This Week in Social Media Law: Do Cyberbullies Have First Amendment Rights?

Lance Godard Editor and Social Media Manager at JD Supra, JD Supra

Posted on November 3rd 2012

This Week in Social Media Law: Do Cyberbullies Have First Amendment Rights?

Welcome to my weekly roundup of issues at the intersection of social media and the law. In this edition: cyberbullies claim First Amendment rights to freedom of speech (and lose), a company learns that the best defense against CAN-SPAM Act violations is a good contract, and the California Attorney General raises the bar for company privacy policies (for all of us).

But first, a reminder that the very technology that simplifies our lives – in ways not possible ten years ago – exposes us to a Pandora’s box of new risks. Barnes & Noble is just the beginning


Bullying is still bullying when it’s done outside of school:

Two high school honor students in Missouri have learned an important civics lesson: the First Amendment does not allow them to post derogatory racial and sexual comments about fellow students. The website wasn’t intended for public consumption, but word got out when a third student posted a racial slur of his own, leading to a significant disruption in school. The students were suspended for 180 days when the school found out about the website, and their parents filed a lawsuit to allow them to return. An appeals court ruled that the school’s discipline of the brothers was warranted, writes Jackie Wernz (law firm Franczek Radelet): 

“The court thus recognized that school administrators cannot sit idly by when off-campus, online speech of students disrupts the educational environment, and so some discipline has to be warranted in some situations.”

The lesson? For schools, disciplining students for off-campus activities is appropriate at times. For students? Cyberbullying will not be tolerated. (Franczek Radelet)

Wait – did that spam come from our account?

If you use a marketing company or vendor to send out email on your behalf, you might want to take a close look at your contract. Kathryn Ossian (Miller Canfield) reports on a recent court ruling that said a marketing company must pay the costs associated with a lawsuit against its client accused of violating the CAN-SPAM Act. Why? Because their contract included a clause that addressed that very situation. Chalk one up for the lawyers who drafted the contract… (Miller Canfield)

California Attorney General taking a direct approach to improving consumer privacy:

Does your company’s privacy policy meet the standards of the California Online Privacy Protection Act? It’s not a rhetorical question – the state’s Attorney General just sent a letter to 100 companies and mobile app developers giving them 30 days to comply with the law or face a lawsuit. Can she do that? Just ask Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research-in-Motion, all of which agreed to help improve privacy protections for those who use mobile apps. (Ifrah Law) 


Lance Godard

Editor and Social Media Manager at JD Supra, JD Supra

Lance Godard is an editor and social media manager at law news distributor JD Supra. He writes daily on legal issues of the moment, covering numerous industries and fields. Prior to JD Supra, Lance founded and ran 22 Tweets, in which he interviewed lawyers about their professional practice live, on Twitter, via 22 questions. He loves cycling, wearing yellow, and winning, but unlike the other Lance has never been accused of blood doping.

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Posted on November 3rd 2012 at 2:55PM

I have a question, Lance. What about a swarm that comes from Reddit and spews hatred and threats on a brand's website? Even if it's directed at a person within the company?