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Scouts BSA Seek To End Girl Scouts' Trademark Lawsuit By Brazenly Claiming No Confusion Does Or Will Exist

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We've been covering the lawsuit brought by The Girl Scouts of America against Scouts BSA, formerly The Boy Scouts of America, for some time. In the two posts that covered the suit, the GSA has alleged all kinds of very real confusion in the marketplace for female scoutting as a result of the branding change by Scouts BSA, which include:

-“As a result of Boy Scouts’ infringement, parents have mistakenly enrolled their daughters in Boy Scouts thinking it was Girl Scouts,” the lawyers said, adding that this never occurred before 2018.-The lawyers said Boy Scouts councils in Illinois acknowledging improperly using the Girl Scouts’ slogan in Cub Scout recruiting materials and pictures of Girl Scouts to promote a Boy Scouts “Scouts Sign-Up Night!”-They said a western Massachusetts Boy Scouts council posted a recruiting flyer on Facebook including a photograph of a girl depicted in her Girl Scouts Brownie uniform.-Meanwhile, Ohio Boy Scouts used the Girl Scouts trademark to try to get a local newspaper to write an article, suggesting a storyline entitled “Boy and Girl Scouts Looking for Members” even though the recruitment involved only the Boy Scouts, the lawyers said.-Minnesota families looking to sign up their girls were erroneously told the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts have merged. Meanwhile, in Indiana and South Dakota, some parents mistakenly signed up their daughters to girls’ programs in the Boy Scouts.
Those appear to be verifiable, real-world claims of confusion as a result of the BSA rebranding to a more generic name, all in the context of a world where the BSA and GSA have long been separated along gender lines. Why it should be any surprise that confusion exists here is beyond me. It seems like roughly the most predictable thing in the world to have happened, particularly when you account for the actions of local Scouts BSA organizations that seemed to actively attempt to instill such confusion.In fact, perhaps the most surprising thing now is that Scouts BSA is asking a judge for a summary judgement that no confusion has or will exist.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan will hear oral arguments on the Boy Scouts' motion for summary judgment, in which it argued that rebranding as "Scouts BSA" and advertising to girls won't cause confusion with the Girl Scouts.The Boy Scouts said in a statement that it has been clear that the groups are separate organizations, and trusts that "families choose organizations for their children with great care." Rachel Kassabian of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represents the Boy Scouts.
This is belied, again, by the examples of confusion that have not been specifically refuted as well as some of the confusion-inducing actions taken by Scouts BSA local chapters. It's also a simple matter to remind the public that the BSA has itself been extremely protective of all manner of its IP in the past, making this not solely a story about spurious claims of non-confusion, but also one of hypocrisy.We'll await the ruling by the judge on this motion, but it would be very strange if Scouts BSA prevailed.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Content Moderation Case Study: Twitter Removes 'Verified' Badge In Response To Policy Violations (2017)

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Summary: Many social networks have enabled users to use a pseudonym as their identity on that network. Since users could use whatever name they wanted, they could pretend to be someone else, creating certain challenges for those platforms. For example, for sites that allowed such pseudonyms, how would they identify who the actual person was and who was merely an impostor? Some companies, such as Facebook, went the route of requiring users to use their real names. Twitter went another way, allowing pseudonyms.But what can a company do when there are multiple accounts of the same, often famous, person?In 2009, Twitter began experimenting with a program to “verify” celebrities.The initial intent of this program was to identify which Twitter account actually belongs to the person or organization of that Twitter handle (or name). Twitter’s announcement of this feature explains it in straightforward terms:

With this feature, you can easily see which accounts we know are 'real' and authentic. That means we've been in contact with the person or entity the account is representing and verified that it is approved. (This does not mean we have verified who, exactly, is writing the tweets.)This also does not mean that accounts without the 'Verified Account' badge are fake. The vast majority of accounts on the system are not impersonators, and we don't have the ability to check 100% of them. For now, we've only verified a handful of accounts to help with cases of mistaken identity or impersonation.
From the start, Twitter denoted “verified” accounts with a, now industry-standard, “blue checkmark.” In the initial announcement, Twitter noted that this was experimental, and the company did not have time to verify everyone who wanted to be verified. It was not until 2016 that Twitter first opened up an application process for anyone to get verified.A year later, in late 2017, the company closed the application process, noting that people were interpreting “verification” as a stamp of endorsement, which it had not intended. Recognizing this unintended perception, Twitter began removing verification checkmarks from accounts that violated certain policies, starting with high-profile white supremacists.
While this policy received some criticism for “blurring” the line between speakers and speech, it was a recognition of the concerns about how the checkmark was seen as an “endorsement” of someone whose views and actions (even those off of Twitter) were not those Twitter wished to endorse. In that way, the removal of the verification became a content moderation tool for a type of subtle negative endorsement.Even though those users were “verified” as authentic, Twitter recognized that being verified was a privilege and that removing it was a tool in the content moderation toolbox. Rather than suspending or terminating accounts, the company said that it would also consider removing the verification on accounts that violated its new hateful conduct and abusive behavior policies.Company Considerations:
  • What is the purpose of a verification system on social media? Should it just be to prove that a person is who they say they are, or should it also signal some kind of endorsement? How should the company develop a verification system to match that purpose? 
  • If the public views verification as a form of endorsement, how important is it for a company to reflect that in its verification program? Are there any realistic ways to have the program not be considered an endorsement?
  • Under what conditions does it make sense to use removal of verification as a content moderation tool? Is removing verification an effective content moderation tool? If not, are there ways to make it more effective?
Issue Considerations:
  • What are the consequences of using the verification (and de-verification) process as a content moderation tool to “punish” rule violators?
  • What are both the risks and benefits of embracing verification as a form of endorsement?
  • Are there other subtle forms of content moderation similar to the removal of privileges like the blue checkmark, and how effective can they be?
Resolution: It took many years until Twitter reopened its verification system, and then it did so only in a very limited manner. The system has already ran into problems, as journalists discovered multiple fake accounts that were verified.However, a larger concern over the new verification rules is that it allows for significant subjective decision-making by the company over how the rules are applied. Activist Albert Fox Cahn explained how the new program is making it “too easy” for journalists to get verified but “too difficult” for activists, showing the challenging nature of any such program.
“When Angela Lang, founder and executive director of the Milwaukee-based civic engagement group BLOC, decided to get a checkmark, she thought, ‘I've done enough. Let’s check out how to be verified.’ Despite Lang and BLOC’s nationally recognized work on Black civic engagement, she found herself shut out. When Detroit-based activist and Data 4 Black Lives national organizing director Tawana Petty applied, her request was promptly rejected. Posting on the platform that refused to verify her, Petty said, ‘Unbelievable that creating a popular hashtag would even be a requirement. This process totally misses the point of why so many of us want to be verified.’ Petty told me, ‘I still live with the anxiety that my page might be duplicated and my contacts will be spammed.’ Previously, she was forced to shut down pages on other social media platforms to protect loved ones from this sort of abuse.“According to anti-racist economist Kim Crayton, verification is important because ‘that blue check automatically means that what you have to say is of value, and without it, particularly if you’re on the front lines, particularly if you’re a Black woman, you’re questioned.’ As Lang says, ‘Having that verification is another way of elevating those voices as trusted messengers.’ According to Virginia Eubanks, an associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, SUNY, and author of Automating Inequality, ‘The blue check isn't about social affirmation, it’s a safety issue. Someone cloning my account could leave my family or friends vulnerable and could leave potential sources open to manipulation.’” — Albert Fox Cahn
Originally published to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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