TikTok mania is everywhere

By Andrew Zashin*

Since March of this year, I have received a steady stream of short,
comical videos my friends created and crafted with the assistance of the
social media app TikTok. I assumed this new directorial hobby was the
spawn of quarantine boredom and would quickly fizzle out along with the
app itself. I was wrong.

According to Forbes Magazine, TikTok is
the most downloaded social media app. It is estimated that more than 100
million U.S. citizens have downloaded TikTok since it was introduced to
the United States in 2018. During the first rounds of stay-at-home
orders, however, downloads of the app skyrocketed and new subscribers
keep coming. So, what exactly is TikTok and why has it become so
popular?

TikTok is a social media app that allows subscribers to
create and share videos that are one minute in length or less. TikTok is
different from other more well-known social media apps such as Facebook
in that a TikTok user does not start off by “building” a page. Instead,
when a user first downloads and opens TikTok a host of short length
video appear. The user can then scroll through the various videos or
utilize the search function to discover videos related to a topic of
interest or created by a particular person. The more videos the user
watches, the more the app “learns” through the application of artificial
intelligence what the user likes and thus the more videos of a similar
nature that are presented to the user.

TikTok is also different from the traditional social media apps in
that its primary objective is not to maintain social connections through
the posting of still pictures and written blurbs. Instead, TikTok
encourages users to watch and/or produce artistic video content. As a
result, the vast majority of TikTok videos feature average joes happily
dancing, while often, also lip syncing. Just Google “Ocean Spray Guy”
and you’ll see what I mean. It is this recipe of amusing, creative and
short entertainment baked into in an easily accessible package that has
fueled TikTok’s popularity. However, many politicians, including
President Donald Trump, are not happy about TikTok’s growing presence in
the United States.

In August, the president issued an executive
order prohibiting U.S. companies from advertising with TikTok or
offering TikTok for download via an app store citing national security
concerns so long as TikTok remains with its parent company, ByteDance.
To comprehend the underpinnings of this executive order, it is important
to understand that TikTok was created in China and is owned by
ByteDance, a Chinese company.

Like almost every app, TikTok asks users for access to their cameras,
photos and contacts upon download. TikTok also collects keystroke
patterns with the purpose of better understanding the user. Because
ByteDance is a Chinese company, it could be required to assist in
surveillance and intelligence operations at the direction of the Chinese
government pursuant to Chinese laws. Thus, the fear is that ByteDance
could turn over to the Chinese government a huge swath of data that it
has collected from its U.S. TikTok users; something TikTok has stated
that it has not and will not do.

TikTok is now challenging the
president’s executive order in federal court. On Dec. 8, the U.S.
District Court in Washington, D.C., granted TikTok’s request for a
preliminary injunction which stopped the U.S. Department of Commerce
from implementing the president’s executive order. However, further
litigation may not be necessary if TikTok is able to negotiate a deal
with a U.S. company in which the U.S. company would buy TikTok and its
data. The good news for avid TikTok users, and my familial TikTokers, is
that such negotiations are in the works between TikTok and Walmart.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:08-05:00December 17th, 2020|Social Media|

Take common sense precautions with social media

By Andrew Zashin*

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Although social media has been around for decades, the benefits – and pitfalls – of it continue to make headlines. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest are household names and just a sampling of the many available services. All of this social connectedness has spawned considerable research and opinion, but also some unexpected legal questions.

In relatively recent headlines was the case of a British nature photographer whose equipment captured a number of selfies taken by a group of Celebes crested macaque monkeys. Those images have since been widely distributed and reproduced and a number of lawsuits regarding ownership of their copyright have been fought. The photographer has claimed financial ruin as a result.

In 2014, singer Courtney Love won a landmark suit regarding alleged libel posted on her Twitter account. Ultimately, her statements that her lawyer had been “bought off” were determined by a Los Angeles jury to be untrue, but they did not constitute libel because she did not know them to be untrue at the time she made them.

Earlier this year, a number of so-called celebrity “influencers” were sued for using their social media presence to promote the now-infamous Fyre Festival, allegedly in violation of federal law.

In the context of family law, social media posts have uncovered wrongdoing, including bigamy. Smart litigants and attorneys will mine an opposing party’s social media presence for useful nuggets.

Photos that go viral and become internet memes are especially tricky and their subjects unintentionally find their lives altered in unexpected ways. Sometimes this is for the better (such as “Success Kid,” who was able to leverage his image’s popularity for a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his father’s kidney transplant), but often it is for the worse, when an unflattering image is ridiculed or given a fake backstory and is forwarded by thousands or millions of nameless and faceless strangers.

What does all of this mean to the non-celebrity, non-criminal, non-monkey-photographing person? Here is some food for thought:

Most of us will never have copyright issues from photos that we have taken. Go ahead and post those photos of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and don’t worry if you caught the Cleveland Indians’ logo in your family photo at the ballpark.

Photos taken in public that happen to include bystanders generally will be fine. But, please don’t be like the former model that made headlines and lost gigs for posting negative commentary attached to a photo of someone changing in a gym locker room – a place where people generally have some expectation of privacy.

If you are going to take and use a photograph that you did not create, know that someone else may own the copyright and someone else may take you to task for using it.

Know that you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube and once that image or language is out there in cyberspace, assume it will live on forever (perhaps even in the U.S. Library of Congress)

Always assume that whatever you put out there will have a wider audience than you anticipate. It is impossible to control where the information goes once it is out there, even if your Facebook settings are set at the strictest level.

It’s almost enough to make you want to shut down all your accounts and turn off your devices. Almost. These stories do highlight the importance of taking precautions in posting online, but with precautions, social media can still be a safe place.

2023-11-10T13:38:12-05:00August 18th, 2017|Social Media|

Social networks – an attorney’s new best friend

By Andrew Zashin*

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

A wall post here, a tagged photo there – in a session on Facebook, users are capable of sharing the intimate details of their lives with anyone who is paying attention. If you’re the one posting, expect your soon-to-be-ex’s attorney to be watching closely. A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said that social media is cited in as many as 20% of today’s divorces. Now more than ever, online sharing might just be the reason your relationship status goes from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.”

Think before you click: We often forget that the information posted on Facebook is public. Your information can be accessed and used against you. It’s easy to change your privacy settings to ensure that only your friends see your newest status update, but that doesn’t mean that status won’t fall into the wrong hands. And it isn’t as easy to recognize which of your postings could be incriminating evidence. When it’s just you facing your computer, flaunting your new relationship might feel very good, particularly in the midst of ending a bad relationship But remember when Joseph bragged about his multicolored coat? Don’t make the same mistake. Watch the rants, too.

Posts that can come back to haunt you: A dated photo can prove that you were somewhere you claimed not to be. A comment about your new lover is practically a confession. The trip to Cabo can figure into an assets dispute. And the wild night out can have a judge wondering just how fit a parent you are. Your online postings can even become evidence of infidelity, which could put your character in question when determining matters of custody.

Networking no-no’s: Be cautious of what you post. Disparaging comments about your spouse reflect poorly on you. Watch your friends’ posts. Their references to your wild party could scream “unsuitable” in court. Be especially careful when posting pictures of your children, as your spouse and his or her attorney could twist the meaning of innocent photographs. And if your children are on Facebook, remember they can see your post as well. You want to be especially cognizant of their feelings. You may consider temporarily deleting your social network accounts as a precaution, even if you don’t think there’s anything incriminating.

Sound advice: When interviewing a lawyer, ask about his or her experience with social networking. A good divorce lawyer should know how to make the most of information available on social networking sites in order to advance your legal case. Always bear in mind that honesty is the best policy – in court, of course, and online. Never let online evidence contradict what you have testified to. For example, photos on Facebook of a shiny, new convertible make a financial hardship claim ring hollow. Likewise a LinkedIn profile can bolster your claim that you are looking for work.

Before signing out: Keep in mind that your spouse is just as likely to “overshare” as you are. Then Facebook evidence could work to your advantage. Now that’s worth liking.

*Andrew Zashin writes about law for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is a co-managing partner with Zashin & Rich, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

2023-11-10T13:38:18-05:00October 6th, 2011|Adultery / Infidelity, Divorce, Social Media|

Lynn France Discovers Husband’s Marriage on Facebook

The matter of Lynn France is a disturbing one. Lynn was married to a man whom she
discovered had married another woman from the other woman’s Facebook page! 
The husband, John France, held a press conference and explained that he did not
need a divorce from Lynn because their marriage was defective and therefore
Lynn and he were never really married!  We believe that it is John
France’s legal reasoning and logic that is defective. The “Official Statement” is our firm’s response to that press conference and to John France’s positions. I think that our
statement illuminates the context and explains our positions as well.

– Andrew Zashin
Blog Editor-in Chief

2023-11-10T13:38:18-05:00August 9th, 2010|Marriage, Social Media|
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