Supreme Court Blocks Texas Law Moderating Social Speech

The Supreme Court has blocked a Texas law banning major social media platforms from exercising editorial discretion to remove posts that violate community guidelines. Voting on the unsigned Supreme Court order was 5 to 4. Big Tech lobbying groups NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association requested the emergency halt. Their application was filed after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in May issued a stay that effectively reinstated the law. In December, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman hit pause on the legislation, HB 20, on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading Supreme Court Blocks Texas Law Moderating Social Speech

Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has introduced a new bill, the Digital Platform Commission Act, which proposes the establishment of a five-person commission to protect consumers in the Big Tech era. This, even as attorneys for groups representing Facebook and Twitter on Friday filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an emergency request to block Texas House Bill 20. The companies argue the law compels social platforms to disseminate propaganda and misinformation, including racist and pro-Nazi screeds. Calling HB 20 “an assault on the First Amendment,” the companies claim its implementation could undo billions in development. Continue reading Legislators Continue Their Scrutiny of Big Tech, Social Media

EU Advances Digital Services Act to Hold Tech Accountable

The European Parliament and EU member states reached agreement Saturday on the proposed Digital Services Act, which aims to hold Big Tech accountable for “illegal and harmful content” and “provide better protection for Internet users and their fundamental rights, as well as define a single set of rules in the internal market.” Calling the DSA “historic, both in terms of speed and of substance,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen added, “the greater the size, the greater the responsibilities of online platforms.” Companies like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and others will be forced to hold the line against dangerous content and misinformation or face stiff fines. Continue reading EU Advances Digital Services Act to Hold Tech Accountable

Clearview AI Courts Investors While Facing Privacy Pushback

Clearview AI is positioning itself for a major expansion that is already generating major controversy. At a December financial presentation, the New York-based firm reportedly predicted it will have 100 billion facial images in its database by the end of 2022 — or about 14 photos for each of the earth’s 7 billion people. And there is said to have been talk of surveilling gig economy workers, identifying people based on how they walk and remotely scanning fingerprints. While the company’s 34-year-old founder and chief exec Hoan Ton-That is careful to present the firm as a crime-fighting tool, its broader implications are chilling. Continue reading Clearview AI Courts Investors While Facing Privacy Pushback

Australian Court Holds Media Firms Liable for User Comments

The High Court of Australia upheld a lower court ruling that found media companies — including newspapers and TV stations — that post on Facebook are liable for Facebook users’ comments on those posts. It stated that, by creating a public Facebook page, media outlets “facilitated and encouraged comments” from users and are responsible for defamatory content. News Corp Australia, a subsidiary of News Corp, and Nine Entertainment, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, called for legislators to protect them from liability. Continue reading Australian Court Holds Media Firms Liable for User Comments

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

Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that tech platforms be regulated like utilities, in a concurrence he wrote to a decision to vacate a lower court’s ruling about former President Trump’s Twitter account. “There is a fair argument that some digital platforms are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated in this manner,” he wrote. Regulating such platforms like utilities could force them to make changes to current moderation policies against hate speech and harassment. Continue reading Justice Thomas Argues Big Tech Be Regulated Like Utilities

FCC Aims to Limit Section 230 Protections for Social Media

Affirming the FCC’s authority over social media companies, chair Ajit Pai has launched an official effort to “clarify” how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act applies to them. “Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech — but they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters,” he said. President Trump has often called for social media companies to be stripped of Section 230 protections. Continue reading FCC Aims to Limit Section 230 Protections for Social Media

Clearview AI Defends Facial Recognition App as Free Speech

Clearview AI sells access to billions of photos it scraped from the Internet to law enforcement agencies and corporations. A client can upload a photo or video image and the Clearview AI app creates a “faceprint” and finds photos of the person in its database. In response, California, Illinois, New York and Virginia filed lawsuits against the company, stating that collection of peoples’ photos without their consent is a violation of privacy laws. In the U.K., law enforcement lost a challenge to facial recognition laws. Continue reading Clearview AI Defends Facial Recognition App as Free Speech

ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit in Illinois against facial recognition startup Clearview AI over privacy and safety violations. It accused the company of breaking “the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, that bans companies from using a resident’s fingerprints or face scans without consent” and allows a resident to sue such companies for $5,000 per violation. The New Jersey and Vermont state attorneys general ordered Clearview to cease collecting their residents’ photos, and people in New York and Vermont also filed suits. Continue reading ACLU Files Privacy Lawsuit Against Facial Recognition Startup

Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled unanimously that privately operated Internet platforms can censor content at will — a rebuke of the argument advanced in conservative circles that the platforms are bound by the First Amendment. The case in question was the YouTube channel of Prager University, a non-profit founded by radio host Dennis Prager. YouTube tagged dozens of PragerU’s videos as “inappropriate,” and stripped their advertising, which led the channel to file a lawsuit in 2017. Continue reading Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

Bipartisan Law Regulating Facial Recognition Being Planned

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform held its third hearing in less than a year on facial recognition, planning to introduce legislation to regulate its use by the federal government, law enforcement and the private sector. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) stated the draft legislation will appear in the “very near future” and noted the need to “explore” the privacy protections already in place. Facial recognition is already in use with smartphones, job interviews and in airports. Continue reading Bipartisan Law Regulating Facial Recognition Being Planned

CES 2020: Evaluating the Relevance of CDA’s Section 230

Suppose you post your latest travel photos on your website, and later, in the comments section, a drug dealer offers his illegal wares for sale. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, noted CTA senior vice president of government affairs Michael Petricone, you cannot be prosecuted for drug sales. “Section 230 provides broad but not absolute immunity for Internet service providers for content published by users,” he said. “It’s important for platforms — but it can also encourage toxic online behavior.” Continue reading CES 2020: Evaluating the Relevance of CDA’s Section 230

Robotics-as-a-Service Rises, California Puts Limits on Bots

Up until now, massive conglomerates have dominated robotics, but that’s about to change, as the cost of hardware production plunges (due to globalization) and computing and cloud solutions become cheaper, more powerful and easy to ramp up. That’s given rise to Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) solutions, in which vertical-specific hardware and software are bundled and sold in monthly subscription packages. At the same time, California enacted a new law that would require a bot to reveal its “artificial identity.” Continue reading Robotics-as-a-Service Rises, California Puts Limits on Bots

Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced legislation to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to hold big tech companies such as Facebook and YouTube liable for content published on their platforms. Tech companies now have protection under Section 230 from being found liable for what users post. Known as the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, the proposed legislation has sparked backlash from both sides of the aisle. According to Hawley’s office, his bill is aimed to limit political bias. Continue reading Proposed Law Would Make Media Platforms Liable for Posts