Category Archives: Internet/Social Media

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Locksmiths Locked Out of Lawsuit Against Search Engines

These days, Big Tech is Big News. While federal lawmakers have recently turned their attention to tech giants and their market power—and launched a broad antitrust probe to boot—a recent decision out of the D.C. Circuit may offer these companies some respite (for now). In a case that pitted fourteen locksmith companies against three tech … Continue Reading

FTC Reminds Crowdfunders: Deliver on Your Promises or Refund

Crowdfunding plays an important role in democratizing access to capital for small entrepreneurs, but as we’ve written before, entrepreneurs of every ilk need to remember that their representations to consumers need to be truthful, accurate and not misleading. Last month, the FTC filed a complaint against Douglas Monahan and his company iBackPack of Texas, LLC, … Continue Reading

FTC’s Snack Service Settlement Reminds DTC Companies Not to Incentivize Reviews

Positive online reviews have become essential for any business marketing goods or services over the internet, especially for trendy services like food delivery and custom health product sales. But the FTC’s newly-announced settlement with startup healthy snack service UrthBox reminds marketers that online praise must be freely given, not bought—even if the compensation offered isn’t … Continue Reading

FTC Sets Its Sights on Fake Customer Reviews

Since updating its Endorsement Guides in 2015 to keep pace with the meteoric rise of social media and influencers in marketing, the FTC has placed a significant emphasis on the need to disclose material connections between advertisers and endorsers. Through its Guides, informal business guidance, blog posts, warning letters, and multiple enforcement actions, the FTC … Continue Reading

DOJ Reverses Course on the Wire Act, Changing the Odds on the State-Regulated Gambling Industry

The regulatory framework for online gambling recently took a wild turn when the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) announced its view that the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. § 1084) applies to all forms of gambling—not merely sports betting. This marked a 180-degree reversal from the stance the OLC took just seven years … Continue Reading

NY AG Finds Use of Bots, Sock-Puppets Illegal

Astroturf was again in the news last week, but not because the big game whose name we can’t mention was played on synthetic turf. Rather, last week, the office of the NY Attorney General (“AG”) announced it reached a precedent-setting settlement with artificial engagement company Devumi LLC and related companies (“Devumi”) over the selling of … Continue Reading

The FTC, Contact Lenses, and the Future of Retail?

On November 14, the FTC Commissioners, in an opinion authored by Chairman Simons, issued an opinion in an antitrust case involving the online advertising industry that has important implications for online advertisers. Last November, we discussed the initial decision by FTC ALJ Chappell that 1-800 Contacts had violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by … Continue Reading

Internet Vendors Need to Pay Attention to these States After U.S. Supreme Court Alters Sales Tax Collection Standard

Venable clients that engage in selling goods and/or services over the internet should evaluate whether the recent Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair will now require them to begin collecting sales and use taxes in states where they have not previously done so. In the Wayfair Case the Court held that a state … Continue Reading

Transparency Coming to a Campaign Ad Near You!

The Federal Election Commission recently held a public hearing to discuss its March 2018 proposed rule aimed at providing voters with more information about who pays for or sponsors online political advertisements. The private sector has adopted a solution to the issue. On May 22, 2018, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) took the first step … Continue Reading

New Website Accessibility Guidelines: W3C Publishes WCAG 2.1

Any organization with a publicly-facing website—in other words, virtually any organization—should be aware that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recently published its most recent update to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, titled WCAG 2.1. The W3C is a private organization that develops website accessibility standards. As you may now know, in recent years, … Continue Reading

The Rise of CGI Influencers

What if the influencer you had been following on Instagram—an influencer whose style choices you admired, and who supported social causes that you believed in—turned out to be…a robot? This is what happened to followers of Lil Miquela, a 19-year old model from California who launched an Instagram account in 2016.  For the past two … Continue Reading

FTC and House Start Working Together to Address CPSC-related Connected Technology Issues – Stakeholders Should Prepare for Future Government-Wide Cooperation

Robust conversations about IoT, smart technology, and product safety continue across the federal government. On May 16, 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) held a public hearing on the Internet of Things (IoT) and consumer product hazards. (See previous related blog posts here and here about the hearing.) On June 13, the House Energy … Continue Reading

The Internet of Things, Product Safety, and Product Liability: A Risky Combination

On May 16, 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a public hearing to receive testimony on the Internet of Things (IoT) and issues related to product safety (IoT Hearing). Thirteen diverse stakeholders presented at the IoT Hearing. Of the thirteen presenters, there were three representatives of consumer organizations, one academic, one security expert and … Continue Reading

Walking the Line with Influencers: How to Satisfy the FTC without Your Influencers Becoming Employees in California

In light of a new California decision interpreting California’s wage and hour law, brand companies should take a careful look at their influencer compliance programs not only for FTC compliance, but also potential employment law consequences. How a company establishes and maintains influencer compliance can potentially convert the influencer from an independent contractor to an … Continue Reading

Embed at Your Own Risk, Says a New York Federal Court: Embedding Copyrighted Images on Your Website and Social Media May Lead to Charges of Copyright Infringement

Does your business or publication link or embed copyrighted content on your website or social media? If you routinely do the latter, a recent decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York suggests that the tide is turning to the former. Although this holding is merely persuasive outside of the … Continue Reading

Does Your Company Website Comply With Title III of the ADA?

Is your website covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? The short answer is: possibly. This area of the law continues to evolve, with differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on the type of website. But make no mistake: lawsuits alleging lack of website accessibility are hot. The most common allegation is that the company … Continue Reading

Marketplace Vendors Offered Voluntary Closing Agreement Program for State Tax Exposure

As states continue their quest to compel online vendors to collect sales and use tax on sales to customers located in the state and to subject such vendors to state income tax, a current trend has been targeting vendors selling via online marketplaces. Some states assert that the presence of inventory held for a vendor … Continue Reading

The FTC’s Influence Reaches Influencers: FTC Settles First Ever Complaint Against Social Media Influencers

Big day at the FTC for influencer announcements! The FTC announced its first ever settlement with social media influencers. At the same time they followed up with a second round of warning letters to a large group of influencers. Finally the FTC updated its FAQs on endorsements with some guidance, including its current views about … Continue Reading

It’s a Small World After All

If you think the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the only regulator paying attention to online endorsements and reviews, guess again. According to a recent FTC press release, 10 of the 60 countries that participate in the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) have taken actions in the year since the Network released the … Continue Reading

FTC Updates COPPA Guidance for IoT and New Consent Options

On June 21, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated one of its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) compliance guides for businesses. Known as the “Six-Step Compliance Plan,” this document provides a step-by-step road map for determining if a company is covered by COPPA and what to do to comply. COPPA applies to operators … Continue Reading

The End of the #ad? A Turning Point for Branded Content on Social Media

It is no secret that influencer marketing—in which social media influencers have the ability to engage with their followers and create “organic” content about a particular product or service—is a huge asset for companies. It is also no secret that advertisers, agencies and influencers alike are often confused about how to comply with the FTC’s … Continue Reading

Digital Media Link, May 2017 – A Focus on Augmented and Virtual Reality

In the most recent edition of Digital Media Link, we explore the legal issues surrounding new technologies, with a particular focus on augmented and virtual reality. As we have seen time and again, new technologies do not necessarily mean new statutes or case law, which usually are slow to catch up. What is a lawyer … Continue Reading
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