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Thursday, October 31, 2013

84% of Local Governments Have a Social Media Presence

According to a recent study conducted by the International City/County Managers' Association (ICMA), 84% of local governments responding to the survey have a social media presence.  The benefits of social media for governments include the ability to quickly and inexpensively communicate on upcoming meetings, activities, events, and projects important to residents and others.  
 
You can read more about the survey on the ICMA website at Eighty-four Percent of Local Governments Have a Social Media Presence | icma.org.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ethical Advertising Rules Apply to Lawyer's Blogs

Lawyers are subject to a variety of rules of professional conduct, including restrictions on advertising.  These rules of professional conduct differ from state-to-state, and are often enforced by the state supreme court, state bar association, or state attorney disciplinary commission or association. 
 
The Virginia Supreme Court recently considered a case involving a state bar association investigation of an attorney's blog where the author discussed a variety of legal issues and cases.  Most of the cases discussed on the blog involved cases in which the attorney obtained favorable results for his clients.  The state bar association had ruled that the blog constituted advertising under the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and violated three separate professional rules of conduct.  First, the bar association determined that the blog violated Rule 7.1 of the Virginia rules prohibiting a lawyer from making "a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services."  Second, the attorney violated Rule 7.2 because his blog posts about specific client results did not include prominent disclaimers.  Third, the bar found a violation of Rule 1.6 on the grounds that he disseminated client confidences without their consent. Based on these three violations, the bar association ordered the attorney to remove case-specific content for which he had not received client consent and to post a disclaimer on all case-related posts
 
The attorney appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals, claiming that the blog constituted political speech, not commercial speech, so it was not subject to the advertising requirements. The court of appeals overturned the bar's ruling that the blog violated Rule 1.6, finding that the information was all public information and the attorney had First Amendment rights to report on what happened in a courtroom.  However, the court of appeals did find that the blog posts were commercial, rather than political, speech and required the attorney to post the following disclaimer:  "Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case.  Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case."
 
On appeal, the supreme court agreed with the court of appeals that the attorney did not violate client confidentialities in reporting on public case information.  The court also affirmed the court of appeals ruling that the speech was commercial, not political, and therefore subject to the advertising requirements.   The supreme court also upheld the disclaimer requirement for case-related posts. 
 
The attorney appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied certiorari. 
 
You can read the case here, and a detailed analysis of the case on the American Bar Association's website

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Advertising and Promotions on Social Media

The cover article in this month's Practical Law The Journal, Transactions & Business (October 2013) is definitely worth a read for corporations and other businesses using social media to advertise or promote their business and activities.  The author of the article titled "Advertising and Promotions in Social Media" is Gonzalo E. Mon, a lawyer practicing in the area of advertising law. 
 
The article acknowledges the benefits of social media marketing, including reaching a larger audience more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional advertising.  The bulk of the article, however, cautions companies advertising their goods and services or running a marketing promotion about the risks and potential liability associated with advertising and marketing in social media.  These risks include legal issues relating to advertising claims and disclosures, endorsements and testimonials, and contests and sweepstakes, among others. 
 
The article states two basic principles of advertising law:
 
  1. Advertisers must have a reasonable basis to substantiate the claims they make in their ads.
  2. If disclosures are required to prevent a misleading ad, they must appear in a clear and conspicuous manner.
The article includes a number of tips for social media promotions, including the following:
 
"Planning Promotions in Social Media
 
When planning a promotion in social media, companies should:
  • Ensure compliance with contest or sweepstake laws, as applicable
  • Ensure compliance with any rules established by the platform on which the promotion will run
  • Think through the potential legal and other issues and take steps to guard against them.
  • Consider the Risks and benefits of turning over some control to customers
  • Enter into contracts with any third parties that may be assisting the company with any aspects of the promotion" (Gonzalo E. Mon, "Advertising and Promotions in Social Media," p. 50)
The most valuable tip provided in this article is that companies must remember that laws governing ads and promotions apply equally to social media advertising as the laws apply to other platforms.
 

Disclaimer

Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content of this blog may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer.