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Dr. Robert Sprague - Research
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Dr. Robert Sprague - Research

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The changing face of communication law in the rise of social media. …

The changing face of communication law in the rise of social media.

From Saturday's Session 2 of UGA Connect.

Published in: Business, Technology

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  • 1. What does research tell us? What research is needed? Robert Sprague Assistant Professor University of Wyoming College of Business Connect. Public Relations & Social Media Conference University of Georgia Grady College October 19-20, 2007
  • 2. So many issues. So little time.
    • Employees fired for blogging
    • Employers using Google to screen applicants
    • Defamation and Reputation on the Internet
    • Copyright violations on YouTube
    • Bloggers as journalists
    • Deep linking
  • 3. Public Relations & Social Media
    • Legal issues
      • Commercial speech
      • Deceptive trade practices
      • Liability for content
  • 4. Commercial speech
    • Commercial speech is granted limited constitutional protection
      • Subject to regulation
        • Time, place, and content
    • What is commercial speech?
      • Never really defined by the courts
      • But, courts “know it when they see it”
  • 5. Commercial speech doctrine
    • Originally used to help communities restrict/prevent door-to-door peddlers
    • Traditional concept
      • Communication to propose a commercial transaction
        • I will sell you “X” product for “Y” price
    • Concept has been expanding
      • Statements encouraging a future economic transaction
  • 6. When is a blog a commercial site? Journalist: They gather, select, and prepare, for purposes of publication to a mass audience, information about current events of interest and concern to that audience. GM’s FastLane blog is a forum for GM executives to talk about GM’s current and future products and services
  • 7. Walmarting Across America
    • Oops!
      • Should Richard Edelman have known better?
    • Desire to control the message
      • blends independence with commercial backing
        • Is this deceptive?
  • 8. Deceptive speech
    • Commercial speech doctrine allows the government to prohibit deceptive speech
    • An act or practice is deceptive under federal law if there is a representation or omission of material information that is likely to mislead consumers
      • A representation or omission is material if it is likely to affect consumers’ choice of, or conduct regarding a product
  • 9. Buzz marketing
    • Buzz marketing is a major area of concern
    • The FTC is particularly concerned with “sponsored” consumers
    • Is it deceptive to fail to disclose that a marketer is paying a sponsored consumer to make claims to other consumers about the marketer’s product?
    • Consumers may reasonably give more weight to statements that sponsored consumers may make about their opinions or experiences with a product based on their assumed independence from the marketer
  • 10. No definitive guidelines
    • FTC has declined to issue specific guidelines
      • Will make determinations on a case-by-case basis
      • Where there exists a connection between the endorser and seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such connection must be fully disclosed
        • Must there be an “advertisement?”
  • 11. Buzz marketing on the Internet
    • Fake peers
    • Hidden sponsors
    • Pay-to-post
    • Sock puppets
    • Sponsored consumers
    • Assume FTC approach to “traditional” buzz marketing will apply to blogs and social media
    • Sock puppets will be illegal in the EU in 2008
  • 12. Commercial speech and new media Is Marié engaged in deceptive trade practices? Marié Digby Pop / Rock / Alternative Los Angeles, California United States Profile Views:  157788 Last Login:  9/22/2007                               
  • 13. Defamation
    • Another restriction on speech
    • A false statement that harms an individual’s reputation in the eyes of the community
      • Accusations of dishonesty, criminality, adultery
    • Historically, publishers have been held immune from liability arising from third party content
      • Bloggers assume they are immune from liability for linking to outside content
  • 14. New trend in publisher liability
    • What are the risks?
    • Courts are beginning to differentiate between “provider” and “publisher”
      • A provider merely reproduces material without alteration
        • Immunity preserved
      • New view of publisher
        • Making editorial decisions
        • Growing risk that minor editing of third party content may destroy immunity
  • 15. New areas of research?

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