Biden to Select Replacement for Outgoing FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai announced he will step down from his position on January 20, 2021. The FCC senior Democratic member, Jessica Rosenworcel, is predicted to be one of the leading candidates to succeed Pai, although former FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn has also been mentioned. With Pai’s departure, president-elect Joe Biden will be able to work with Democrats shortly after Inauguration Day on such anticipated priorities as restoring net neutrality and expanding universal broadband access.

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Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

At a Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey reported that their companies made improvements in blocking misinformation during the 2020 presidential election, compared to their inability to stop Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said both companies will face modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from liability for user-posted content, and the two chief execs expressed cautious support for the idea. Continue reading Facebook, Twitter Chief Execs Support Section 230 Changes

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

Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

The Justice Department sent Congress draft legislation to weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, leaving Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms vulnerable to legal action for content posted by users. The proposed changes would create liability for platforms that allow “known criminal content” to remain once they are aware of it. President Trump claims that social media companies are biased against conservatives. The platforms have not been protected against some civil suits. Continue reading Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

Internet Firms Battle Government’s Plan to Limit Section 230

The Internet Association, representing Amazon, Facebook, Google and others, urged the Federal Communications Commission to reject the Trump administration’s effort to limit Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from liability for content posted by users. The IA said the effort is “misguided, lacks grounding in law, and poses serious public policy concerns.” The Consumer Technology Association agreed, saying new rules would “make compliance all but impossible.” Yesterday, Senate Republicans introduced legislation that would hold social platforms more responsible for content. Continue reading Internet Firms Battle Government’s Plan to Limit Section 230

Court Finds Amazon Liable for Defective Third-Party Products

The California Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon can be held liable for the damages created by a defective replacement laptop battery purchased from a third-party seller on its marketplace. The buyer, Angela Bolger, reportedly got third degree burns when the battery, from Amazon third-party seller Lenoge Technology, caught fire. Amazon has defended itself against such liability lawsuits so the appeals court decision is a major blow to its e-commerce business. The company currently faces several other liability suits.

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PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) introduced the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, which would hold Internet platforms such as Facebook and Google responsible for hosting illegal content and require them to reveal their moderation practices. The Act would change parts of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that shield such platforms from liability for the content their users post, and is intended to require platforms to quickly remove offending content. Continue reading PACT Act Intends to Update Section 230, Protect Consumers

DOJ Favors Withdrawing Section 230’s Immunity for Big Tech

The Justice Department recommended, in a 25-page report, that lawmakers repeal portions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which has given website operators broad immunity for what people post on their services. The proposed repeal would take away that immunity, forcing social media platforms and similar sites to be responsible for the videos, words, images posted by their users, while assuring that their moderation is consistent. The DOJ’s recommendation will have to be enacted by Congress. Continue reading DOJ Favors Withdrawing Section 230’s Immunity for Big Tech

Aussie Court Rules Publishers Liable for Facebook Comments

An Australian court ruled that newspapers and TV stations that post articles on Facebook will be considered publishers of the comments that Facebook users post, and therefore liable for them. Defendants in the original lawsuit — among them News Corp. and the Sydney Morning Herald — are considering an appeal. These two outlets noted that, “today’s decision means the media cannot share any story via Facebook without fear of being sued for comments which they did not publish and have no control over.” Continue reading Aussie Court Rules Publishers Liable for Facebook Comments

Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which would regulate how companies such as YouTube and TikTok handle what is accessible to children online, including advertising, app design and potentially harmful content. One of the main targets of the new bill are so-called unboxing videos, such as YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” which can get millions of views. The KIDS Act would not ban the content, but prohibit the platform from recommending it to kids, curbing its distribution. Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham and senator Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce a law that could interfere with Big Tech’s ability to provide end-to-end encryption. The Eliminating Abuse and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019 (EARN IT Act) targets the distribution of child sexual abuse material on platforms such as Facebook and Google, making them liable for state prosecution and civil lawsuits for user-posted content currently protected by Section 230. Continue reading Law Could Stoke Battle Between Congress and Silicon Valley

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

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