Section 230 Year-in-Review for 2020
Section 230 had such a drama-filled year that I decided to do a separate roundup, in addition to my annual Internet Law wrapup coming soon. (I know 2020 feels like it was a decade ago…) Trigger warning: this post is a shitshow.
The 8th Wonder Of The World
In exchange for billions in tax subsidies, Foxconn was supposed to build an enormous LCD factory in the tiny village of Mount Pleasant, creating 13,000 jobs. Three years later, the factory — and the jobs — don’t exist, and they probably never will. Inside the empty promises and empty buildings of Wisconn Valley.
How Toxic Fumes Seep Into The Air You Breathe On Planes
The air you breathe on airplanes comes directly from the jet engines. Known as bleed air, it is safe, unless there is a mechanical issue — a faulty seal, for instance. When that happens, heated jet engine oil can leak into the air supply, potentially releasing toxic gases into the plane.
For decades, the airline industry and its regulators have known about these incidents — called fume events — and have maintained that they are rare and that the toxic chemical levels are too low to pose serious health risks.
And yet there’s a lot of pushback to measuring just how bad the problem is.
Justice Thomas Writes a Misguided Anti-Section 230 Statement “Without the Benefit of Briefing”–Enigma v. Malwarebytes
This statement bears some resemblance to Justice Thomas’ statement in early 2019 that the Supreme Court should reconsider the actual malice standard from New York Times v. Sullivan. Like this statement, that statement was anti-media, pro-censorship, and quite unpersuasive. So far, the Supreme Court hasn’t taken up Justice Thomas’ initiative against the actual malice standard. I hope this statement suffers the same fate.
A San Diego federal judge Friday dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit filed by the owners and operators of San Diego-based One America News Network against MSNBC and political commentator Rachel Maddow. Last summer, the liberal host told her viewers that the Trump-friendly conservative network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
Cities are closing streets to make way for restaurants and pedestrians
The forced distancing required by the coronavirus prompted several cities to quickly close some public roads to make room so cooped-up residents anxious to get outside for exercise could do so safely.
Now, following moves to shut, narrow or repurpose streets from Oakland to Tampa, cities including Washington are seeking to understand how those emergency closures might have lasting impacts on some of urban America’s most important, and contested, real estate.
Something in the Air
The coronavirus pandemic is sparking baseless theories about the dangers of 5G. But the fear that wireless technology is slowly killing us isn’t new—and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
Google Erases Thousands of Links, Tricked by Phony Complaints
Dubious copyright claims citing 1998 law led the search giant to make unfavorable articles vanish
Google removed search links to the Vietnamese-language article after someone identifying as Long Hoang filed a complaint claiming the piece violated the copyright on an identical blog post about the tourists dated October 20, 2019, more than four months before the unnamed Britons visited. The blog consists of only eight posts, all cited in copyright complaints filed with Google.
Videogame Doesn’t Infringe Tattoo Copyright By Depicting Basketball Players
This case deals with a venerable and vexing copyright law problem: if a person doesn’t own the copyright to his/her tattoos, do other people infringe by accurately depicting the person? The answer surely has to be “no.” Otherwise, ordinary daily activities, such as photos and videos in public, become an unnavigable thicket of potential liability. Fortunately, this case decisively reaches the right result. However, it’s unclear how much it predicts future cases.
In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST—and a return to permanent standard time—would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward” or “fall back.”
They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington and Florida have now passed laws aimed at moving their states to DST year-round.
This is interesting. There are definitely costs to shifting clocks, but that still leaves the question of what the ideal daylight hours are.
How Explaining Copyright Broke the YouTube Copyright System
This is a story about how the most sophisticated copyright filter in the world prevented us from explaining copyright law. It doesn’t involve TikTok dance moves or nuanced 90s remixes featuring AOC. No, it involves a debate at a law school conference over how and when one song can infringe the copyright of another and how exactly one proves in a courtroom if the accused song is “substantially similar” enough to be deemed illegal. In the end, because it was blocked by one of the music companies who owns the song, it also became a textbook study in how fair use still suffers online and what it takes to pushback when a video is flagged. A copyright riddle wrapped up in an algorithmic enigma, symbolic of the many current content moderation dilemmas faced by online platforms today.
How the CIA used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on countries for decades
Little Bay Islands relocation
The strains on Little Bay Islands — emigration, resource collapse, aging populations — are familiar to small towns around the world. Local leaders have tried to revive dying villages with offers of $1 homes or promises to pay would-be residents to move in. Newfoundland and Labrador takes a different approach: It pays you to leave.
Some commenters have recently brought up the perennial question of when speech becomes constitutionally unprotected blackmail. As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of the thorniest conceptual questions in all of jurisprudence.
What’s the explanation? Legal scholars have debated this for decades, and to my knowledge have not come up with a perfectly satisfactory answer.
Imagine Being on Trial. With Exonerating Evidence Trapped on Your Phone.
Public defenders lack access to gadgets and software that could keep their clients out of jail.
This tech gap has two basic forms. First, law enforcement agencies can use warrants and court orders to compel companies to turn over emails, photos and other communications, but defense lawyers have no such power. And second, the government has access to forensic technology that makes digital investigations easier. Over the last two decades, the machines and software designed to extract data from computers and smartphones were primarily made for and sold to law enforcement.
To successfully defend its clients, the Legal Aid Society, New York City’s largest public defender office, realized in 2013 that it needed to buy the same tools the police had: forensic devices and software from companies including Cellebrite, Magnet Forensics and Guidance Software. Not only does the expensive technology unearth digital evidence that is otherwise hard or impossible to find, it captures it in a format that can hold up in court, as opposed to evidence that could have been tampered with or forged.
‘Grand inquisitors of the realm’: How Congress got its power to investigate and subpoena
Back in his day, Robert Morris was a pretty big deal. He was just one of two men to sign all three of our nation’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
“Wherefore, and encouraged by a consciousness of the Integrity of his Administration, your Memorialist is desirous that a Strict Examination should be had into his Conduct,” Morris wrote, “in order that if he has been guilty of Maladministration it may be detected and Punished, if otherwise, that his Innocence may be manifested, and acknowledged.”
Morris’s mouthful of a demand was taken up in the House of Representatives, where members referred it to a select committee, ultimately helping lay the foundation for the wide-ranging subpoena power Congress uses to investigate/torment the executive branch, including the president.
You Can’t Just Call Loans Options
Also tech companies as banks, the bank of crypto and index funds.
A weird feature of U.S. tax law is that, if you do a thing purely to get around tax rules, then that is bad and a sham and the IRS can look through it and make you pay your taxes. But if you do the thing not only to get around tax rules but also to get around other rules (like margin requirements), then from the IRS’s perspective you have a valid business purpose and you might be able to keep your good tax treatment. “We’re not just gaming your rules, we’re gaming other regulators’ rules too” is, surprisingly, an argument that might persuade the IRS.
The advertising for the Apple card calls it “A new kind of credit card. Created by Apple, not a bank.” That appears to be true of the appearance of the physical card. But the credit algorithms were created by a bank, to Apple’s eventual embarrassment. It is just a little odd that Apple seems to have been so incurious about the algorithms. It’s a tech company!
A sport of their own
A high school wrestler from Kansas spent four years fighting to give girls the opportunity to compete in an official state sport.
Unexpected Norms Setters
I wanted to do a line by line review of Ilina Georgieva’s recent piece on cyber norms because on a brief read-through, I liked a lot of it. That said, the difficulty with reviewing policy pieces is you tend to think the ones that AGREE with you are naturally genius, which is not always the case. So after a more thorough review, there are a lot of serious issues with the piece and these are painfully listed below (if you happen to be Iliana).
Cars Were Banned on 14th Street. The Apocalypse Did Not Come.