Social Networking Explodes and The Law Will Follow - Technologist
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Social Networking Explodes and The Law Will Follow

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Last week, I told you about how college admissions offices are considering the social networking pages of prospective applicants.  I now am here to report that social networking is not a passing fancy; indeed, the time spent by Americans on social networking sites is increasing dramatically.  And, of course, where people go, the law will follow.

According to a recent report from Nielsen Online, the time that Americans spend on social networking sites is up a staggering 83% from just one year ago. 
Facebook has become the dominant social networking site, with total user minutes on the site at 13,872,640 for April 2009, up 699% from 1,735,698 comparable minutes in April 2008.

Twitter is coming on like gangbusters, with total user minutes increasing a phenomenal 3,712% from 7,865 in April 2008 to 299,836 in April 2009.

Meanwhile, while total user minutes for Myspace comes in at a hefty 4,973,919 for April 2009, this is down 31% from 7,254,645 in April 2008, perhaps because of the surge in use of sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The Nielsen Online report plainly shows an overall increase in social networking time spent by Americans over the past year.  It is very possible that this trend will continue.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that where people congregate, some disputes ultimately emerge.  Social networking interactions therefore will not be free of friction and conflict.

As social networking increases, we probably will see a rise in lawsuits related to social networking communications and exchanges.

Inevitably, we will see lawsuits where people allege that they have been defamed by false information about them posted on social networking pages.  There also are bound to be lawsuits concerning alleged invasion of privacy having to do with the posting of revealing photos and videos without consent.  

In addition, lawsuits alleging the improper revelation of trade secrets and intellectual property on social networking pages could come out of the woodwork.  And, we very well may see cases in which there are allegations of harassment, intimidation and hate speech on social networking pages.

Indeed, practically the full gamut of allegations that can be made in the real world might find their way into the social networking world of Cyberspace.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes.  His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com.  To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.

This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.