This article was initially published in Doublethink magazine.
Lawmakers are desperately trying to catch up with the newest technologies, because existing laws are no longer adequate to cover how we interact and transact in our online communities. Privacy and copyright laws are lagging behind and courts have to settle disputes with no legal precedents. Keep in mind that in the virtual world, just like in the real one, what could be legal is not necessarily ethical. The Law’s struggle to evolve with technology is manifested regularly on the news with stories ranging from the absurd to the questionable. In March 2012, as a cure for the dangerous distractions of mobile phones, texting while walking was banned in a New Jersey town and police announced that they’ll issue $85 jaywalking tickets to those who’re caught.
Should teachers and students be Facebook friends? Could there be any academic benefits in them doing so? Not according to Missouri legislators who in 2011 passed a law (currently contested) that barred teachers from using websites where they can have “exclusive access” to students of 18 years old or younger, in order to rule out any opportunities for “sexual misconduct.”
Film Still from the Movie L’eclisse, 1962. (via IWDRM.)
If you face online defamation or cyber bullying, and your name is sullied on social networks, who do you turn to and what are your legal rights? When you die, should your Facebook profile be part of your digital property, to which your family and friends could have full access? How about your email account? A legislation has already been passed in Oklahoma to allow handing over social media accounts to the loved ones of the deceased, in light of similar situations to that of Karen Williams. She’s a heartbroken mother who, after her young son’s death, sued Facebook to grant her full access to his account so she’d learn more about her son from his posts, comments and “likes.” Facebook’s policy (once notified that someone has passed away) is to memorialize their account, so their loved ones can leave messages in … Read More