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

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

TikTok Takes Government to Court Over Potential Shutdown

TikTok’s lawyers filed suit with U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to prevent the federal government from imposing a shutdown of operations on November 12, when companies will be banned from providing Internet hosting to TikTok. An attorney stated that, “competitors have already taken advantage of the government’s highly-publicized intention to shut down the app to entice TikTok creators and users to switch platforms.” Cloud platform provider Fastly saw its shares plummet after ByteDance, owner of TikTok, spent less than predicted in Q3. Continue reading TikTok Takes Government to Court Over Potential Shutdown

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

State AGs Push Facebook to Take More Steps Against Hate

Democratic attorneys general for 19 states and the District of Columbia urged Facebook executives to create a live, real-time means for users to report harassment, intimidation and hate speech, and to improve blocking and filtering of such speech, as well as be more cooperative with law enforcement investigating hate crimes. Facebook said that in Q1 this year, it “took action” against 9.6 million pieces of content that violated polices, compared to 5.7. million the previous quarter. Continue reading State AGs Push Facebook to Take More Steps Against Hate

Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

When China imposed a National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dubai’s Telegram Group ceased processing requests for user data from that city in protest. A Facebook spokesperson said the company believes “freedom of expression is a fundamental human right.” Facebook-owned WhatsApp paused reviews “pending further assessment,” including consulting with human rights experts, of the Chinese law. In addition, TikTok stated it will stop offering its social media app in Hong Kong. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Cease Processing User Data From Hong Kong

French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

France’s National Assembly passed a law that will fine social media companies up to €1.25 million ($1.36 million) for failing to remove “manifestly illicit” hate-speech posts within 24 hours of notification. Companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their global annual revenue if the violations are “serious and repeated.” The law, which will take effect July 1, also gives France’s audiovisual regulator the right to audit these companies’ systems for removing content. Critics claim “pre-emptive censorship.” Continue reading French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

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

Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

Facebook’s Oversight Board, comprised of people from outside the company, will determine if specific user posts violate its rules. But the company just divulged that it expects the board to “come to a case decision, and for Facebook to have acted on that decision, in approximately 90 days,” a lengthy period of time that makes it unlikely the board will be able to block misinformation from spreading virally. The board may play a role, however, in changing the company’s policy on paid political ads. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More Details About Its Oversight Board

YouTube Takes Next Steps to Enforce Harassment Policies

YouTube has written guidelines to flag videos and comments that insult or demean others over race, gender or sexual orientation directed at anyone including private individuals, public officials and YouTube creators. The company will rely on “raters” to screen videos that have been flagged. YouTube earlier introduced policies to restrict exploitation of children, extremist content and hate speech, but those policies were scrutinized in June when a volatile situation arose between a commentator and a journalist. Continue reading YouTube Takes Next Steps to Enforce Harassment Policies

Zuckerberg Responds to Sorkin’s Open Letter of Criticism

Yesterday we reported that Jack Dorsey announced Twitter would ban all political ads, placing pressure on Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider Facebook’s laissez-faire approach to such content. As the CEOs’ opposing philosophies are generating a great deal of media buzz, screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin published an open letter to Zuckerberg, criticizing the chief executive for not doing his part to stop the spread of misinformation on the social network. In response, Zuckerberg used lines from the Sorkin-penned 1995 film “The American President” to essentially call Sorkin a hypocrite. Continue reading Zuckerberg Responds to Sorkin’s Open Letter of Criticism

Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey revealed yesterday that the social platform would ban all political advertisements. Dorsey believes such content has “significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle,” and that manipulated videos and the spread of misinformation are creating challenges at an “overwhelming scale.” The move adds another layer to the debate over online advertising, social media and free speech — especially in the political arena — and increases the pressure on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider his laissez-faire approach. Continue reading Jack Dorsey Announces Twitter’s Plan to Ban Political Ads

TikTok Draws Concerns of U.S. Lawmakers, Growth Slows

Chinese short video app TikTok has had a total of 1.45 billion installs since debuting two years ago. It’s been installed 564 million times this year, and parent company ByteDance is considered the world’s largest startup, with a valuation of $75 million according to CB Insights. But, according to Sensor Tower data, Q3 2019 is the first quarter TikTok has seen a slowdown of user downloads, 4 percent from last year, to 177 million first-time users. U.S. lawmakers want to know if the app is a national security risk. Continue reading TikTok Draws Concerns of U.S. Lawmakers, Growth Slows

Blizzard Suspends Pro eSports Player for His Political Stance

Gaming company Activision Blizzard suspended an eSports player who, during a live broadcast, expressed his support for the pro-democracy protest movement in Hong Kong. Professional “Hearthstone” player Chung Ng Wai has been suspended for a year and forced to give up $10,000 in prize money. The move led to a significant backlash from gamers and politicians via social media and online forums. The public relations dilemma is similar to what played out this week following NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s support of free speech, which led to the decision by China’s state-run television not to broadcast two NBA games. Continue reading Blizzard Suspends Pro eSports Player for His Political Stance

Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

According to sources, the White House drafted an executive order that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine how Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies curate their websites. The FCC would be tasked with developing regulations on how (and when) the law protects social media platforms when they remove or suppress content, and also charges the Federal Trade Commission with taking the new regulations into account when investigating or suing these companies. Continue reading Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

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