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So You Want To See A Social Media Law Final? (2016 Edition)

Hamilton-Poster

Cower before my mad shop skillz.

Another year in my Law & Social Media class is in the books at the University of Texas School of Law.  Having just submitted my grades today, I’m now pleased to share with you this year’s final exam.  I had to look around for the right inspiration for this year’s final, only to realize it’s been staring at me for over 15 months.  Let me know in the comments what you think, or what issues you spotted in the final exam.

And now, the final exam:

QUESTION ONE

Your dream has come true. Not only have you passed the Bar but you have landed a job with famed Broadway production company Eat The Cheesecake! (ETC). ETC is getting ready to launch a new hip-hop musical about a little known figure from American history: President James A. Garfield. Garfield: An American Musical has been anticipated by theater goers and critics alike for months. The cast has been intensely rehearsing and they are quickly approaching the first few performances.

Although the musical theater crowd all knows about Garfield, ETC management is concerned that few people generally know about President Garfield. The original poster for the production, a picture of the actual President Garfield, tested poorly with focus groups because nobody recognized the photo. To develop a poster that would appeal to more people, ETC launched a pair of contests to come up with a new, consumer friendly mascot that could be the marketing face of the musical. They launched these contests one month before they hired you and they are now about to close.

The first contest allowed individuals to upload an image of the proposed new mascot. The second contest allowed individuals to submit names for the mascot. The online crowd quickly responded with thousands of entries. Unfortunately, despite the high volume, more than 99% of entries in the first contest consisted of a well-known cartoon cat by the name of Garfield. While over 99% of the entries for the second contest all named the new mascot “Garfield McGarfieldface.”

ETC doesn’t want to use these images or name and want to know their options. They eagerly point out to you that, really, they can do whatever they want because it won’t break the rules–they didn’t post any rules for the contests. They just said the winning entries would get a pair of tickets to the show every week for a year (a prize with an approximate retail value of $15,000). ETC would like you to brief them on what their options are for moving forward with the contests and, if they want to run any more contests in the future, what they should keep in mind when creating new promotions.

QUESTION TWO

ETC firmly believes that if they can just get people to hear about some of the exciting aspects of President Garfield’s life then everyone will want to buy tickets to their new musical. To get that message to the masses, their head of Marketing has decided to create a program called Garfield Lovers And Supporters And Generally Nice Announcers (LASAGNA).

Participants in this program would be selected based on their sizable social media following. They would then be invited to a special performance of the musical and they would all leave the show with a collection of pictures and interesting facts about the cast and crew. Program participants would then be instructed to post about the show on social media. For every post LASAGNA members make on social media platforms, ETC will pay the author $10. If the post receives over a thousand interactions (comments, shares, or simple interactions such as Likes) then the author will receive a bonus $20 in celebration of President Garfield being the 20th President of the United States.

ETC has already identified 200 potential influencers for this program–one for every day President Garfield was in office. The only requirement they want to impose upon the participants is that every post needs to have a link to a website where people can buy tickets to the musical.

The head of Marketing would like to know if there are any potential legal concerns over the Garfield LASAGNA program and, if so, how they could be corrected.

QUESTION THREE

Based on your advice with both the contests and the LASAGNA program, Garfield has now been open for a month and the crowds love it. Ticket prices have soared, the cast are swarmed every time they visit a convenience store, and you are officially sold out for the next six months.

One downside to the sudden popularity of the show is the amount of pirated material that is showing up online (YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram mostly). Audience members have been recording some of the songs from Garfield such as “Rosencrans’ Right-Hand Man,” “The Election of 1880,” and “I’ve Been Shot!” While ETC loves their fans’ enthusiasm, the online videos are grainy, shaky, and with horrible audio quality typical of a pirated video from a smartphone. ETC is afraid people might see these videos and think badly of the show.

The cast is also unhappy at seeing so many phones being used during the show and would like for something to be done about it. But the cast is also loving the attention from their fans. One of the stars of the show, Keslie Otum Sr., has said that he would like to schedule some live streams from behind the scenes using Periscope. The live streams would mostly be about hidden details from the show that audience members can’t see, but he’d also like to stream what the cast does backstage when the show is being performed—especially their now nightly ritual of everyone getting together right before the show and singing an inspired cover of “Baby Got Back.”

ETC would like you to let them know what their options are concerning the videos being posted online by audience members and what they should tell Keslie about his live streaming idea.

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So You Want To See A Social Media Law Final? (2015 Edition)

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:

QUESTION ONE

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.

QUESTION TWO

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.

QUESTION THREE

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.

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My Awesome Announcement

I hate tooting my own horn but this is one of the proudest moments in my still short social media law career.  Please forgive the somewhat staged presentation but those who know me know that if I’m going to tell a story I need to make it interesting.

I was at the University of Texas Co-op’s law school location last week browsing the Nutshell books.  (Go with me, people.)  For those of you not in the legal profession, congrats on that by the way, know that the Nutshell series is put out by West Academic (one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name, in the legal publishing world) and is a fantastic resource for an overview of legal issues in a particular topic.  They aren’t casebooks–larger books with often edited cases to look at judicial rulings on certain areas.  Nutshells get right to the point and provide essential information on the overall legal topic.  I used more than one when I was in law school and as a practicing attorney.

But I noticed something was missing from the Nutshell section.  Can you spot it?

Can you spot what's missing?

Can you spot what’s missing?

That’s right, there’s no Social Media Law in a Nutshell.

Let’s fix that, shall we?

I’m proud to announce that I will be writing Social Media Law in a Nutshell for West Academic.  My co-author, Thaddeus Hoffmeister, is a professor of law at the University of Dayton School of Law and has previously published a book on social media in the courtroom.  His knowledge of social media litigation, evidence uses, and applicability in criminal cases will combine with my information on the marketing, content, employment and other social media uses to make this a comprehensive review of social media across all legal channels.

Doing this as a Nutshell book feels perfect right now.  There isn’t a wealth of case law on social media issues, but there are certainly cases out there.  In some areas the most fascinating legal issues are taking place outside of a courtroom so a Nutshell allows us to cover those topics in ways a casebook couldn’t.  Plus, when the movie rights get picked up we all agree that Hugh Jackman can play me.  He’s just a more talented and better looking version of me who can also sing and dance and has a better accent.  The resemblance is uncanny.

I’m not sure when the book will be released but it certainly won’t be until 2015 at the earliest.  Rest assured I’ll let you all know as the process unfolds.

Yesterday I published the 100th blog post here on SoMeLaw Thoughts.  When I look back at how much has changed in social media since I started writing about it, not just my own professional involvement, it’s staggering.  I feel incredibly lucky to take this journey and contribute to the field as well as participate in a line of books that I personally value.  To join the ranks of the Nutshell books blows my mind.

Thanks to all of my readers and friends on social media who have pushed/pulled/heckled me along the way.  An even bigger thanks to my family for putting up with my little side projects.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some writing to do.

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13 Quick Thoughts About The iPhone 6 Plus

You wouldn't like the iPhone 6 Plus when it gets angry.

You wouldn’t like the iPhone 6 Plus when it gets angry.

Because social media and mobile technology are so well connected and because I didn’t want to post a long thing on Facebook, here are some quick thoughts from my own use of my new iPhone 6 Plus.  Most of these are answers to questions I’ve been asked.  If you have some questions, fire away.

  1. Yes, it’s big.  When you put it next to an older model iPhone it seems gigantic. Shockingly, once you start using it away from your old phone it does seem a bit bigger but not much.  I believe a similar technique will be used to shrink Paul Rudd in the Ant-Man movie.
  2. Yes, it fits in my pocket.  Both my jeans pocket (but I don’t wear skinny jeans because a-I’m not skinny and b-ew) and my shirt pocket.  When it sits in my shirt pocket the top bit including the camera does stick out so it might concern people that I’m filming them as I walk by.  Which I’m not.  Probably.
  3. I have no idea if it fits in a suit jacket pocket.  What’s a suit jacket?  I live in Austin and I’m in-house counsel.  That means I’m forbidden by two sets of laws to wear a suit.  Same with this sports coat people mention.
  4. Yes, I can use it one handed.  And that’s without doing the double tap to bring the top stuff down to the bottom, although that helps too.  I don’t know if it’s because I have large hands (I never thought I did) or if it’s because I grew up playing arcade games in the 80s (which required you to dislocate three fingers to play Defender for more than 3 levels–and don’t get me started on my finger speed thanks to Track & Field).  Either way, I can use it just fine with one hand.  A bit slower than the iPhone 5 but that could be the size or just getting used to it.
  5. Set up was super easy.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to switching Apple phones, but the old back-up with encryption (to keep your passwords) and restore from backup worked flawlessly.  I did have a slight hiccup getting the phone to active (you have to call an 866 number for AT&T) and then there was a weird iMessage bug (solved by turning iMessage off and back on, IT Crowd for the win!).
  6. It’s actually faster to use with two hands.  I didn’t think about this but maybe it does show my hands are that big.  I was never able to use my previous iPhones with two hands.  My hands just got in the way–at least to make it any faster than using it one handed.  But now there is plenty of room to navigate so I can move faster with two hands typing.  That’s pretty neat.
  7. The predictive keyboard is very cool.  Having a few options available is nice and it seems to make that damn autocorrect less intrusive.  I hope this doesn’t mean Damn You Autocorrect is going away because those are the best.  My favorite feature–if someone sends you a message with two options (e.g., “This or that?”) then without typing a character the predictive keyboard will give you the choice of “This” or “That.”  Nice touch.
  8. Jitterbug mode sucks, will hopefully improve over time.  You know Jitterbug, the smart phone for “aging Americans?”   Using an iPhone app that hasn’t been redesigned for the 6 Plus’ screen feels a bit like using an app on Jitterbug.  Suddenly everything is blown up to silly levels as iOS scales the apps to fill the space rather than give a big black border like the first iPads did.  My Good For Enterprise app still shows 3.5 emails on the Inbox view only now each one is massive.  Compare that to the native Mail app that shows 6.5 in highly legible type.  I know it’s just a matter of time before the main apps I use update (Good, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but that can’t come fast enough.
  9. The battery rocks.  This may be a combination of leaving autobrightness on (which works much better than it did with my 5–I constantly had it on brightest mode for most of the day) but I noticed it yesterday when I cranked the brightness as well (before realizing I didn’t need to).  Right now my battery is sitting at 75%.  I’ve had typical usage of it today, perhaps a bit less than others.  But on most days my iPhone 5 would be at 20%-30% by the end of lunch.  75% is amazing.
  10. I still haven’t played with the camera.  I look forward to having fun with slow motion and burst photos and all that, but I’m not a good photographer and I take pictures when needed.  Like if there’s a funny sign.
  11. Native HD screen rocks!  The biggest draw for the Plus over the basic 6 was, for me, the native HD screen.  This screen has all the pixels of a 1080p video stream.  Every other phone has to squeeze it down a bit.  Every other iPad with more pixels is just stretching the image out.  This is fantastic for someone like me who only uses my iPad to watch movies and read comics.  Now I don’t need that for movies (and I’m hoping Comixology gives us full page view on the 6 Plus soon).  I watched some Netflix on it last night and that was awesome.  Holding a 5.5″ screen a foot away from my eyes seems larger than my living room TV which is 57″ but ten feet away.
  12. I’m hopeful this is my iPad replacement.  I don’t like travelling with two devices or having some games/apps on my iPad while my essential stuff is on my iPhone.  My goal is for this device to replace my old phone (check) and my iPad (let’s see, but so far so good).
  13. There is no item 13.  But congrats on making it to the end.

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My Keynote: Seven Stories of Social Media Legal Risk

This.

You always remember your first keynote.  So I’ve been told.  And so far, that’s true.  I’ve spoken at conferences, chaired conferences, led panels and participated on them.  I’ve taught one-off classes and an ongoing Law and Social Media class at the University of Texas School of Law.  But this past January was a big milestone for me as I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Charleston Law Review’s annual symposium.  The year before, their keynote speaker was retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  I figured she was an acceptable opening act for me.

It actually took me a while to decide what to speak about–there are so many great subjects within social media and the law (hence this blog).  So I cheated a bit and instead of picking one topic I picked seven.  Actually a bit more than seven but I organized these subjects around seven stories of social media legal risk.

The symposium was fantastic.  A great venue in the Charleston Music Hall (I’ve never spoken in a room with a balcony except my own living room and that’s mostly to tell my boys to come downstairs).  And a great schedule with four other panels dealing with social media and the law, but not marketing–typically the majority of social media law talk is about marketing.  It was refreshing to see a symposium with panels on employment issues, your digital afterlife (what happens to your accounts after you die), privacy, and legal ethics.  Fantastic speakers, materials, and very well organized.  Total package.

Charleston Law Review ended up posting the video of my keynote.  I’ve embedded the YouTube video of my keynote below in case you have 55 minutes or so to kill and want to fill it with some fun social media stories. And below that is an embed of my slides because I use slides a lot but you can’t see them in the video. So you’ll just have to click along yourself to see all the fun.

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Want To Know What A Social Media Law Final Looks Like?

Not that anyone actually writes law school finals with a pen, but you get the point.

Thinking about going to law school or want to revisit those horrifying amazing three years of your life?  If you’re curious about a law school final, or what a final looks like for a social media law class, then you’ve come to the right blog post.

Long time readers may recall when I first announced I’d be teaching a class at the University of Texas School of Law on Law and Social Media.  Last night I finished entering the grades for my students and so the class is officially over.  It was a blast to teach and I hope I get invited back to do it again, although developing the material was a lot more work than I expected.  Yes, I was warned this would be the case but I thought that all the other material I had in training about various social media legal issues would help.  They did–but it still took a lot of time to convert that into a format that was better for students.  That’s a big reason why this blog has been so silent these last few months.

As I mentioned in the original post, my class was about the many different legal topics that social media impacts.  There’s a lot of attention around social marketing and for good reason–that’s a highly regulated area and one that’s ripe with consumer protection issues.  But that is just one area I wanted to cover–employment, free speech, privacy, and several other topics were worth exploring.  I wanted my final to touch upon several topics while giving the students a bit of a taste of practicing in this emerging field.

Just to put this in context, the students had three hours to complete this exam (including reading time).  They could use any notes they created or assisted in creating and all three questions were weighted equally.  The final is shown below.  No, I’m not going to give you my model answers but feel free to ask questions in the comments about any issues you see.

Question One

Congratulations!  After four rounds of interviews and a grueling series of one-on-one discussions with the Board of Directors, you have been appointed General Counsel to BCB — the only social network dedicated to Bacon, Cats, and Babies.  With over four million users and an average of one million new pieces of content daily, BCB is one of the hottest social networks in the world.  It’s basic functionality allows users to upload a photo that features either Bacon, Cats, or Babies (or combination thereof).  These photos can be Liked and Shared and the picture can also be linked to some other online location–users browsing the site can click on the photo to be taken to the link provided by the original content creator.  Unfortunately, the site has yet to make any revenue and its initial funding is being consumed by the massive servers BCB must use.

BCB’s VP of Making Money has decided to make money through affiliate programs.  He would like every piece of content to be linked to an item that can be purchased from a web site.  Each link would contain a code that gives credit for the sale to BCB and the sites have agreed to pay BCB 3% of all sales.  For pieces of content that are posted without a link, BCB’s software will automatically select the optimal commercial item to link to the content and embed BCB’s affiliate code.  If the piece of content posted by the user already has a link then one of two things will happen:

1. If the link is to a non-commercial page, that link will be moved to a special button under the photo and the photo itself will then be linked to a commercial item similar to photos without links.

2. If the link is to a commercial page then the BCB affiliate code will be embedded in the URL.  If the link already has an affiliate code, that original affiliate code will be stripped out and replaced by the BCB affiliate code.

BCB’s Terms of Use section that deals with content says the following:

You can only post content you have permission to post.  Anything you post may be used by BCB as part of normal site functionality or in our efforts to make money.

Draft an email to the VP of Making Money describing the risks of his proposed plan and the changes to the Terms of Use you would propose to address those risks.

Question Two

The VP of Marketing for BCB has come to you with a plan for a new contest and would like your advice on how to proceed.  The contest would run for the month of May and invite all site users to submit their best BCB content that includes pictures of Google, Owen Wilson, or Vince Vaughn (in addition to the obligatory Bacon, Cat, or Baby).  He is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the upcoming movie The Internship in which Wilson and Vaughn play unpaid interns at Google and is also hoping the contest has side benefits of making BCB show up in more Google searches.  He would like to give away $15,000 to the best content in terms of ten $500 prizes, one $2,500 prize, and one $7,500 prize.  Winners will be determined by the number of Likes clicked on each picture.  He would like the contest to be open to anyone in the world age 13 and up.

Draft an email to send to the VP of Marketing to discuss what changes, if any, he would need to make to his contest prior to running it, or highlight any issues/concerns you may have.

Question Three

You receive the following email from your VP of Human Resources:

Hi new General Counsel (sorry, I should know your name but I’m really busy)!

I’ve got a bit of a situation I’m hoping you can advise me on.  We hired Pat as our head of Online Community about a year ago.  I conducted the interview of Pat myself and I was really excited to do so because I had checked out all of Pat’s social media accounts prior to the office visit.  I was especially interested because it turns out Pat and I go to the same church and I didn’t even know that before!  

Anyway, I wanted to make sure Pat was a thorough professional in all their social media interactions so during the interview I had Pat log into all the major platforms and I browsed through the accounts, just to make sure there wasn’t anything tasteless that might go viral and embarrass us.  It was all good so Pat came on board and did a great job for many months.

But in the last few months, Pat has gotten weird.  Mostly on personal posts, but if you read those then you can see how it spills over to our corporate accounts.  Our users have started to notice too and Pat got into a nasty debate last week over whether a picture of Canadian Bacon was eligible for the site.

We may need to let Pat go soon.  Anything I need to be concerned about?

Draft a response to the VP of Human Resources.

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Barbra Streisand Doesn’t Want You To Read This Post

“You don’t send me cease and desists…you don’t serve me lawsuits….”

There’s a well-known Internet phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect. The quick summary is that trying to hide or remove information on the Internet will only serve to bring increased attention to the material.

What I find more interesting than the effect itself are the causes behind it and how they create multiple problems in the social media world.  Those two problems are Not Understanding the Platform and The Illusion of Control.

Not Understanding the Platform.  In the case that gave rise to the name, Barbra Streisand took offense to an aerial photograph taken of her house that was published online.  The problem with her complaint is that until she brought it up, nobody knew it was her house.  The photograph was merely numbered and had been part of a government survey of coastal erosion.  The photograph of her house was one of over 12,000 photos published online and had been downloaded six times (two of the downloads were her attorneys).  By not understanding the built-in anonymity of the platform, Streisand shone a spotlight of interest on the image and it ended up downloaded over 400,000 times.  Had she taken the time to understand the platform itself she could have avoided the issue altogether.

This is a significant problem when groups don’t understand entire generations of technology (like being so unfamiliar with current technology as to think taking down a Web page will remove all copies of it, cached versions, etc.).  But it can also be a problem when refined aspects of a platform aren’t understood as well (photograph tags, reshared content, etc.).

It’s understandable if a person or organization wants to keep information protected.  If that information appears somewhere the initial response may be to try and pull it down completely.  But successfully pulling posted content offline is surgery, not traumatic amputation.  It must be a refined, focused activity that is only taken when necessary (and must be undertaken with an understanding that it may fail).  Understanding the platform will lead you to understand how to conduct that surgery–or if any action is even required.

The Illusion of Control.  So many times I hear people say that Facebook’s terms give them ownership of your content.  I’ll be quick to correct them (section 2 of the Facebook Terms says otherwise) but then I’ll usually go on to ask why they care about ownership.  If they are posting their own content to a platform whose primary purpose is to share with others then ownership should be the last thing on your mind.  (If the issue is posting someone else’s work, that’s a different issue.)

Truth is, while platforms keep trying to reinvent better privacy controls, privacy and social media are not friends.  They’re barely frenemies.  More likely, they’ve formally declared war on each other and it’s going to take a summit in Malta to settle everything.  Central to that notion is that privacy is about control–the ability for you to keep information secret.  To that end, Benjamin Franklin was the greatest privacy expert ever when he famously wrote:

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead. – Benjamin “Don’t Friend Me” Franklin

Information is like mud on a white carpet–it wants to go everywhere.  And ultimately you cannot control it once the information is loosed.  Even if the information belongs to you in some way, once it hits that happy puppy of a social media platform, he’s going to run his muddy paws all over the room, jump up on the couch, and shake himself in the middle of your annual all-white cocktail party.  You can take steps to mitigate the damage, but prevention is your best bet.  Once the information is out you’ll need to a different strategy to handle containment–you cannot just say “This is mine and I don’t want it here anymore.”  It will have the same impact as screaming “Bad muddy dog!”  Maybe less.

Social media is redefining what mine and yours means when it comes to content.  If you want to have any chance of containing the spread of information then you have to embrace the changing definitions.  Once you’ve embraced that change and abandoned the illusion of control, then you can figure out how to work within the system/platform/community to address your concerns.

 

Ultimately, those two Streisand Effect causes have the effect of unintentionally curating content.  There is more content posted online than anyone can read–how we find the interesting content is largely dependent on the content being interesting.  Someone trying to keep you from seeing the content instantly makes the post more interesting.  Perhaps my headline did that here for you (what a coincidence!).

And once you recognize these two root causes of the Streisand Effect you’ll see it come out in a variety of ways.  The latest example that was sent to me by a colleague is the case of a woman who was sued by a church that she posted negative blog comments about.  This story shows how both Streisand causes can manifest in multiple forms.  First, the woman wrote a few reviews of the church on Google that were taken down, probably at request of the church (mistake).  She escalated by starting up her own blog.  If you go back and read the blog, it’s fairly innocent.  There are some posts that seem critical of a certain church but it’s apparent she wasn’t happy and moved on.  She even mentions how maybe a dozen people read a certain post.  The church escalated back by suing her for $500,000 and the media storm ensued.  Now hundreds of articles have been written about the church’s lawsuit (I haven’t found one favorable to the church) and the church itself.  A wave of negative attention much greater than a small blog talking about a local issue.  All because the church didn’t understand the platform (Google reviews, then a small blog) and had the illusion of control (that threatening with a big lawsuit would make the blog go away).

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