As 2013 draws to a close, it’s a good idea to take a look back at some of the major trends in social media law over the past 12 months and use them as a possible predictor for what 2014 may hold in store.
1. Precedent-Setting Cases Continue
Since social media is relatively new—Facebook just celebrated its first full decade of existence—new social media case law and ground-setting precedents are springing up right and left. This trend will not only continue throughout the next year, but is likely to further solidify the establishment of social media law as its own specialty.
2. Increased Emphasis on Establishing Boundaries
In the social sphere, where is the line drawn between personal privacy and public activity? This is a question that will continue seeing further refinement over the next year, following in the trends of such cases as Bland v. Roberts, which established the act of hitting the Facebook ‘like’ button as free speech that’s protected under the first amendment.
3. Intellectual Property Crackdown
Social media sites make it a snap to share content that is typically produced by other entities, whether that takes the form of articles, photos or videos. While many companies view this as free advertising, others have concerns over intellectual property infringement. Will 2014 be the year that this aspect of social media law is finally settled?
4. Challenges in Data Preservation
The recent surge in popularity of SnapChat, particularly among teens, is largely due to its ephemeral nature. Users love that they can send a photo that essentially self-destructs in just a few seconds, leaving no trace behind. This growing trend indicates the push toward leaving a smaller digital footprint, or at least a less traceable one. If other social media platforms follow SnapChat’s lead, data preservation will become a tremendous challenge in social media law.
5. Law Enforcement Finally Embraces Social Media
While some law enforcement organizations have found ways to make social media work for them, others are still on the fence… or stuck in the dark ages. With a growing number of cases ranging from custody law to wrongful termination suits relying on evidence gathered from social media profiles and platforms, 2014 might be the year that law enforcement as a whole finally sees the benefits of gathering evidence via social media.
6. More Privacy, Not Less
The last few years have seen an increased blurriness between personal and professional lives, with some employers going so far as to demand Facebook passwords from potential job applicants as part of the hiring process. The tide seems to be turning back toward a demand for privacy from private citizens, which will likely be one of the prime battlefields for social media law cases in 2014.