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High Court Spares Backpage Adult Services Ads, but 'Censors Have Prevailed'

For online publishers, the law giveth and the law taketh away.

Just after the U.S. Supreme Court turned back a case challenging federal shield laws for online publisher Backpage, the embattled company shut down its adult services section under pressure from the U.S. Senate.

On Monday, the high court let stand a decision against women who sued Backpage for facilitating child sex trafficking and left in place the Communications Decency Act that has protected website operators from liability for content posted by others. Late Monday, Backpage shuttered its classified ads for adult services amidst Senate allegations that it was involved in online prostitution.

"Backpage's response wasn't to deny what we said. It was to shut down their site," the senators said in a statement. "That's not 'censorship' -- it's validation of our findings."

Scammers Are Phishing for Lawyers Nationwide

How many fake emails does it take to fool a lawyer? And no, this is not a lawyer joke.

Apparently, it takes more than seven states' worth of email because scammers have targeted lawyers across the country and they are not letting up. Attorneys from New York, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Alabama have recently received email with phony threats of lawsuits and disciplinary actions against them. The phishing scam is designed to entice lawyers to click on a link that results in their computers being taken hostage by ransomware.

"Attorneys are receiving email claiming that their business was subject of a complaint for which they have 10 days to respond," New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a press release. "The email includes a hyperlink to the 'complaint' but in reality it links to a website that installs malicious software on the person's computer."

Lawyers know jargon. We've got our alphabet soup of laws and government agencies, our obscure doctrines, our endless, archaic Latin phrases. But even lawyers can be left scratching their heads at the constantly evolving (and sometimes meaningless) stream of tech jargon that can pass their way. We're talking about the startup kids who want your help incorporating a company that will "gamify cross-office collaboration through SoLoMo tech." Or the new law school grad who is so excited to tell you about his project coding "self-enforcing crypto-ledger-based smart contracts."

Are those even words?

Don't Use 'Web Bugs' to Track Email From Opposing Counsel

Remember that email from the wealthy Ethiopian offering to send you $1 million to do a legal transaction?

Hopefully, you didn't respond or open an attachment from some similarly scary source. Not that we lawyers would ever fall for this type of scam, but I am here to tell you there are attorneys out there who send equally pernicious email. And they don't even offer to pay you money!

Online Immunity Threatens Case Against Backpage.com

A prostitute may post a classified ad online, but the online publisher is not responsible for the content. This isn't news, but a judge had to spell it out for prosecutors in Sacramento.

Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman said recently that Backpage.com, which is facing prostitution charges for publishing adult services advertisements, is protected under the Communications Decency Act. Enacted in 1996, the CDA provides civil and criminal immunity to internet service providers and others who republish information online.

Metadata: the Ethics Trap That Could Get You in Trouble

Most people, including lawyers, are at least broadly aware that whenever a document is created, something exists behind the scenes that tracks information related to the creation, editing, and general handling of the document. That "something" is called metadata, and although it's wonderful for engineers and accountants, it can be hell for attorneys.

Here, we go over some of the basic considerations all attorneys must think about when handling client files.

If you want to understand why a federal district court in Oregon ruled that kids could sue over global warming, you've got to look all the way back to shellfish gathering under Emperor Justinian, among other things. Which is to say, to understand the law and how the law works takes a lot of referencing. And the legal system has developed a host of ways to make sure references are cited and explained, from "The Bluebook" tables, to local rules, to Westlaw Next.

And those systems could be in for an update, if some legal innovators have their way.

The Inevitable Finally Happens: U.S. Senate Ditches BlackBerry

We all knew it was only a matter of time before the once dominant BlackBerry would give way to Samsung and Apple devices on Capitol Hill, and it looks like that day is finally here. The U.S. Senate has stopped handing out BlackBerry devices to its staffers, according to Politico. Apparently the launch of the latest BlackBerry device couldn't staunch the winds of change.

No matter for the company's CEO John Chen, who made a promise that the BlackBerry devices would become profitable again.

Another Lawsuit Against Facebook Over 'Material Support' of Terrorism

Another set of survivors have filed suit against Facebook following revelations that Hamas and other terrorist organizations have been recruiting militants via the social media site. We say "another" because suits like this have happened before -- and they're likely to continue as the theory of the law settles.

Does the desire for society to root out terrorists' communication channels necessarily mean a reduction in our speech liberties? Perhaps we'll found out sooner than we wished.

Humanity (and humanity's spambots) send out over 196 billion emails ever day. Your share is probably a few dozen -- maybe 100 or so if you're unlucky. Email has fast become one of the primary ways we communicate, whether it's about mundane lunch plans or sensitive legal topics.

But for all its ubiquity, email sometimes falls short on security, so short that some professional organizations tell their members to stick to the post when dealing with sensitive or confidential information. Here's what lawyers need to know about email security, from the FindLaw archives.