviewed the content of her Twitter account. They discovered dozens of tweets referencing drug use and other behaviors that are clear violations of your Code of Conduct.
To make matters worse, now other people are starting to reply to Helen’s tweets and including PU2, asking your company if they really hired someone who is just going to insult her employer before she even starts her job. HR would like to know what options they have regarding Helen.
Compose an email to your head of HR and CEO advising them on what they can do about Helen and if there is anything they should change in their hiring practices to mitigate this risk in the future.