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Erin Andrews and the 1st Amendment Under Fire


The FBI is investigating a man who has been accused of making email threats directed at ESPN’s Erin Andrews.  In one writing the man says: “I would like to see if Erin Andrews can dance her way through a hail of gunfire referring to her appearance on Dancing With The Stars.

Guest Blogger: Brian Cuban

I would love to shoot her with a Barrett rifle.” The FBI is apparently reluctant to make an arrest in this matter concerned that the threats constitute protected speech under the 1st Amendment.

I disagree. I believe that his threats constitute unprotected “true threats” that can be prosecuted. What is a true threat? How can we tell the difference between a true threat and what may be 1st amendment protected hyperbole or other speech? Lets start off with the fact that there is nothing political about the threats made against Ms. Andrews. There is some hyperbole (dance through a hail of gunfire) that often distinguishes 1st Amendment protected speech but there are also specifics.  There is nothing being debated that I am aware of.  I doubt anyone laughed at the threats.   Because he said, “I would like to” instead of “I am going to ” Is not necessarily controlling.

What matters in these cases? I like to say that Context is King and intent is queen. What is the context of the statement? A disturbed individual sending at least a dozen e-mails since September threatening Andrews. The e-mails were at first sexual, but the most recent were explicitly violent and “threatened Erin with murder,”. They also had details about location and method. That is the context. He is not emailing her to debate Health Care reform. The intent is to threaten and intimidate. I could go through a primer on the law of true threats. I could cover Watts v. United States, Virginia v. Black or touch on Planned Parenthood v. ACLA and the rest of the muddled states jurisdictional division on what is considered a true threat but there is no need.  It is clear from the context and speech in the emails that the sole intent is to strike fear in the heart of Erin Andrews and put her in specific fear of her safety even referencing her prior stalker episode. Context and intent.  That is not protected speech. That is a true threat. The FBI needs to get off its ass and make an arrest of this whack-job.

Brian Cuban is a Dallas attorney and nationally recognized speaker in the areas of social media and hate speech on the internet. He writes extensively on these subjects on his widely read blog, The Cuban Revolution.
Twitter: @bcuban
Website: www.briancuban.com

Size Matters To Those That Want Size


I was hoping I could get a better title than that but I wanted to also see what kind of Google search results that will provide with giggles late at night.  The reason I wanted to talk about size is because there seems to be a differing opinion as it relates to the size of your Twitter followers.  One of the most attended and best received panels this year at BlogWorld Expo was about the gaming of Twitter and the inflation of follower numbers.  I unfortunately was not able to attend the session as I was otherwise busy with a few things, but I know it did well.

The inspiration behind the panel was why it is a bad idea to inflate or increase your follower numbers just for the sake of a big number.  I was reading Seth Godin’s blog about bullhorns.  Yeah I know he has a way of speaking in metaphors better than anyone.  You have to read the post yourself to get the idea. In the post Seth talk’s about Anil Dash’s recent and often discussed series about being on the suggested user list and why having a million followers on Twitter is actually not really as it seems.  It seems among my brethren in social media and marketing circles that they are shouting from the mountain tops that size doesn’t matter and note that many of which don’t actually have the size spoken of and are not benefiting from Twitter with the same dollars that Kim Kardashian is seeing with her $10,000 per tweet budget.  Are any other people out there with 100 followers making that kind of coin? Not hardly.  Why? Because the size of your bullhorn matters.  If Kardashian get’s 10K how much would Oprah get?  I shudder to think of that amount.

I can remember when people like Jason Calacanis and others were begging to be on the list and others were upset they were not included.  It’s about the numbers.  We all know that size doesn’t matter (it doesn’t right?).  If size doesn’t matter why do companies only want bloggers that have huge traffic numbers, and only pay attention to Twitter people that have large followings?  It is because they can put a metric on it and sell it.

Apparently, it is all about the Twilebrity?

Until we come up with a better metric or until we can stop “measuring”, size will always seem to matter.  To the people that are writing the checks and paying for Tweets or making lists of the tops in Twitter that has the most traffic it does matter.  Now, where did I put that stupid bullhorn?  Sorry Seth, apparently that is the game we are playing and until the rules change, those like you that have the largest will be the winners.

Another Twitter During Conference Opinion


As I continue to hear about problems with Twitter and conferences I think I will make this something I will be asking all of our speakers about for 2010. I am thinking that Twitter will not be anywhere near our stages unless of course the speaker wants this to be a part of their presentation. Chris does a great job with his own conference in Seattle at Gnomedex.

Thanks for your opinion on this Chris. You can read Chris’ post and perhaps give him your thoughts as well. Should Twitter be banned at conferences on stage?

Women in the Blogosphere: More Than Mommy Bloggers


Rosie the Riveter

Back in my blogging heyday, various traffic seeking bloggers inevitably rolled out lists of the “Top Bloggers” for each particular year. Thrown in at the very bottom of these lists, almost as if added in as an afterthought, was the name of a woman or two.

Comments and blog posts ensued. “Where are the women?” they asked.

A flurry of “Top 25 Female Blogger” type posts cropped up in reaction, but no one cared much about them. The important lists were the ones listing Robert Scoble, Darren Rowse and Seth Godin. These lists always irked me. I hated that women were considered “female bloggers” instead of simply ” bloggers.”

As blogging evolved and more women began taking up residence in the social media space, I thought we were over a lot of the inadvertent sexism, but little things continue to happen that make me wonder if women are still perceived differently.

Let me throw out a couple of cases in point:

  • At SXSWi ’09, I attended a  “flash session” made up of community managers from brands such as Best Buy, Jet Blue and Crocs. It was a great and informative session, one of the highlights of the event. However, I wondered why there were no women on the panel. I knew of plenty of community managers from major brands who were attending SXSW – who also happened to be women -so why did the panel only include the guys?
  • AT Blogworld ’08, I attended the highly anticipated super session of “Make Money Online” bloggers including Darren Rowse, John Chow, Jeremy Shoemaker and Brian Clark. However, I wondered why there were no women on the panel. Were none asked?
  • I have been invited to sit in on “Mommy Blogger” panels at various online and offline events. I have a blog and I have a child. However, My child has nothing to do with my writing blog and vice versa. I don’t blog about time outs and dirty diapers, nor am I sponsored by green beans or laundry detergent. Yet, so many people consider me a mommy blogger because I am a mother with a blog. If this is the case, shouldn’t we refer to Brian Clark as a “daddy blogger?”
  • I was invited to be a part of an online radio panel featuring the “Divas of Social Media.” (I blogged about this on my own blog yesterday, so go ahead and skip this item if it’s something you heard before.) Why is it men are called “ninjas” or “gurus” while women are considered “divas” or “darlings.”

I’m not a card carrying member of any women’s liberation group, but that doesn’t mean these little things are any less irritating. As someone who has been blogging as long as some of the “gurus” it’s kind of a pet peeve to see testosterone-laden super sessions and lists of top bloggers. I’m pretty sure the organizers of these events aren’t setting out to disqualify women, but the fact that we don’t automatically come to mind isn’t any less disturbing.

Yesterday’s startling revelation that blogger James Chartrand is really a woman served to stimulate a very important dicussion topic. Is it easier for a man to find a job? Do we take men more seriously as experts?

Is there a glass ceiling in social media?

The other day, Read Write Web came out with a list of social media predictions for 2010.  Click to page two and scroll down a bit and you’ll find “Women will rule social media.”

I’m skeptical.

Will women rule social media because they are making a difference in the space? Or are we ruling social media because we’re the ones who purchase diapers and make the buying decisions as the RWW post hints? If so, we haven’t come very far at all.

What do you think? How are women perceived in the blogosphere and the social media space? Will we ever be seen as anything other than the darlings of the blogosphere?

Deb Ng is a professional blogger and founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs network. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @debng.

Sponsored Conversations: Selling Out or Another Way to Make Money Blogging?


for sale

When I first began blogging five or six years ago, there were plenty of arguments over whether or not bloggers should use ads on their blogs. Those who did were considered sell outs. Then the “make money online craze” hit and everyone was posting ads on their blogs and all of a sudden they weren’t selling out, they were smart. They found a way to earn money without having to ever leave the house.

Enter sponsored conversations. All of a sudden we’re back to being sellouts again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sponsored conversations lately. A couple of months ago, my blog network announced a partnership with a major online content site. Though I was thrilled for the possibilities, some members of my community were not. I was a sell out and a hypocrite. Why? Because I’m looking to earn more than my measly Adsense income?

I have no problem with sponsored posts. They remind of TV’s golden days when Milton Berle pimped Brill Cream during his variety hour. Really, how are sponsored conversations different from product placement in the movies? Where’s the outrage there? In case you’re not familiar, “sponsored conversatio” is a pretty term for “advertisement.” The sponsor is paying me to write up his ad and post it on my blog.

As a Premium Blogger in Izea‘s Social Spark sponsored conversation network, I earned $800 with only two posts.  I mean, why not? I figure as long as I’m not spammy, I let it be known that I’m accepting coin for my efforts and I choose sponsorships that are of interest to my community. Why is it such a terrible thing to write a post in exchange for payment. It’s not like I’m promoting laundry detergent on my freelance writing blog.

I feel that:

  • As long as I rock the disclosure…
  • As long as I don’t spam my community…
  • As long as I choose sponsorship that are on topic…
  • As long as I don’t offend anyone...actually, scratch that. No matter what I do, there’s always someone who is offended.
  • As long as I don’t make every blog posts an advertisement for something or other…

What difference does is make whether or not I accept payment for a sponsored conversation?

What are your thoughts? Is it selling out, or just another way to make money blogging?

United Airlines Sucks!


So back on May 23’rd of this year I was flying home out of Schiphol Airport after two long weeks working two separate trade shows in Europe.  I arrived at the airport almost three hours early and was one of the first in line to check in.

The check in crew showed up all smiles laughing and joking with each other and seemed to really enjoy themselves for about 30 minutes while about 50 people in line watched and wondered why they weren’t taking their stations and helping us.

Finally they open. I get to the counter and asked the United agent if I could change my seat from a window to an aisle. She was very polite but told me the only aisle seats were premium seats and it would cost me 100 + euros to upgrade.  I had a long flight ahead and didn’t want to get stuck in the window like I had on the way over so I agreed and paid the fee to upgrade.

A couple of hours later I get on the plane and notice the plane is more than half empty and there are tons of aisle seats available all over the aircraft.

When we land in Chicago I tell the agent at the gate what had happened. She tells me there is nothing she can do and sends me to another counter.  I talk to the agent there, she says nothing she can do and I will have to call their main number when I get back home. I ask for a supervisor. She comes over, I tell the story for a third time and she tells me there is nothing she can do and turns he back and walks away from me while I am still talking.

I was stunned.  United Airlines just straight up ripped me off! I was going to do this blog post when I got home and tell the story but noticed United was on Twitter. So I sent them a Tweet. Go a reply within a day or so. Told the person the story via DM and never heard back.

Now today I come across this fantastic United Breaks Guitars video.  Dave Carroll who wrote the song and created the video definitely lost more than I did but was basically treated the exact same way.  Dave plans to eventually air three videos and get to one million page views. He is already over 200,000 page views (and nearly 2,500 comments) in two days so I think its a pretty safe bet he is going to make this goal. I for one will do everything I can to help him get there and hope Dave is able to come play this song live at BlogWorld in October. Maybe Dave could use several thousand of us all singing the “United Breaks Guitars” chorus together and use it in one of his videos?.

Do you have a story to tell about how United gave you the short end of the stick?

If so please leave a comment below or send us a link to your own post and we will link back to you here.

If any of you have ever heard my Social Media 101 talk you have heard me say “If you treat your customers badly then you deserved to be punished for it and social media allows your customers to do that”.
Well United you deserved to be punished for your actions but take heart. Social media also allows you to make up for your poor service and complete disregard for your customers like Dave and my welfare and do it in a very public way.

I for one am not to proud to forgive and Dave strikes as the forgiving kind of guy as well. Hell he gave you nine months to try and make it right!

btw, you can read the full story on Dave Carroll’s website here.

So what’s your United Airlines customer service nightmare story?

I know lots of you have them.

Want More Twitter Followers? Pay For Them!


usocial We’re living in a world where the more people you’re connected to on the internet, the more successful you are most likely going to be when it comes to your business enterprises.  The problem for a lot of people, however, is that they just aren’t connected to that many people, and getting more of those connections can be a real pain.

Take Twitter, for example, the way it works is that you follow people’s Tweets that you are interested in, and in return, other people can follow you if they are also interested in you.  The more followers you have, the more people instantly hear exactly what you’re doing, exactly when you’re doing it.  For businesses, or someone who’s trying to market themselves or a product, the ability to reach a ton of people can be priceless…or is there a price?

Looks like there just might be, and we just caught wind of a new service called uSocial that actually offers up packages to help you boost your followers.  Yes, you heard me right, they have a service that helps you suck in and capture huge increases in Twitter followers so that more people are hearing from you, about you, and what you’re trying to market.  To this, I have just one word in response:  Wow.

I am not saying it’s not a great idea, because it really, really is, but I’m just saying Wow.  It seems amazing to me that we’re reaching points where we have to pay for followers.  What’s next, paying for Facebook friends?  The whole idea of a social network, to me, is that you’re socially building your network with people you know and interact with on some level.  Granted on Twitter we’re not always following people we know, and sometimes we even follow celebrities that interest us but still, paying for a package to include more followers just seems, well, odd.  The day we pay for Facebook friends, is the day I drop out of social networking altogether!

Army Lifts Social Media Ban


army-logo Chalk this one up as a victory for the brave men and women around the country that are helping to keep our country completely safe and sound.  Up until this point, due to security concerns and privacy worries by ol’ Uncle Sam, the U.S. Army had blocked the vast majority of all social media and Web 2.0 sites on all of their bases.  That meant, for our soldiers, they had no access to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or Vimeo…the sites that, if we’re honest, steal a great deal of our time on a daily basis.

The good news is that now that the U.S. Army has re-evaluated their stance on it, they’ve decided to lift the social media ban at certain U.S. bases that have most likely passed through the checklists and red tape to make it happen.  According to reports:

“The order was made to “leverage social media sites as a medium to allow soldiers to ‘tell the Army story’ and to facilitate the dissemination of strategic, unclassified information,” the order states. Even before this order, a number of official U.S. Army social media pages were set up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, intended to promote soldiers’ stories to civilians…”

Great news for all the men and women that have been wanting to actually continue their online lives while serving our country.  Apparently this order is not going to work on all Army bases, as some have classified information that they can’t risk getting out, but eventually they have plans to allow this type of thing on all bases.  We’ll see when and if that happens, but the bigger news is just that social media has had this kind of impact, on this broad of a scale.  10 years ago, would anyone have believed the U.S. Army would have a Facebook page?  Nope.

Facebook as Terrorist Recruiting Tool?


Could this be a big ‘uh oh’ for Facebook?  For now it doesn’t look like it, but this recent bout of news does raise some questions as to exactly how Facebook is going to begin addressing some of the more questionable uses of their social networking site.

We all know they were quick to address and shut down two Holocaust groups that sprouted up on their site and were, according to Facebook, spreading hate.  The question is, how is Facebook going to go about addressing the recent news that terrorists might be using their site and service as a recruiting tool to find like-minded individuals.  Can you say Yikes?

According to news that is filtering out of the Middle East:

“Terror groups are turning to Israeli citizens on Facebook and other social networking sites and offering bribes in exchange for information, the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] said on Monday afternoon in a warning issued to the public.”

In addition to trying to uncover information, it appears many people that are suspected in terrorist organizations are tracking other websites and forums in which ex-soldiers frequent, trying to find people willing to divulge information or find new members.  The bottom line is, this is scary and it does raise questions about how Facebook can walk the delicate line between preserving its users privacy and not allowing itself to be used for subversive activities.

How CAN they walk this line?  It’s one thing to deny and shut down groups that are outwardly and publicly announcing their beliefs, but another story entirely when all of this is going on behind the scenes through personal messages and very quiet recruitment.  How should they address this?

Sound off…

Facebook Gives Two Holocaust Denial Groups The Boot


Looks like pressure finally got to Facebook and they did what I am sure the vast majority of people will agree, was the right thing.  Freedom of speech in this country is beyond vital.  The ability to say what we feel, when we feel it without censorship or controlling is one of the things that makes America what it is, and when issues arise that test that, you’re always going to have controversy.  Hopefully Facebooks decision today will put an end to at least some of the controversy as they seem to have their bases covered in why they removed them.

In case you’re a bit out of the loop, Facebook has been receiving pressure from outside sources after some Facebook Group Pages were created that spoke out against the Holocaust and denied it ever occured.  There were two groups in question at the heart of this controversy, “Holocaust is a Holohoax” and “Based on the facts…there was no Holocaust,” and both were removed from Facebook today as it was determined that they were violating Facebook’s Terms of Service allowing messages that spread hate on their Walls.

The issue here is, there are still many groups like this that still exist on Facebook.  According to reports:

“Despite Facebook’s decision to eliminate two Holocaust Denial groups, numerous others remain on Facebook. These groups have names like “Holocaust: A Series of Lies,” “Holocaust is a Myth,” “the holocaust that the Jewish believe in is very big lie,” “Holocaust denial & Anti-Zionism,” three different groups named “F–K Israel And Their Holocaust Bulls–t,” and “1,000,000 for the TRUTH about the Holocaust.””

Why the other groups remain might be questionable to many, but Facebook has said they have to uphold that freedom of speech and these groups, while maybe not extremely popular to many, are merely “engaging in legitimate discourse about a controversial topic.”  Until those groups “cross the line” into hatred, they will do nothing.

All of this is controversial, that much is clear, but it does raise some important questions:  How far should Freedom of Speech go with online social networking?  What should be allowed and what should not?  Isn’t the simple fact that groups exist denying one of the most devestating and tragic events in human history enough to be called hateful?  These are big questions, important questions, and they all need answers.  What do you think?

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