Germany is Taking Hate Speech Online to Task

As of 1/1 Germany’s new anti-hate-speech law has come into effect. The new law promises fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million, £44 million) for non compliance.

The law requires social networks to remove hate speech in under 24 hours from when it’s flagged by a user. Networks are given one week to deal with less clear cases.

Hate speech has seen a recent up tick online. YouTube stars accused of anti-Semitism; Trumps tweets against immigrants and Muslims.

Why it’s hot?

The real question is whether this has a positive effect on the rest of the internet.  With geolocation, it’s possible to keep the hate speech ban specific to Germany and German citizens. Depending on how tight the laws were written….the rest of us just might be in luck….

Also, fun fact. There’s a word in german for this kind of speech Volksverhetzung, in English “incitement of the masses”, “instigation of the people”

Legal Trends in 2015 That Could Affect Advertisers

The FTC is somewhat of a frenemy to many brands. As we start 2015, Ad Age published an article focusing on the key legal issues that could affect advertisers this year.

1. Privacy of Consumer Data

Due to high-profile data breaches there has been a rising concern over consumer privacy rights. This is especially relevant for brands that use of consumer data for marketing purposes. More specifically, the FTC wants to to hold companies responsible for data breaches and other privacy infractions, the sharing of data with third parties, and the collection of information. In addition, the FTC is also fighting to keep its data-security powers alive at all as it is being challenged by Wyndham Hotels. Lastly, professionals are predicting the the FTC will be successful and advertisers will under increased regulatory scrutiny and inventive litigation as privacy rights continue to evolve.

2.  Sweepstakes via social media

The increased focused on this subject heightened in the end of 2014 as Facebook changed its policy to forbid advertisers from making fans “like” their page for access to specific content or to enter a contest. (This is commonly referred to as “like-gating.”) As law enforcers are increasingly viewing “like gating” and similar behavior as product endorsement, additional legal requirements (such as disclosure agreements) may be in order.

3. Rise in false-advertising litigation

After many faslse-advertising cases in 2014, the Court pass the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act gives brands a powerful weapon to bring false-advertising claims against competitors. This act was coupled with a March decision that allows parties to sue under the Lanham Act beyond just direct competitors. Experts predict that this will likely lead to an uptick in false-advertising litigation in the coming months.

4. Celebrity Endorsements 

Social media has fundamentally changed the relationship between brands and celebrities. After many issues, the FTC is keeping a closer eye on celebrity endorsements, both on the part of celebs and the brands. There is an increase need for both parties to disclose any and all affiliation to avoid legal implications. At the same time, brands need to be pay close attention to not use images of celebrities without their permission, as Duane Reade

Read more here.

Why It’s Hot

Perhaps this is not the entertaining but as regulatory scrutiny grows in the advertising space, it is imperative that professionals are aware to best advise our clients.



The (Potentially Serious) Repercussions of a “Like”

General Mills, the maker of major global brands like Cheerios, Bisquick and Betty Crocker may have bit off more than they could chew (yes, pun intended) with some stealthy new conditions written into their digital corporate policies this past Tuesday.

Under the new terms, consumers who perform digital activities like download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, or enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes withdraw their right to sue General Mills. And according to the New York Times, “Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.”



Further, “The change in legal terms, which occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers.” The move follows a precedent set in 2011, with a Supreme Court decision found in favor of AT&T Mobility to “forbid class-action lawsuits with the use of a standard-form contract requiring that disputes be resolved through the informal mechanism of one-on-one arbitration.”

Why It’s Hot

Frankly, it’s not. But it’s incredibly important to consumers and marketers alike. When considering the nature of General Mills’ products–edible and potentially lethal if an allergic reaction occurs–this revision is significantly broadening the precedent set forth. Moreover, the provisions put a “choke hold” of sorts on any consumer who is purported to receive a “benefit” from General Mills or any of its brands, regardless of whether the company is at fault or liable for the would be damages in a lawsuit. And as marketing terms and conditions continue to morph in the digital landscape, marketers need to be cautious about the legal ramifications that engagement may now have. The ripples across sites and properties could be enormous and seriously impact who we market, serve, and interact with brands online.