In early June, Suffolk University Law School students and faculty visited Twitter’s European headquarters in Dublin, where they met with corporate leaders including Philip Merrills-Dearn, the social network’s associate general counsel and head of legal for Twitter International. The group was already in Ireland for the law school’s comparative and international summer law program at the National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG).

The Twitter visit was part of Suffolk Law Professor Michael Rustad’s course Emerging Issues in E.U. Business Law and Policy. In the course, students looked at social media contracting practices such as Twitter's terms of use.

Twitter’s Merills-Dearn told the group that the company’s legal counsel must not be U.S.-centric, and that his team members are required to bring fluency in an additional language besides English. He also said that Twitter will take positions on issues that don’t affect Twitter directly if they fit in with the company’s ethos. For example, he explained that Twitter filed an amicus brief against the Trump Administration’s travel bans, and will oppose the asdministration’s rules to impose greater surveillance on citizens.

A Suffolk student asked Merrills-Dearn how Twitter has revised its terms of use in response to the European Commission investigation of Twitter and Facebook’s terms of service. The Commission’s goal is to give users greater control over the content they create on social networks as well as make it easier for the authorities to impose constraints and fines on social media companies if they fail to remove illegal content.

Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all been meeting with the Commission to attempt to bring their mass-market contracts into compliance.

Merrills-Dearn explained that even though Twitter is most widely used in the U.S., the company spends a lot of time trying to ensure compliance with overarching Europe-wide principles and also national variations in each country where it operates. Copyright issues are very difficult, and he spends a lot of time working in this area, he added.

Another student asked how social media giants are ramping up for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation that will go into effect on May 25, 2018. The regulation will increase the burden on companies to protect personal data and privacy, including information they glean from tracking a user’s IP address.
Still another student asked about the recent Privacy Shield or Safe Harbor 2.0, an agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. Commission to permit data transfers of personally identifiable data from the E.U. to the U.S.

Merrills-Dearn noted that the Suffolk students offered high quality, internationally aware questions.

Suffolk Law alumnus Lawrence "Larry" Donnelly JD ‘99, an Irish-American attorney and lecturer at NUIG made the connection with Twitter leadership and coordinated the trip. Donnelly has been instrumental in bringing about the Suffolk-NUIG linkage and in organizing the two week program. Donnelly, who lives in Galway, is a regular political commentator on RTÉ Radio 1 and the nightly television news bulletin, RTÉ News on Two. He also has a political column in The Sunday Business Post

Nineteen Suffolk Law students participated in the two week comparative law session, after which seven Suffolk students will work as interns in Ireland at the Irish Law Reform Commission, the Centre for Disability Law, the Rape Crisis Centre and the Children’s Rights Alliance, among others offices.

Professor Sara Dillon, head of international programs at the law school and director of the Galway Program, said that student reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. “Students have been writing notes to me about the charms of Galway, their engagement with the classes, and their great human interactions," she said. "Coupled with high-powered internships—take the Irish Law Reform Commission as an example--the program can be a life-changing opportunity.”

Kelsey Grenham, a 2L, said of the Galway program, “Both classes were extremely interesting, and at the same time contrasted each other in a way that held my attention and kept me intrigued throughout the trip. I had been to Galway before, so I knew I would love the location, but after this program, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else for almost three weeks.”

Grenham said the trip allowed her to form a close bond with many of the other Suffolk students. “I know I will have lasting friendships with them here in Boston,” she said. “We had the perfect amount of time to go on tours, explore Galway, and even spend a night in Dublin.”