By Hanok George, Albany Government Law Review
Social media has become a topic of increasing interest among employers, as the employees’ statements within such media can have wide ranging impacts upon the employer. These statements can reach millions of people— including customers, venders, suppliers and many others. Due to the broad sweeping impacts associated with social media, employers have created social media policies for employees that restrict the employees’ ability to divulge work-related information on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. However, these policies walk a fine line between protecting the employer’s interests and infringing on the employees’ rights to concerted activity under Section seven of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found many employers’ social media policies to constitute unfair labor practices. Continue reading “NLRB’s Reports on Social Media Policies: When Are Employers Crossing the Line and What Must Employers Consider?”
Joseph Cucco, Albany Government Law Review
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, have become immensely popular ways to share information. Hundreds of millions of people use the sites on a regular basis, uploading photos and other information to their user profiles. Social networking sites have opened up new ways of staying in touch with friends and family, or letting the world know about one’s likes and dislikes. They have also raised new legal issues regarding how much of this information is discoverable and what limits should be placed on data acquired from social networking sites.
On social networking sites, members can choose which biographical data to include, decide which of their contacts can see it, and communicate with other users via blog postings, status updates, photo albums, site messaging and chat features. The sites store this information on their own servers. The fact that the information is stored remotely rather than on the user’s home computer has led to questions about whether information stored on a third-party server such as Facebook is subject to federal discovery rules.
Lawmakers and courts have scrambled to keep pace with the new technology. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended in 2006 to impose a duty to disclose “electronically stored information” which a party “may use to support its claims or defenses.” Rule 34 was amended to include in the definition of “electronically stored information” that is subject to requests for production, “data or data compilations—stored in any medium from which information can be obtained”. This means that information which users may have thought would stay private is vulnerable to exposure through the discovery process if the user becomes involved in litigation. As a result, social networking sites have become a fertile resource for litigators gathering information on parties, expert and lay witnesses, potential jurors, and even opposing counsel. Continue reading “Electronic Discovery of Social Networking Sites”
Brittany Grome, Government Law Review Member
In Indianapolis, Indiana, two sophomore girls at Churubusco High School were punished by the school district for posting sexually suggestive photos on their MySpace pages. According to the complaint, the girls dressed in lingerie and pretended to lick “penis-shaped” lollipops. These photos were taken during their summer break at a sleepover party. The school district banned the girls from participating in extracurricular activities for one full year, which was later reduced to a quarter of the volleyball season. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit on the girls’ behalf, arguing that the Churubusco School District violated the girls’ constitutionally protected First Amendment right to free speech. The ACLU also argues that the school district went too far and publicly embarrassed the girls when it forced them to apologize to an all male coaching board and mandated that the girls undergo counseling.
Currently, there is no set standard of how school districts should address student online activity that occurs outside of school. This is a growing controversy and teens that have done similar things in the past have faced prosecution. In March of this year, a fourteen year old New Jersey student was arrested on child pornography charges when she posted nude pictures of herself on her MySpace profile. Other students have been expelled or lost scholarships. Similarly, in 2006, a seventeen year old student in Pennsylvania was suspended for creating a parody website that made fun of his principal on MySpace. The district court ruled that his off campus actions did not “disrupt school operations.”
“From the standpoint of young people, there’s no real distinction between online life and offline life . . . it’s just life.” The decision to punish these sophomore girls is drawing a lot of attention and raising many questions. Should students be punished for online activities that take place outside of school? Did the pictures placed online have a substantial effect on school activities? Was the school district justified in its actions and does it have a right to regulate student out of school online behavior? Does a student shed her First Amendment right to free speech simply because she participates in an extracurricular activity, such as a sports team?
Continue reading “ACLU Sues School in Online Photo Controversy: Female Students Punished for Racy MySpace Pictures”