Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

President Biden welcomed guests to the White House last week for the inaugural United We Stand Summit, an event to combat hate speech and violence. “There are core values that should bring us together as Americans, and one of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry, and violence that have long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden told the bipartisan group. Participants gave the president a standing ovation when he specified that he will work to “hold social media companies accountable for spreading hate.” “I’m calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements,” Biden said. Continue reading Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

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

Europe and U.S. Data-Sharing Pact to Replace Privacy Shield

The Supreme Court’s recent FBI v. Fazaga decision regarding surveillance has been interpreted by some as an obstacle to Biden administration efforts to secure an effective replacement for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Originally implemented in 2016, thousands of U.S. companies had been relying on the Privacy Shield to centralize customer data. In 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) nullified the framework after finding U.S. surveillance laws provide a loophole for unauthorized access to data belonging to EU citizens. Earlier today however, the U.S. and European Union agreed “in principle” to a revamped framework for data transfers. Continue reading Europe and U.S. Data-Sharing Pact to Replace Privacy Shield

Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

President Joe Biden has paved the way for a potential Democratic majority at the Federal Communications Commission, nominating Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth commissioner slot, vacant since Ajit Pai resigned in January. Jessica Rosenworcel, who stepped up as acting chairwoman when Pai left, has been nominated as permanent chair. Sohn, a public interest lawyer with 30 years of experience in communications and technology policy, spent three years as counselor to Obama administration FCC chair Tom Wheeler. In that capacity, she championed net neutrality and Title II common carrier rules that were adopted in 2015, only to be jettisoned in 2017 under Pai. Continue reading Biden Reveals FCC Chair and New Commissioner Nominees

Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Address Dominance of Big Tech

The House unveiled five bills aimed at curbing Big Tech companies, including the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, that requires “structural separation of Amazon” and makes it illegal for an online platform to own a business that uses said platform for “the sale or provision of products or services,” that “sells services as a condition for access to the platform” or that “owns businesses that create conflicts of interest.” Another bill would ban platforms from giving advantage its own products and services over those of a rival. Continue reading Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Address Dominance of Big Tech

Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

After being deluged by 75,000+ individual arbitration demands filed by plaintiff’s attorneys on behalf of Echo users, Amazon changed its terms of service to allow customers to file lawsuits. It now faces at least three potential class action suits, one of them brought May 18 that alleges that its Alexa-enabled Echo devices record people without their permission. Arbitration requirements are often inserted in many consumer contracts and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld and underlined the right to mandate arbitration. Continue reading Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

Florida Passes Legislation to Restrict Social Media Platforms

Florida just passed a new law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, that makes it illegal for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms to permanently bar political candidates from their sites. The law, which was crafted in response to Facebook’s and Twitter’s ban of former President Donald Trump in January, will impose a $250,000 per day fine. The law also makes it illegal to prevent posts in response to stories on their platforms. The law will likely face a constitutional challenge in the courts. Continue reading Florida Passes Legislation to Restrict Social Media Platforms

Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

In a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court took Google’s side in a copyright battle with Oracle over the former’s use of Java APIs in its Android operating system. Oracle, which had purchased Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems, sought billions of dollars in damages for what it claimed was copyright infringement. Google argued that free access to the Java software interfaces was important to innovation. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that Google made “fair use” of the Java code. Continue reading Supreme Court: Google Engaged in Fair Use of Java Code

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

Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court loosened local media ownership restrictions, which could enable more industry consolidation. It’s viewed as a victory for broadcasters that wanted to overturn the 2017 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the FCC did not sufficiently consider the effect of changes on minority and female owners. The FCC appeal was supported by News Corp, Fox Corporation, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the National Association of Broadcasters. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

Coalition of Privacy, Consumer Groups Attacks Targeted Ads

A coalition of 30+ privacy, consumer and anti-monopoly groups launched this week with one purpose in mind: to stop targeted and behavioral advertising, a practice the coalition describes as “surveillance advertising.” In a letter, the coalition said that, “social media giants are eroding our consensus reality and threatening public safety in service of a toxic, extractive business model.” Further, it said, Big Tech acts “to stoke discrimination, division, and delusion.” Facebook and Google are the dominant digital advertising behemoths. Continue reading Coalition of Privacy, Consumer Groups Attacks Targeted Ads

Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

The U.S. military, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are reportedly among the agencies that have been buying citizens’ location data from commercial services. Now, a Treasury Department inspector general report has indicated that this practice is illegal without first obtaining a warrant. The agencies in question say they are buying commercially available data from those who have consented to having their data collected. Continue reading Treasury Department May Put an End to Location Data Sales

Increasing Demand for 5G Lifts Qualcomm Earnings, Revenue

A major supplier of 5G chips, Qualcomm predicted shipments of 450 million to 550 million 5G smartphones in 2021, a number at least double of what’s expected by the end of this year. Chief executive Steve Mollenkopf revealed that sales of smartphones was a significant part of the company’s latest quarterly earnings. He also noted that Qualcomm is already seeing benefits from Internet of Things devices and networking gear using 5G chips. In addition, Apple’s 5G-enabled iPhone 12 is expected to be a boon for Qualcomm’s modems. Continue reading Increasing Demand for 5G Lifts Qualcomm Earnings, Revenue

Supreme Court Weighs Future of Software in Copyright Case

The Supreme Court just heard a multi-billion-dollar case regarding Google and Oracle’s long-running battle over smartphone software that some have called “the copyright case of the decade.” Google v. Oracle America, Case No. 18-956, is scrutinizing Google’s reliance on 11,000 lines of Java code in its Android operating system. Oracle acquired Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems and accuses Google’s use without permission as tantamount to copyright infringement. Google argues it is “fair use.” Continue reading Supreme Court Weighs Future of Software in Copyright Case