Friday Tech Policy News (02-12-2021)

Section 230

How To Think About Online Ads And Section 230 There’s been a lot of consternation about online ads, sometimes even for good reason. The problem is that not all of the criticism is sound or well-directed. Worse, the antipathy towards ad tech, regardless of whether it is well-founded or not, is coalescing into yet more unwise, and undeserved, attacks on Section 230 and other expressive discretion the First Amendment protects. If these attacks are ultimately successful none of the problems currently lamented will be solved, but they will create lots of new ones.READ MORE
Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 As the lead staffer for Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) on Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TA96), I often smile when people “correct” me to explain that Section 230 wasn’t part of TA96, but rather part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). READ MORE
Court Grants Google’s Motion to Dismiss Google Play “Loot Box” Suit On Wednesday, Judge Beth Labson Freeman of the Northern District of California issued an order granting Google’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it relating to so-called “loot boxes” found in some video games on Google Play. READ MORE
Democrats take first stab at reforming Section 230 after Capitol riots The SAFE TECH Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), would overhaul Section 230 to the Communications Decency Act, a law that protects large tech platforms from liability over the content posted by their users. The Democrats’ bill would open new pathways for users to sue companies if content posted on their platforms threatens them personally with harassment, discrimination, or other forms of abuse. READ MORE

Content Moderation

EU Data Watchdog Wants Digital Services Act To Prohibit Targeted Advertising (EurActiv) — The European Union should prohibit targeted advertising as part of new rules against Big Tech platforms in the bloc’s Digital Services Act, the EU’s institutional data protection watchdog has said. READ MORE
Facebook, Instagram ramp up removal of hate speech, bullying content Facebook has removed 26.9 million pieces of hate speech content in the fourth quarter of 2020 — up from 22.1 million in Q3 and the company gives credit to improvements in its automated systems that catch and purge such comments. READ MORE
No Parler? No problem: Where Trump’s QAnon Twitter mob went next Banished from Twitter and Facebook, the more extreme end of the Donald’s believers found an accommodating home in Parler: until it got shut down. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of options. Far from it, says Jack Kessler. READ MORE
Donald Trump’s Twitter Ban Will Stand Even If He Runs For, Wins Political Office Again – CFO Twitter chief financial officer Ned Segal said Donald Trump’s permanent ban from the service would remain permanent even if the former president ran for office and again and even if he won. READ MORE
Facebook Oversight Board says other social networks ‘welcome to join’ if project succeeds In a conversation hosted by the Carnegie Endowment Thursday, Oversight Board co-chair and former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt painted a more expansive vision for the group that could go beyond making policy decisions for Facebook. READ MORE
Empirical Evidence of Over-Removal By Internet Companies Under Intermediary Liability Laws: An Updated List Most intermediaries offer legal “Notice and Takedown” systems – tools for people to alert the company if user-generated content violates the law, and for the company to remove that content if necessary. Twitter does this for tweets, Facebook for posts, YouTube for videos, Google for search results, local news sites for user comments, etc. National law varies in terms of what content must be removed, but some version of Notice and Takedown exists in every major legal system. Companies receive a remarkable mix of requests – from those identifying serious and urgent problems, to those attempting to game the Notice and Takedown system as a means to silence speech they disagree with, to those stating wildly imaginative claims under nonexistent laws. READ MORE
[New Study] Liability of Online Platforms (EU) The study drafts policy options for an efficient EU liability regime: (i) maintaining the status quo; (ii) awareness-raising and media literacy;
(iii) promoting self-regulation; (iv) establishing co-regulation mechanisms
and tools; (v) adopting statutory legislation; (vi) modifying OPs’ secondary
liability by employing two different models – (a) by clarifying the
conditions for liability exemptions under e-Commerce Directive, or (b) by
establishing a harmonised regime of liability. READ MORE


CASE-ing the Joint: The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (CAA). The headlines focused on the $600 relief checks that will be sent to help people who have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; but the massive legislation contains at least 121 different Titles stuffed into 32 Divisions. Among them is a single section (Division Q, Title II, section 212) enacting the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, or CASE Act. The CASE Act adds a new Chapter to the Copyright Act (Chapter 15) containing eleven sections. Here is a detailed summary of its provisions: READ MORE

Copyright Holders Asked Google to Remove 5 Billion ‘Pirate’ Links Google reached a new milestone this week after processing the five-billionth takedown request from copyright holders. The majority of the reported ‘pirate links’ were removed from search results, but certainly not all. We take a closer look at some of the key statistics and how takedown trends evolved over time. READ MORE


Virtual(ly) Law: the Emergence of Law in LambdaMoo: Mnookin This is a super fascinating throwback detailing content moderation on LambdaMoo (written in 1996!). READ MORE

Network Neutrality and the First Amendment With the Section 230 debate heating back up again, I recently found a need to understand the common carrier arguments put forth during the Net Neutrality debates in 2015. The key Q now is whether the government could moderate social media companies, without infringing on their First Amendment rights, in the same way they could regulate Internet Access Providers. This law review article does a great job of outlining the key issues and cases surrounding the NN/1A debate. READ MORE

Are Social Media Services “State Actors” or “Common Carriers”? Yesterday, Prof. Eric Goldman did a videoconference with Prof. Eugene Volokh (UCLA Law) discussing if and how legislatures could regulate Internet services. READ MORE

Upcoming Events

If Congress Overhauls Section 230 to Make Platforms More Liable for User Speech, What Will Change? THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2021 – 12:00 PM TO 1:00 PMEST
Virtual Webinar READ MORE

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