What Companies Can Do Before and After the Tweet Hits the Fan
Arent Fox LLP Senior Policy Analyst Sen. Byron Dorgan and IP Partner Pamela Deese were featured guests on a March 12 episode of "What’s Working in Washington," a weekly podcast focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and policy.
What Should I Know?
The podcast touched on a number of important topics. The key takeaways included:
- When President Donald Trump tweets, it has the power to shape markets and move public opinion. When the subject of a tweet is a company or an organization, it can have an immediate and lasting impact. Pam Deese noted that one of the protections any president enjoys is immunity, which typically shields them from civil suit or criminal prosecution. However, the Supreme Court has said that sitting presidents are amenable to lawsuits that don’t involve actions taken in their official capacity. That may provide little recourse for companies and individuals who are the subject of President Trump’s tweets. "If he were a private citizen making these kind of comments, there absolutely would be recourse and potential remedies," she said. Interestingly, use of the President’s tweets as evidence of intent is part of the ACLU’s challenges to the President’s immigration orders.
- Historically, any information to come out of the White House has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed by several official channels. Not so when President Trump is tweeting from his personal twitter account. With Trump, the rules have fundamentally changed. "A President tweeting something that is demonstrably untrue and standing by it is an activity we have never seen before," Sen. Dorgan said.
- Businesses have a lot at stake. Sen. Dorgan recalled the time Syrian hackers fired off a fake tweet from the Associate Press’ Twitter account that falsely claimed Barack Obama was injured amid two explosions at the White House. It was reported that the AP’s false tweet wiped $136 billion from the S&P 500 index in about two minutes and caused a 143-point fall in the Dow Jones industrial average. "There are consequences in a lot of different ways," Sen. Dorgan said.
- Preparing strategically with a corporate team that includes legal counsel for the possible tweet or other internet threat is critical to any company or organization to avoid the inevitable panic that ensues.
- For companies seeking to connect with consumers, Sen. Dorgan says "knowing who your audience is and then providing quality communications to them [is the] best antidote."
Who Was Talking?
Senator Byron Dorgan is a senior policy advisor at Arent Fox and serves as co-chair, along with Phil English, of the firm’s government relations practice. Senator Dorgan served in the US Senate leadership for 16 years, first as Assistant Democratic Floor Leader and then as Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. He has had a prolific career in public service at both the state and federal levels. He served as the elected State Tax Commissioner for the state of North Dakota followed by 12 years in the US House of Representatives and 18 years in the US Senate.
Pamela Deese is a partner in the intellectual property group. Her practice focuses on intellectual property licensing, brand management, sweepstakes and advertising. Pam’s intellectual property representation includes counseling IP owners in developing strategic licensing programs,. Her work involves the creation, negotiation and enforcement of licenses and related agreements, as well as representation in regulatory approval proceedings, standards, audit support and analysis, import/export and counterfeiting issues, privacy, review of advertising and promotional materials (for regulatory compliance), sweepstakes and promotions, celebrity endorsements and litigating related business disputes. Pam also serves as an adjunct member of the faculty of American University’s Washington College of Law, where she teaches IP Licensing.