Friday Tech Policy News (2-18-2021)

A round-up of tech policy news I’ve been following throughout the week

Section 230

Democrats split over plan to require greater censorship of ads in Section 230 overhaul
Senate Democrats are split on new legislation that could force tech companies to censor online ads in the hopes of curbing misinformation and fraudulent claims. The bill is part of an effort to reform legal protections for online platforms such as Facebook and Google, which carry a majority of the ads online. READ MORE
If We’re Going To Talk About Discrimination In Online Ads, We Need To Talk About Roommates.com It has been strange to see people speak about Section 230 and illegal discrimination as if it were somehow a new issue to arise. In fact, one of the seminal court cases that articulated the parameters of Section 230, the Roommates.com case, did so in the context of housing discrimination. It’s worth taking a look at what happened in that litigation and how it bears on the current debate. READ MORE
Six Principles for Misunderstanding Free Speech and Section 230
As Parler returns to the internet via friendly webhosts and domain registrars shielded by Section 230, we continue to believe that critics of the legislation have things exactly backwards: Section 230 has been, and continues to be, a tremendous boon to free speech. READ MORE
The Great War, Part 1: The Internet vs Democracy
The first slice of the multi-dimensional war for the future of internet governance I will examine is best framed as “The Internet vs Democracy.” In this story, the terrifying villain is the business model of targeted advertising, enriched by decades of largely unchecked data collection and behavioral profiling. READ MORE

Section 230 Applies to Articles by Huffington Post Contributors–Page v. Oath
The plaintiff is Dr. Carter Page, who gained notoriety from his alleged role in Trump’s interactions with Russia, including multiple references in the Steele dossier. In 2017, he sued Oath (as owner of Yahoo and Huffington Post) for defamation over 11 articles, 4 of which were written by staffers and 7 of which were written by third-party contributors. Page initially sued in federal court, but that was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. He refiled the defamation claims in Delaware state court. The court says “the law and its application is for me straightforward” and grants Oath’s motion to dismiss. READ MORE

Section 230 Protects App Store from Liability for Apps With Loot Boxes–Coffee v. Google
Many video games have loot boxes, where players can exchange valuable consideration (like in-game currency purchased for cash) for a chance to win something really valuable to gameplay. Because loot boxes may involve chance, consideration, and prizes, loot boxes may look like gambling. READ MORE

Content Moderation

Tech giants list principles for handling harmful content
Nine of the world’s biggest tech companies have come together to establish an industry framework for handling harmful content and conduct online. READ MORE
Facebook will block Australian users and publishers from sharing news links in response to new bill
Facebook has decided to block both Australian users and media companies from sharing links to news articles and related content on its main social network, following the country’s proposed landmark regulatory measure that would force tech giants to pay Australian news organizations for using their content. READ MORE
Facebook’s Australian media ban is taking down official government pages
The Facebook pages of many Australian government agencies seem to have been caught up in the social media network’s ban on news posts by users and media organizations in the country. Users on Twitter have reported that the pages of agencies like the Bureau of Meteorology, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia, and Queensland Health have no posts available. READ MORE
The Bizarre Reaction To Facebook’s Decision To Get Out Of The News Business In Australia
None of this should have been a surprise. Back in September we wrote about Facebook publicly saying that if Australia went forward with its ridiculous attack on the open internet, and instituted a “news link tax” on Facebook and Google, that it would block news links on Facebook in Australia… and basically everyone ignored it. READ MORE
How To Fight Deplatforming: Decentralize
Meet the visionaries building a new, un-censorable, peer-to-peer web using the tools of encryption and cryptocurrency. READ MORE
3 surprising facts about Parler being back online
As far as controversial apps go, last year was a busy time for regulators, consumers and marketing departments. From the U.S. government threatening to ban viral video platform TikTok to security issues with Zoom, there was a lot to take in. READ MORE
Reddit removed 6% of content on its platform in 2020
Reddit said Tuesday the company removed 6% of the content uploaded to its site last year, up from a little under 5% in 2019. READ MORE
The IRL impact of curbing hate speech online
In the wake of the assault on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump’s personal account, and Google, Apple, and Amazon shunned Parler, which at least temporarily shut down the social media platform favored by the far right. READ MORE
Why Insider ‘Zoom Bombs’ Are So Hard to Stop
WHEN COVID-19 SPREAD globally last spring, it made Zoom an immediate household name. But while the videoconferencing platform offered a lifeline for the socially distanced, it soon suffered rampant intrusions from trolls crashing Zoom calls to insult participants, shout racist slurs, and display obscene images. Even after Zoom password-protected its calls by default, the so-called Zoom-bombing continued. Now one team of researchers has an answer for why many of the measures to secure Zoom calls haven’t stopped the scourge: In many cases—perhaps even most of them—the culprit is someone on the inside. READ MORE

Bonus

How Black Communities Shaped The Internet
Today on Decoder, I’m talking to Charlton McIlwain, a professor of media, culture, and communications at NYU and the author of Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter. The book takes a hard look at the long relationship between the Black community in America and software — including the early pioneers who built online communities in the dial-up era; the relationship between software, the civil rights movement, and policing; and today’s social platforms, which amplify and distribute everything from TikTok dances to the Black Lives Matter movement. READ MORE

5 Reader Comments Just Cost a News Website $124,000
BANGKOK — Like many online news outlets, the Malaysian news site Malaysiakini allows readers to post comments at the bottom of articles. That proved expensive on Friday, when a court ruled that the news site was legally responsible for reader comments deemed insulting to the judiciary. READ MORE

Inside the Making of Facebook’s Supreme CourtOn a morning in May, 2019, forty-three lawyers, academics, and media experts gathered in the windowless basement of the NoMad New York hotel for a private meeting. The room was laid out a bit like a technologist’s wedding, with a nametag and an iPad at each seat, and large succulents as centerpieces. There were also party favors: Facebook-branded notebooks and pens. The company had convened the group to discuss the Oversight Board, a sort of private Supreme Court that it was creating to help govern speech on its platforms. The participants had all signed nondisclosure agreements. I sneaked in late and settled near the front. “Clap if you can hear me,” the moderator, a woman dressed in a black jumpsuit, said. READ MORE

Internet Law Year-in-Review for 2020
[I know 2020 feels like it was 100 years ago, but I’ve been busy in 2021 so far. I did year-end roundups of developments in Section 230 and emoji law.] My top Internet Law developments from 2020: READ MORE

Upcoming Events

The Bad Side of Breaking Up Big Tech
From the House Judiciary Committee’s Report to federal antitrust regulators and state Attorneys General initiating lawsuits against Facebook and Google, more and more of our government officials are once again calling for more aggressive antitrust enforcement to go after large tech businesses. READ MORE
Section 230 Matters
This year is the 25th anniversary of Section 230, and we’re celebrating with a panel discussion and workshop featuring Chris Cox and Senator Ron Wyden, the legislators who wrote the law and got it passed in 1996. READ MORE
If Congress Overhauls Section 230 to Make Platforms More Liable for User Speech, What Will Change?
The debate surrounding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 reached a fever pitch over the past year, with policymakers from both sides of the aisle—including former President Trump and President Biden—calling for change. READ MORE
Join Sen. Amy Klobuchar for a panel on Section 230 and the future of tech
On March 1st at 2PM ET, The Verge will host a forum on the future of the internet, including Section 230 alongside antitrust and competition issues online. We’ll kick off with a keynote from Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of the sponsors of the SAFE TECH Act, discussing how she’s approaching tech regulation across a variety of issues, as well as her agenda for the next congressional term. Then, we’ll be moderating a panel with some of the voices that Section 230 debates often ignore — including nonprofit organizations and smaller online businesses. We’ll be announcing that slate of panelists in the days to come. READ MORE

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