Friday Tech Policy News (03-05-2021)

Leap Year 2021


Utah’s Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Terrible, Censorial ‘Free Speech’ Bill Is A Disaster In The Making A month ago, we noted that a bunch of state legislatures were pushing blatantly unconstitutional bills to try to argue that social media websites can’t moderate “conservative” views any more. All of these bills are unconstitutional, and most are just silly. The latest one comes from Utah — and stunningly seems to have legs as it’s been moving through the Utah legislative process with some amount of speed over the last week or so. READ MORE
Utah Prematurely Tries To Dance On Section 230’s Grave And Shows What Unconstitutional Garbage Will Follow If We Kill It As Mike has explained, just about every provision of the social media moderation bill being proposed in the Utah legislature violates the First Amendment by conditioning platforms’ editorial discretion over what appears on its services—discretion that the First Amendment protects—on meeting a bunch of extra requirements Utah has decided to impose. This post is about how everything Utah proposes is also barred by Section 230, and why it matters. READ MORE
Attorney general espouses social-media-firms bill House Bill 1647 by Rep. Brian Evans, R-Cabot, and Sen. Ricky Hill, R-Cabot, would hold a social media company found to be unfairly removing or flagging social media content in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. READ MORE
Is Section 230 Just For Start-ups? History Says Nope One of the arguments for changing Section 230 is that even if we needed it a long time ago when the Internet was new, now that the Internet has been around for a while and some of the companies providing Internet services are quite big, we don’t need it anymore. This view is simply untrue: Internet service providers of every size still need it, including and perhaps even especially the big ones because they are the ones handling the greatest volume of user expression. READ MORE
Section 230 Covers Republication of Old Yearbooks–Callahan v. Ancestry publishes 450,000 old yearbooks in the form of 730M records that contain, at least, “the person’s name, photograph, school name, yearbook year, and city or town (at the time of the yearbook).” Ancestry doesn’t disclose how it acquires the yearbooks (it does ask for donations, but it’s hard to believe it got 450,000 donations). 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
Podcast: The Ins and Outs of the Section 230 Debate, With Ellysse Dick and Ashley Johnson Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is at the center of a contentious, high-stakes debate about free speech, intermediary liability, and the future of the Internet. Why is a 1996 law so important today? Why have Presidents Biden and Trump both said they want to repeal it? Was it to blame when Twitter and Facebook banned Trump from their platforms, or was it the reason they didn’t ban him sooner? READ MORE
Is The Digital Services Act Going To Make A Huge Mess Of Website Liability In The EU? I’ve been so focused of late on issues related to Section 230 in the US, that I’ve had barely any time to devote to the Digital Services Act in the EU, which is the EU’s ongoing efforts to rewrite intermediary law in the EU. The reports I have followed have been a mix of concerns, with the admission that it at least appeared that EU politicians were trying to get a good grasp on the issues and trade-offs and not rush in with a totally horrible plan. That doesn’t mean the end result is good, but so far it does not appear to be totally disconnected from reality, as with many similar proposals we’ve seen around the globe. READ MORE


Why Facebook is losing the war on hate speech in Myanmar Reuters found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and pornographic images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook. A secretive operation set up by the social media giant to combat the hate speech is failing to end the problem. READ MORE

Dr. Seuss Books Deemed Offensive Will Be Delisted From eBay Online marketplace eBay Inc. EBAY +0.06% said it is working to prevent the resale of six Dr. Seuss books that were pulled earlier this week by the company in charge of the late author’s works because they contain offensive imagery.

New Essay: “The Crisis of Online Contracts (as Told in 10 Memes)” I’m pleased to share my newest essay, “The Crisis of Online Contracts (as Told in 10 Memes),” which describes the “crisis” of overly formalist contract assent doctrines online in a brief, breezy, and (I hope) fun format. The essay’s key novelty is that it’s built around 10 memes I cut-and-paste from the Internet, making it an early example of meme-driven legal scholarship (though not the first–see, for example, the work of Prof. Alexandra Roberts of UNH 1, 2). READ MORE

Fake News Gets More Engagement on Facebook—But Only If It’s Right-Wing IT’S NOT EXACTLY a secret that extreme, less-than-accurate content finds a big audience on Facebook. In the months before last year’s election, the list of most-engaged-with pages on the site was almost always dominated by far-right figures like Dan Bongino and Dinesh D’Souza, who are not known for their fealty to fact-based journalism. An anonymous Facebook executive told Politico last September, “Right-wing populism is always more engaging.” New research released today, however, appears to be the first to show empirically that the relationship between accuracy and engagement varies dramatically based on where the source aligns on the partisan spectrum. READ MORE

Why a YouTube Chat About Chess Got Flagged for Hate Speech LAST JUNE, ANTONIO Radić, the host of a YouTube chess channel with more than a million subscribers, was live-streaming an interview with the grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura when the broadcast suddenly cut out. READ MORE

Legal Challenges Facing Clubhouse in Turkey Clubhouse is a booming new social networking app that recently entered the Turkish market. It is an audio-only platform that allows users to listen and participate in live conversations in temporary chat rooms. Currently, it is the most downloaded social networking app in Turkey’s App Store, and its popularity is growing exponentially in other countries in which it has recently become available, such as Germany and Japan. READ MORE


What can the US learn from our allies on protecting critical infrastructure? As the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House begin to publicly address the SolarWinds compromise, it is essential to think about how to improve cyber defense and resilience of critical infrastructure as part of a holistic effort to improve our national cybersecurity posture. Many of us are familiar with attacks on critical infrastructure in Estonia, Taiwan, and the recent attempts to poison a Tampa Bay area water supply, but over 50 percent of gas, wind, water and solar utilities around the world have experienced at least one cyberattack within the previous year that caused a shutdown or loss of operation data. We are underprepared. READ MORE
The Anticipated Domino Effect: Virginia Passes Second State “Comprehensive” Privacy Law (Guest Blog Post) Virginia has officially become the second state in the country to enact what many have called a “comprehensive” privacy law, the Consumer Data Protection Act (“CDPA”), with Governor Northam’s signature on March 2, 2021. For many of us, this is the anticipated (and slightly pandemic-delayed) beginning of a process we predicted back in 2018, when California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”). READ MORE

Deflating the Presidency: Executive Order 12333 (By SCU Law 2L John Alec Stouras) There are tons of academic papers showing the expansion of the presidency. They often bring up the many executive orders issued by presidents that directly hurt Americans. Executive Orders (E.O.’s) are federal directives that, for brevity’s sake, can be “laws” or policy executions as long as they do not violate the Constitution.  READ MORE
Attention Shoppers! (1997) As is now obvious, the economies of the industrialized nations – and especially that of the US – have shifted dramatically. We’ve turned a corner toward an economy where an increasing number of workers are no longer involved directly in the production, transportation, and distribution of material goods, but instead earn their living managing or dealing with information in some form. Most call this an “information economy.” READ MORE

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