US politicians are debating the need for internet censorship, social media regulation and privacy legisation.
Recently Axios' David McCabe published a fascinating policy paper from the office of Senator Mark Warner. The paper outlines a comprehensive censorship and regulatory regime that would touch virtually every aspect of social networks. It's a
comprehensive starting point for discussion
The paper is notably well-versed both on the dangers posed by misinformation and the trade-offs that come with increased regulation, especially to privacy and free speech. No doubt the US debate will be echoed around the world.
So what exactly do Warner and his staff propose? The ideas are designed to address three broad categories: misinformation, disinformation, and the exploitation of these technologies; privacy and data protection; and competition.
Here are some the ideas presented.
Misinformation, disinformation, and the exploitation of technology.
requiring networks to label automated bots;
requiring platforms to verify identities, despite the significant consequences to free speech;
legally requiring platforms to make regular disclosures about how many fake accounts they've deleted;
ending legal protections on contents hosts for defamation;
legally requiring large platforms to create APIs for academic research;
spending more money to fight cyber threats from Russia and other state-level actors.
Privacy and data protection.
Create a US version of the GDPR;
designate platforms as information fiduciaries with the legal responsibility of protecting our data;
empowering the Federal Trade Commission to make rules around data privacy;
create a legislative ban on dark patterns that trick users into accepting terms and conditions without reading them;
allow the government to audit corporate algorithms.
Require tech companies to continuously disclose to consumers how their data is being used;
require social network data to be made portable;
require social networks to be interoperable;
designate certain products as essential facilities and demand that third parties get fair access to them.
These proposals remain far from becoming law -- but perhaps not as far as tech platforms would wish.
Amazon has removed products bearing Nazi and white supremacist symbols from its online store.
The retailer had faced criticism for letting sellers offer a variety of far right-wing paraphernalia including clothing and jewellery.
Amazon said it had blocked the sellers of onesies with burning cross motifs, jewellery using the Nazi swastika as well as music and audio books pushing fascist views.
In a report released last month, the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy claimed Amazon was helping Nazi and modern white nationalist groups prosper by letting them sell their merchandise and
The report prompted Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota to write to Amazon expressing his alarm that it was allowing the sale of products that promote hateful and racist ideologies.
As well as stopping items being listed and blocking sellers, Amazon said it was now working to get the items removed from its fulfilment centres. It said it used automated methods as well as teams of investigators to scan listings looking for
items that break its policies or national laws covering hate speech, violence or racial intolerance.
The US Federal Government is quietly meeting with top tech company representatives to develop a proposal to
protect web users' privacy amid the ongoing fallout globally of scandals that have rocked Facebook and other companies.
Over the past month, the Commerce Department has met with representatives from Facebook and Google, along with Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast, and consumer advocates, sources told the Washington Post.
The goal of these meetings is to come up with a data privacy proposal at the federal level that could serve as a blueprint for Congress to pass sweeping legislation in the mode of the European Union GDPR. There are currently no laws that govern
how tech companies harness and monetize US users' data.
A total of 22 meetings with more than 80 companies have been held on this topic over the last month.
On Thursday, July 19, at 4 pm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge to put enforcement of FOSTA on hold during the pendency of its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. The hold is needed, in
part, to allow plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a sex worker advocacy group, to organize and publicize its annual conference, held August 2-5.
FOSTA , or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But despite its name, FOSTA attacks online speakers who speak favorably about sex work by imposing harsh penalties for any website that
might be seen as facilitating prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. In Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. U.S. , filed on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage
therapist, EFF maintains the law is unconstitutional because it muzzles constitutionally protected speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces speakers and platforms to censor themselves.
Enforcement of the law should be suspended because the plaintiffs are likely to win the case and because it has caused, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, EFF co-counsel Bob Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine will
tell the court at a hearing this week on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Because of the risk of criminal penalties, the plaintiffs have had their ads removed from Craigslist and censored information on their websites.
Plaintiff Woodhull Freedom Foundation has censored publication of information that could assist sex workers negatively impacted by the law. FOSTA threatens Woodhull's ability to engage in protected online speech, including livestreaming and live
tweeting its August meeting, unless FOSTA is put on hold.
Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. heard Woodhull's request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from
remaining in effect until the group's lawsuit, but did not issue a judgement. Nor did he announce a date when he would issue a ruling.
According to one account from inside the courtroon, Leon sounded skeptical that the law had actually caused harm to the plaintiffs in the case.
An art gallery in Portland, Oregon was receiving a bit of a backlash for a cartoon image displayed in its
window and posted to its Facebook page. It depicts President Donald Trump, head pulled back, with a bloody knife to his throat, and the caption: 'Fuck Trump'
The image posted by One Grand Gallery appeared to part of an installation launched last week titled Fuck You Mr. President , which featured nearly three dozen artists, according to the gallery's Facebook page, and was accompanied by similar
A picture of the image began circulating online with many Trump supporters calling it a threat on the president's life and asking for Secret Service to investigate.
The post was soon removed from the gallery's Facebook page and KATU-TV reports the image has also been removed from the gallery's window.