Facebook and Google, along with other online publishers, may soon be required in the US to disclose funding for paid political ads.
Two US senators, Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, proposed a bill called The Honest Ads Act to extend the funding disclosure requirements for political ads on TV, radio, and in print, to online ads. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced
in the US House of Representatives.
Under these disclosure requirements, traditional media has to produce and reveal lists identifying organizations that have bought political adverts. If the Honest Ads Act is passed into law, top online sites, from Facebook to Twitter, will fall
under these requirements, too.
The bill is an attempt to respond to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential Election through social media.
Facebook , Google , and Twitter have all said they sold politically-oriented ads to accounts linked to Russia. Facebook has characterized the ads it sold as amplifying divisive social and political messages.
If the bill becomes law, the rules would require digital platforms averaging 50 million monthly viewers to maintain a public list of political ads purchased by a person or organization spending more than $500 cumulatively on such ads, on a
per-platform basis. And it would direct digital platforms to make all reasonable efforts to prevent foreign individuals and organizations from purchasing domestic political ads.
At EFF, we see endless attempts
to misuse copyright law in order to silence content that a person dislikes. Copyright law is sadly less protective of speech than other speech regulations like defamation, so plaintiffs are motivated to find ways to turn many kinds of disputes
into issues of copyright law. Yesterday, a federal appeals court rejected one such ploy: an attempt to use copyright to get rid of a negative review.
The website Ripoff Report hosts criticism of a variety of professionals and companies, who doubtless would prefer that those critiques not exist. In order to protect platforms for speech like Ripoff Report, federal law sets a very high bar for
private litigants to collect damages or obtain censorship orders against them. The gaping exception to this protection is intellectual property claims, including copyright, for which a lesser protection applies.
One aggrieved professional named Goren (and his company) went to court to get a negative review taken down from Ripoff Report. If Goren had relied on a defamation claim alone, the strong protection of CDA 230 would protect Ripoff Report. But Goren
sought to circumvent that protection by getting a court order seizing ownership of the copyright from its author for himself, then suing Ripoff Report's owner for copyright infringement. We
filed a brief
explaining several reasons why his claims should fail, and urging the court to prevent the use of copyright as a pretense for suppressing speech.
Fortunately, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed that Ripoff Report is not liable. It ruled on a narrow basis, pointing out that the person who originally posted the review on Ripoff Report gave the site's owners irrevocable
permission to host that content. Therefore, continuing to host it could not be an infringement, even if Goren did own the copyright.
Goren paid the price for his improper assertion of copyright here: the appeals court upheld an award of over $100,000 in attorneys' fees. The award of fees in a case like this is important both because it deters improper assertion of copyright,
and because it helps compensate defendants who choose to litigate rather than settling for nuisance value simply to avoid the expense of defending their rights.
We're glad the First Circuit acted to limit the ways that private entities can censor speech online.
Russia will block access to Facebook next year if the websites refuses to comply with a law requiring websites to store personal data of Russian
citizens on Russian servers so as to facilitate state snooping. Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, told reporters that either Facebook abides by the law or the social network will cease to work on Russian territory.
Roskomnadzor blocked Russian access to LinkedIn last November as a result of the social media company being found guilty of violating the same data storage law. Since then, foreign internet companies have been under pressure to comply or risk
losing their service in the country. Twitter has told Roskomnadzor that it aims to localise the personal data of its users by mid-2018. Companies including Google and Alibaba have already complied .
Meanwhile on the other side of the iron curtain, Facebook said it will turn over to the United States Congress Russian-linked ads that may have been intended to sway the 2016 US election. The social network revealed that it identified around 500
fake accounts with ties to Russia that purchased $100,000 worth of ads during the campaign, as well as $50,000 ad purchases from Russian accounts.
We support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled three exhibits featuring animals after receiving explicit and repeated threats of violence. The museum said they will not now be shown out of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and
participating artists.'Cruel manipulation of animals'
Campaigners had complained that the works showed cruelty against animals in the name of art. A petition to pull the exhibits had gained more than 500,000 signatures.
One of the works, titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other , shows a film of pitbull dogs on treadmills facing each other but aren't able to reach each other. The dogs are being observed in a presumably Chinese gallery setting with
onlookers rather passively observing and photographing proceedings.
The other exhibits are Theatre of the World , in which insects and reptiles live in a see-through dome and eat each other; and A Case Study of Transference , a video of a previous live performance of two mating pigs stamped with
Roman and Greek letters.
The museum has explained that the exhibit is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork saying:
We recognise that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalisation and the complex nature of the world
The museum said it was dismayed that we must withhold works of art, adding: Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.
The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement objecting to the cruel manipulation of animals. It said:
Such treadmills are typical of brutal dog fighting training regimens, and the mere positioning of animals to face each other and encourage aggression often meets the definition of illegal dog fighting in most states.
It is interesting to observe that campaigners against the exhibition pointed out the offending video on YouTube, thinking that people would take offence and join the protest, in very much the same way that the Guggenheim exhibition is pointing out
the cruelty going on in China, perhaps with the aim of provoking protest.
The works were due to be in an exhibition titled Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World, which opens on 6 October.