ARTICLE
19 January 2015

The Law And Business of Social Media - Status Updates, January 9th, 2015

MF
Morrison & Foerster LLP

Contributor

Known for providing cutting-edge legal advice on matters that are redefining industries, Morrison & Foerster has 17 offices located in the United States, Asia, and Europe. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, leading tech and life sciences companies, and some of the largest financial institutions. We also represent investment funds and startups.
It’s official – as of January 1st, social media sites accessible in California had to begin allowing users younger than 18 "to remove, or to request and obtain removal of" posts they regret.
United States Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
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Poster's remorse. It's official – as of January 1st, social media sites accessible in California had to begin allowing users younger than 18 "to remove, or to request and obtain removal of" posts they regret. The legislation, known as the "Eraser Button Law," applies to all web sites that are directed at minors or that have actual knowledge of their use by a minor. It also prohibits such sites from advertising adult products such as alcohol and tobacco to minors and from collecting, using, or disclosing minors' personal information for such advertising, or allowing others to do so. Web site operators can limit their need to comply, at least with respect to new users, by not asking their users' ages or birth dates. Critics of the Eraser Button law say that, since most sites already allow users to delete their posts, it's unnecessary. Free speech advocates claim that, by not providing an exception for information in the public interest, the law violates the First Amendment.

Off the grid. It's widely recognized that social media use can cause depression, expose users to abuse by anonymous Internet bullies, and even cost less-than-scrupulous users employment and college admission opportunities, but is that enough of a reason to forego it? Apparently it is, at least for some people. News outlets occasionally feature anecdotes describing individuals who have sworn  off Facebook and Twitter, and, according to one study, there were 3 million fewer teens between the ages of 13 and 17 on Facebook in 2014 than there were in 2011(though it's uncertain whether they switched to different platforms or quit social media altogether). But, "even if you join the abstainers, social media is clearly not going away," according to The Independent. Facebook's "ubiquitous nature" – everyone and their mother (literally) is on it –makes people concerned that quitting the most popular social media platform will cause them to miss out on something. For new social media outlets to stand the test of time, they'll have to fill a need or a desire that the existing major platforms don't. One venture attempting to do that is Spayce, a program that uses mobile technology to connect people with common interests who are within a short distance of one another. Social networks based on proximity have succeeded before, especially in the online dating world.

A start-up search engine. Following its product launch 18 months ago, the French start-up Qwant is attempting to wrest a piece of the search engine market from Google, and the company isn't relying on the controversy currently surrounding Google's inordinate power in Europe to do the job. Qwant hopes to succeed where other European search engines have failed by adopting a business model that, unlike Google's, does not involve selling advertising using the information the search engine learns about users' individual preferences. Qwant plans to further distinguish itself from Google by including social media posts in its search results. That said, the start-up does seem to be benefitting from Europeans' wariness of Google's unfettered dominance of the online world; France's education ministry has announced that it will start using Qwant's child-friendly search engine in some French schools next year despite the fact that Google plans to develop a similar product.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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