Supreme Court Asks DOJ to Weigh In on Online Speech Laws

The Supreme Court of the United States has delayed its decision in a request to hear three cases that would test the constitutionality of Texas and Florida laws that propose to allow lawsuits on the basis of political censorship by online platforms. Although the cases would not be heard until the court’s next session, which extends into 2024, the laws remain blocked in the interim. Rather than deciding outright whether it will grant certiorari, SCOTUS on Monday asked the Justice Department to file the Biden administration’s position, forestalling immediate deliberations. Continue reading Supreme Court Asks DOJ to Weigh In on Online Speech Laws

Congress Intros Bills to Ban TikTok Due to Security Concerns

The U.S. House and Senate have introduced companion bills to ban TikTok and other apps that censor news, pose threats to the personal data of U.S. citizens and entities or engage in other surreptitious behaviors. The Senate bill, advanced by Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is called the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, an acronym for Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party. The related House bill has bipartisan support from Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois). Continue reading Congress Intros Bills to Ban TikTok Due to Security Concerns

Site Blocking Gaining Steam Globally as Anti-Piracy Measure

A U.S. district judge in New York has established a new front in the anti-piracy war, ruling that a long list of domestic ISPs must block three Israeli websites found to be in violation of copyright law. Judge Katherine Polk Failla ordered the ISPs to block the sites Israeli-TV.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv, and also any domains known to be “used in the future … by any technological means available.” Also affected are web hosting service providers, web designers, domain registrars and advertising companies, now banned from doing business with the sites. Continue reading Site Blocking Gaining Steam Globally as Anti-Piracy Measure

Twitter Accepts Musk’s $44 Billion Offer to Acquire Company

Twitter’s board has accepted billionaire Elon Musk’s offer to purchase the social media company for $44 billion, a financial value that reflects his April 14th offer of $54.20 per share. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, who earlier revealed a desire to make Twitter a private company. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” Continue reading Twitter Accepts Musk’s $44 Billion Offer to Acquire Company

Pew Research Finds Americans Suspicious of AI and Biotech

A Pew Research study finds the public has a cautionary attitude toward artificial intelligence and human enhancements, with concerns about potentially unintended consequences of autonomous machines, and fear of what accelerated change in these areas might mean for society. The survey of more than 10,250 U.S. adults in November 2021 examined opinions of six technologies broken down into two categories: AI and bioengineering, with crossover in the area of AI-enhanced exoskeletons. Across all categories, a majority believe that federal government and “end users” should be involved — along with the creators or inventors — in setting standards. Continue reading Pew Research Finds Americans Suspicious of AI and Biotech

SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced the SMART Copyright Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation they say will “hold tech accountable by developing effective, widely-available measures to combat copyright theft.” While intellectual property owners see the proposal as a positive step to protect creators, critics view it as a potential threat to free speech. Essentially an update to 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, SMART allows the U.S. Copyright Office to create standard technical measures (STMs) to protect rightsholders through a filtering system implemented by online hosting platforms. Continue reading SMART Copyright Act Updates DMCA in Fight Against Piracy

Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has focused attention on its attempts to censor Big Tech, but the nation’s most onerous recent move to control speech came last July, when President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring foreign tech companies with more than 500,000 monthly visitors from within the Russian Federation to establish a physical presence within the country that would be held responsible for violations of local law. Russian authorities have warned companies including Meta, Apple, Google, TikTok and Twitter that they had until the end of February to comply with what has become known as “the landing law.” Continue reading Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Government Questions Liability Shield Offered by Section 230

The U.S. House of Representatives is signaling intent to proceed with legislation to scale back the Section 230 liability shield for Big Tech. The move follows a frontal assault on Australia’s version of the law by the Parliament and global saber-rattling against protections that prevent social platforms being held legally accountable for user-posted content that harms others. At a Wednesday hearing on various Section 230 bills, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) said that while the protections were vital to Internet growth, they have resulted in anti-social behavior. Continue reading Government Questions Liability Shield Offered by Section 230

Microsoft Closing LinkedIn in China, Retooling for Jobs-Only

LinkedIn will shut down its platform in China by the end of the year, the result of “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements.” The Microsoft-owned company says it plans to offer a new app for China that focuses exclusively on job postings. Gone will be the social networking features that helped make LinkedIn a success in the U.S. and elsewhere. China’s Internet is monitored by a system of censorship filters called “the Great Firewall,” making it difficult for free expression platforms to do business there. Continue reading Microsoft Closing LinkedIn in China, Retooling for Jobs-Only

Politicians Ban Social Media Platforms From Removing Posts

Brazil and the U.S. state of Texas both banned social media companies from removing certain posts containing political viewpoints. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s ban is temporary, and focuses on content in which he claims the only way he will lose next year’s election is if the vote if rigged. Legal experts say this is the first time a national government stopped an Internet company from taking down content that violates their rules. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill forbidding social media platforms from removing posts because of political views. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among those expected to fight the Texas legislation. Continue reading Politicians Ban Social Media Platforms From Removing Posts

China Boosts Control by Buying Stakes in ByteDance, Weibo

China is strengthening its control of Internet content companies by increasing regulatory scrutiny, buying stakes in companies and filling board seats among other actions. Most recently, a state-backed company purchased 1 percent of the shares of ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, which gave it the right to appoint a director to its board. Weibo also sold a 1 percent stake to a state investor and gave it a seat on its board of directors. China has discussed owning shares of social media companies since 2016. Continue reading China Boosts Control by Buying Stakes in ByteDance, Weibo

Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law That Restricts Social Media

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urged lawmakers to pass Florida Senate Bill 7072 to make it easier for the state’s election commission to fine social media companies from $25,000 to $250,000 for banning political candidates during election season. The law passed, but hours before it was slated to take effect District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction against it, noting that plaintiffs NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) will likely prevail in their effort to have the law declared unconstitutional. Continue reading Federal Judge Blocks Florida Law That Restricts Social Media

Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

Russia’s Internet regulator, Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media), has increased demands that Facebook, Google and Twitter remove “illegal” content and restore blocked pro-Kremlin content or face restrictions. Since anti-Kremlin protesters used the platforms more recently, Roskomnadzor has upped the frequency of its demands. This week it told Google to block “thousands of pieces of illegal content” or risk throttling. A Russian court also fined Google six million rubles ($81,000) for not removing another piece of content. Continue reading Russia Amps Up Demands, Threatens to Throttle Social Media

New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

University of Toronto’s cybersecurity group The Citizen Lab just released a report with the finding that TikTok’s underlying code does not pose a threat to U.S. national security. Former president Donald Trump and leaders in other countries accused ByteDance’s TikTok of spying for China but The Citizen Lab, which reports on censorship and surveillance by Chinese social media apps, found no evidence of “overtly malicious behavior.” However, they added that there could be undiscovered security issues. Continue reading New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey and Alphabet/Google chief exec Sundar Pichai faced a combative Senate Commerce Committee this week. Republicans want to update Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields Internet platforms from liability for user-generated content. They also claim the platforms censor conservative views. Democrats also want to look at Section 230 but are more focused on whether the platforms are guarding against disinformation as the presidential election looms. Continue reading Big Tech Executives Defend Their Services in Senate Hearing