When it comes to finding ways of making money, no corner of a capitalistic society shall go unmined. This applies to obvious goods and services but also comes into play with our very thoughts and how we express them. In the age of social media, not even the framed needlepoint proverb is safe from “disruption”: behold, the framed tweet.
After counter-protests ended in tragedy, a small group of social media users took to Twitter to expose the identities of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Va. Since last Sunday, the @YesYoureRacist account has been calling on Twitter users to identify participants in the rally. Twitter users identified several white supremacists, including Cole White. Users revealed White’s name and place of residence and his employer reportedly fired him from his job at a restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. Several other employers fired employees identified online as attending the rally. In the wake of what will likely be just the latest incident where such behavior will be exhibited and subsequently called out on social media, it’s a good time to look at doxing and the legal environment in which it exists.
Can you violate the First Amendment by blocking people from your Twitter account? According to the Knight First Amendment Institute, it’s possible if that account is @realDonaldTrump.
As we have mentioned before, Donald Trump’s Twitter habit has been a large part of his public persona in recent years. Unsurprisingly, his Twitter usage has continued to play a role in his presidency, at times even shaping the news cycle. In fact, the President’s tweets have garnered the attention of everyone from the writers at SNL to world leaders. The tweets even received a satirical “popup” library to commemorate Trump’s 140-character musings.
President Donald Trump loves to tweet. Although he has been a prolific tweeter since his days as a reality TV star, during his presidential campaign and subsequent time in office, President Trump has taken the “Art of the Tweet” to new heights. The media, in return, has done its part in slicing, dicing, mincing, chopping, deconstructing, and otherwise analyzing President Trump’s Twitter use six ways to Sunday. (Covfefe, anyone?)
Recently, though, it’s not just the content of President Trump’s tweets that has garnered attention. It’s also his audience.
When the President of the United States, every governor, every member of Congress, and—as Justice Kagan remarked—virtually every under-30 and 35 year-old in the country has a Twitter account, it’s time for social media to be recognized as a pervasive and protectable form of speech. On Monday, during oral arguments in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to emphatically agree. The case concerns a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from “accessing” any “commercial social networking websites” whose membership also includes minors. In particular, SCOTUS made several statements on the nature of social media:
Last month, a New York trial court dismissed a complaint against Donald J. Trump and others brought by political consultant and commentator Cheryl Jacobus that alleged, in part, a defamation claim (libel) based on tweets by Trump. While the case is notable because it involves Trump and his penchant for tweeting personal attacks, it is also notable because it provides additional guidance on how the courts are handling defamation claims based on statements made via Twitter (and other social media networks).
Following up on our earlier post regarding the Era of Hashtag Surveillance, the FBI has published documents indicating that it intends to enter into a deal with a Twitter data miner, appropriately named Dataminr (and partially owned by Twitter), for access to its monitoring technology. Techcrunch reports that the FBI disclosed its intent to enter into a licensing agreement with Dataminr for access to Twitter’s “firehose” data stream. As opposed to the normal data streams that Twitter makes available to the public which only provide access to a fraction of the posts made to the site, the “firehose” stream contains all public posts made on Twitter and would essentially allow a user to search, in almost real-time, every post made to the service.
Earlier this month, the ACLU published a report alleging that it had obtained public records showing that social media user data such as location tracking, photos and hashtag usage may have been used by law enforcement to monitor activists and protests. ACLU claims that records show that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram provided user data access to Geofeedia, a developer of a social media monitoring program that is marketed to law enforcement agencies as a tool for such tracking. According to the report, law enforcement used the monitoring program to track protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Tweet nicely to the Twitter bot, “LnH: The Band”—a newcomer in artificial intelligence music generation—and the bot will automatically compose melodies for you. The AI-based band is “currently working on their first album,” according to LnH Music, but who will own the rights and royalties to the album? Or what about Mubert, which is touted by its creators as the world’s first online music composer, and which “continuously produces music in real-time … based on the laws of musical theory, mathematics and creative experience?” In other words, if a computer program generates a creative work—be it a song, book or other creation—is there a copyright to be owned? If so, who owns and gets to collect on the copyright?