Category Archives: Internet Law

The Power of a Tweet

Though excellent tools for expression and brand marketing; a tweet can be a powerful method of expression. As the use of sites like Twitter and Facebook increase; it appears legal issues regarding what one posts are also on the rise. Laws and regulations about social networking are beginning to emerge as the legal system continues to see more cases involving defamation, fraud, and cyberbullying.

At a young age, many of us are often taught if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. This simple life lesson is often disregarded in the digital age and the results of a post could prompt one to seek legal advice. Based on your post, you might find yourself in front of a judge! Even if you delete the tweet, it is most likely someone has retweeted or shared it. Prior to making a post, consider if it may be defamatory to a third party. Also, the terms of us for the site because the information you disclose might not belong to you.

There have been several cases in the media about online defamation. One of the most sensational involved Courtney Love (Gordon & Holmes v. Love, No. BC462438), who tweeted an alleged defaming statement about one of her attorneys. The attorney responded with a lawsuit against Love. At trial, Love stated she intended to send a private direct message; but inadvertently tweeted the information. The jury ultimately found in favor of Love.

Fraudulent Twitter (and Facebook) account cases are becoming more prevalent as well. Celebrities, businesses, and even the average person can be the victims of a fake Twitter account. These accounts can create problems if the anonymous owner posts information that can be interpreted as misleading, controversial or libelous. Twitter currently is in the spotlight for trademark infringement because the Estate of James Dean wants ownership of the Twitter account @JamesDean. James Dean, Inc., et al v. Twitter, Inc., et al, No. 1:14-cv-00183, notice of removal (S.D. Ind., Feb. 7, 2014).

Cyberbullying has become a hot topic with Twitter and other social networking sites. The sites are used in an intrusive manner to expose private information or even fraudulent information about a person in an effort to cause humiliation or mental harm. Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan are perhaps the most famous cases of cyberbullying because each ended in tragedy. As recently as January 2014, cyberbullying via social media had been implicated in the attempted suicide of a rape victim in Maryville, Missouri. In State v. Bishop, a North Carolina teen became the first person in Alamance County to be convicted under the new state cyberbullying laws. The case is currently under appeal.

Not all situations with tweets involve defamation, fraud or cyberbullying. Tweets are now being used as tools for employers to screen potential employees or make personal changes. Earlier this year, a young advertising executive lost her job because of an inadvertent tweet she posted as a joke prior to boarding a flight to Africa. Unfortunately her employer did not find it funny and she lost her job before her flight even landed.

The power of the pen is not a new concept to society; yet we should exercise more caution with online posts because the ramifications might be more than you expected.

If you need additional information about the impact of social networking communication, please contact Attorney Mark Ishman at the Ishman Law Firm at (919) 468-3266 or mishman @ ishmanlaw.com.

Impact of the Internet on Jury Trials

In the era of the internet, the legal profession is faced with the growing issue of information being at the fingertips of jurors and others involved in the case. Computers, tablets, laptops and smartphones are common place in some courtrooms and can be used by prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, court reporters and jurors. “While technology can be a benefit to the legal system,” Mark Ishman, Internet Lawyer said, adding that “it also can be a hindrance to the interest of justice and to individual privacy.”

It is impossible for the courts to control the flow of information in an effort to insure that justice prevails for the parties involved when the internet becomes a tool to decide the case. The legal system provides safeguards to prevent the miscarriage of justice by providing jury instructions in an effort of fairness. However, “when jurors have access to the internet, it is possible that mistrials may occur because everything on the internet is not reliable” Mark Ishman, Internet Lawyer. The jury decision at trial should be based on the evidence presented and not by what a juror may find by conducting independent internet searches.

A case can also be impacted by access to email and jurors can run the risk of being found guilty of criminal contempt for juror misconduct. In a recent federal Pennsylvania case, a juror requested to be dismissed from jury due to employment-related reasons. Upon the court granting her dismissal, this dismissed juror then sent an email to the remaining jurors that discussed the merits of the pending case as if she had remained on the jury. Then when this email was received by the pending jury, one of jurors responded to this email from the dismissed juror. When the court discovered this inappropriate conduct, it fined the first dismissed juror $1,000 for sending the email to the jury, and dismissed the second juror who responded to the email. United States v. Juror No. One, 866 F. Supp. 2d 442, 453 (E.D. Pa. 2011)

As a reminder, when serving on a jury, the use of your smart phone or other electronic devices cannot only impact the outcome of the case; but it also can have an impact on you in the form of criminal charges and/or fines.

If you need additional information about Internet Law, please contact Internet Law Attorney Mark Ishman at the Ishman Law Firm at (919) 468-3266 or mishman @ ishmanlaw.com.