Spy-Games, SLAPP Happy & Other Social Media Mayhem
It’s been a busy few weeks in the social sphere; from spy-games to SLAPP Happy litigation, social media mayhem seems to have arrived just in time to keep the summer doldrums from lulling social media management firms into a contended state of R&R. No, we aren’t complaining but if it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to social media…well, you right. As always, we make it a priority to keep clients as well informed about the big issues as possible and today’s early insights are “must read” media!
Beginning with the quiet uproar surrounding Facebook’s facial recognition technology, civil libertarians leaving little room for question regarding their position. But is facial recognition something to be feared or actually a favorable turn for future business? Today’s article provides a quick overview of the pros and cons surrounding this highly controversial technology and how it will impact your personal privacy and professional profits. Of more immediate interest is the second major topic of the day; SLAPP Happy litigation and the growing threat to social media marketing, bloggers and nearly anyone that dares to put an opinion into print.
Spy-Games: Promise or Peril?
That is the question among civil libertarians and technology buffs alike. As Facebook continues to make strides in the facial recognition arena, privacy concerns are rising to the surface with several nationwide agencies all but promising to challenge the legal (and ethical) premise behind the technology. Squaring off on the other side is a team of technology advocates citing the potential to expand law enforcement activities, expand marketing opportunities and provide a more intuitive experience for social media users. But what is facial recognition and how will it really be used? More importantly, it is this long feared invasion of personal privacy or a welcomed tool capable of doing tremendous good? In large part the answer to this question resides in the eyes of the individual user.
Privacy Concerns About
There is little question that privacy concerns surrounding facial recognition software abound but much to the consternation of civil liberty groups, many of these issues have surfaced in the past…and been routinely dismissed or later adopted. For example, the idea of public cameras in banks, stores and even stoplights originally caused quite an outrage but is now merely taken for granted…if not outright welcomed…by the majority of the population. In much the same way, facial recognition software is increasingly being used to check federal database(s) against known offenders, provide fast means of tracking suspected criminals and simply identifying friends and family members in shared photographs. As Facebook users tag photographs, the facial recognition software is used to create a “faceprint” which works in a similar manner as a fingerprint. By identifying specific markers, spaces and other points, the software is then able to later identify the person in other photographs.
So far so good. What could possibly be the problem with something that sounds so convenient and potentially life-saving? Well, like most things there is the potential for abuse. For example, it has already been demonstrated (courtesy of Carnegie Mellon) that it is possible to use facial recognition technology combined with social media profiles to tap into the personal information (including social security numbers!) of total strangers. Even worse, imagine the ability of a mobile application to snap a photo of someone and then learn their identity, address or other information with a few clicks of a button in much the same manner it’s now possible to take a photo of a well known building while on vacation. The potential for abuse, stalkers and criminal activity leave many people less than comfortable with a technology which currently shows more potential than it does controls.
On a slightly different, albeit just as controversial topic, social media is becoming center stage on the SLAPP Happy litigation front. SLAPP which stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation are lawsuits filed on behalf of corporations, wealthy clients and others that wish to force a cease and desist situation to take place. In many instances, the litigation would never go to trial nor would the plaintiff even with to do so; it is simply a way to force conditions upon the defendant in order to stifle or stop a noxious statement or communication pattern without having to prove defamation or liability.
The problem comes into play when the defendant finds the cost of free speech far too expensive to defend in a court of law; effectively, the plaintiff is silencing critics by the old adage “a good offense makes the best defense”. Of course, this type of action leaves nearly any blogger, social media content provider or journalist open to litigation…even if unfounded.
Currently 28 states have implemented anti-SLAPP statutes in an attempt to reduce the number of bogus lawsuits designed to do little more than stifle valid free speech but that still leaves 22 states with little to no protections in place. Of even greater concern is the mismatch approach to the problem with critics calling for a stronger federal response needed to unify and standardize the issues. While this might sound like a good idea, critics raise serious concerns about the rights of business owners to defend truly defamatory speech citing more stringent standards required to litigate. Is there a one size fits all solution to the problem? It’s unlikely but one thing is certain, the struggle between free speech and the rights of a company to clear their name from overt defamation is likely to have significant consequences well into the future.