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Misinformation on Social Media Has Spread Like a Virus, Say Panelists at State of the Net

Tim White

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Photo of Representative Anna Eshoo, during House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing

January 27, 2021—In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation has spread across social media like a contagious virus transmitted from population to population, said experts during the first panel of the entirely-virtual State of the Net 2021 conference on Tuesday.

“President Joe Biden has put together a plan to combat COVID-19, based on science and evidence,” said Representative Anna Eshoo, D-California, in her opening keynote address to SOTN conference attendees.

Eshoo said part of the challenge is wrestling with misinformation on social media platforms, which by design benefit from content creation that is based on false information and emotional reaction rather than fact.

Although imposters and others acting like experts have existed for years before COVID-19, the pandemic created fertile grounds for medical misinformation to run rampant, which has been exacerbated by social media, said Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Research Director Joan Donovan.

“The anti-vaccine movement was a pandemic of its own,” said Ana Santos Rutchman, advisor to the Biden campaign’s COVID-19 Innovation Committee, that fed into the spread of other information about COVID-19.

According to Stanford Internet Observatory’s Renee DiResta the anti-vaccine movement was very small and had to attach itself to other popular movements to gain traction, so it found a place in the tea party movement. DiResta said this forced the movement to evolve into an idea about government tyranny, leading it toshare space with pro-second amendment hashtags on social media. Fighting false information with science and fact-based expertise will always be a challenge, because science is slow and methodical, and will always lag behind other unverified information that becomes popular across social media, Donovan said. But getting correct information out there, like a public service announcement, will always be important, even when it comes later or is boring, she said.

Looking at social media platforms in how they curate information and use data is a key area for the Biden administration, not only to fight misinformation related to the pandemic, but also false political and medical information, DiResta said.

Public and private sectors need to join hands on cybersecurity

Following a massive data breach in December 2020 of several U.S. government agencies, the relationship between the public and private sectors in cybersecurity need to drastically improve, said cybersecurity experts convened for a SOTN panel.

“From a professional perspective, the SolarWinds attack was very well executed and showed excellent tradecraft,” said Morgan Wright, chief security advisor for SentinelOne, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm.

Companies that operate in the private sector, even large ones like the Fortune 500, do not have the capability to always prevent cyberattacks from foreign states, said US Telecom’s Cybersecurity Senior Vice President Robert Mayer, explaining that companies need to work with government agencies to expand cybersecurity efforts.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed in 2015, was a step in the right direction to encourage a working relationship between companies and the government, said Microsoft’s Digital Security Attorney Kemba Walden.

The panelists agreed that with a new president in the White House, the administration needs topnotch leadership in cybersecurity and robust communication between the agencies. The Biden cybersecurity team needs responsibility, accountability and authority to get the job done, Wright said.

Revising Section 230 proves to be a major challenge

Congress needs to take a cautious approach to reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, because its reform may have drastic, long-lasting effects whether for good or ill, said panelists at the 2021 SOTN conference, discussing the 1996 statute that protects platforms from being liable for content posted by third-party users.

Businesses having the absolute power to grant or deny speech on their social media platforms was a large concern of University of Chicago Law School’s Genevieve Lakier, who acknowledged that bad or morally-hazardous speech on social media is a problem. Lakier expressed concern that these private companies have too much control with zero government regulation.

The panel’s discussion comes at a particularly prominent time, three weeks after a riotous mob was instigated on social media and allegedly incited by Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol. In the days following the riot, Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account and Facebook suspended it indefinitely.

If the goal is to prevent future events like the riot at the Capitol, then repealing or altering Section 230 may not work, said Ellen Goodman of Rutgers Law School, expressing concern over how the law would be changed. She said that the problems with social media need to be clearly identified, because the solutions to social media issues might not be found by revising Section 230.

While the statute is under intense scrutiny, Santa Clara University Law School’s Eric Goldman defended the good aspects of the law, pointing to Wikipedia, Yelp, Zoom, social media and other online services that people enjoy, reminding audiences that they are all enabled by Section 230.

Social Media

Josh Hawley Wants To Break Up Big Tech And Revisit How Antitrust Matters Are Considered

Senator Josh Hawley talks Section 230, antitrust reform, and the Capitol riots.

Benjamin Kahn

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on

Josh Hawley, right, via Flickr

January 27, 2021—In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation has spread across social media like a contagious virus transmitted from population to population, said experts during the first panel of the entirely-virtual State of the Net 2021 conference on Tuesday.

“President Joe Biden has put together a plan to combat COVID-19, based on science and evidence,” said Representative Anna Eshoo, D-California, in her opening keynote address to SOTN conference attendees.

Eshoo said part of the challenge is wrestling with misinformation on social media platforms, which by design benefit from content creation that is based on false information and emotional reaction rather than fact.

Although imposters and others acting like experts have existed for years before COVID-19, the pandemic created fertile grounds for medical misinformation to run rampant, which has been exacerbated by social media, said Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Research Director Joan Donovan.

“The anti-vaccine movement was a pandemic of its own,” said Ana Santos Rutchman, advisor to the Biden campaign’s COVID-19 Innovation Committee, that fed into the spread of other information about COVID-19.

According to Stanford Internet Observatory’s Renee DiResta the anti-vaccine movement was very small and had to attach itself to other popular movements to gain traction, so it found a place in the tea party movement. DiResta said this forced the movement to evolve into an idea about government tyranny, leading it toshare space with pro-second amendment hashtags on social media. Fighting false information with science and fact-based expertise will always be a challenge, because science is slow and methodical, and will always lag behind other unverified information that becomes popular across social media, Donovan said. But getting correct information out there, like a public service announcement, will always be important, even when it comes later or is boring, she said.

Looking at social media platforms in how they curate information and use data is a key area for the Biden administration, not only to fight misinformation related to the pandemic, but also false political and medical information, DiResta said.

Public and private sectors need to join hands on cybersecurity

Following a massive data breach in December 2020 of several U.S. government agencies, the relationship between the public and private sectors in cybersecurity need to drastically improve, said cybersecurity experts convened for a SOTN panel.

“From a professional perspective, the SolarWinds attack was very well executed and showed excellent tradecraft,” said Morgan Wright, chief security advisor for SentinelOne, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm.

Companies that operate in the private sector, even large ones like the Fortune 500, do not have the capability to always prevent cyberattacks from foreign states, said US Telecom’s Cybersecurity Senior Vice President Robert Mayer, explaining that companies need to work with government agencies to expand cybersecurity efforts.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed in 2015, was a step in the right direction to encourage a working relationship between companies and the government, said Microsoft’s Digital Security Attorney Kemba Walden.

The panelists agreed that with a new president in the White House, the administration needs topnotch leadership in cybersecurity and robust communication between the agencies. The Biden cybersecurity team needs responsibility, accountability and authority to get the job done, Wright said.

Revising Section 230 proves to be a major challenge

Congress needs to take a cautious approach to reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, because its reform may have drastic, long-lasting effects whether for good or ill, said panelists at the 2021 SOTN conference, discussing the 1996 statute that protects platforms from being liable for content posted by third-party users.

Businesses having the absolute power to grant or deny speech on their social media platforms was a large concern of University of Chicago Law School’s Genevieve Lakier, who acknowledged that bad or morally-hazardous speech on social media is a problem. Lakier expressed concern that these private companies have too much control with zero government regulation.

The panel’s discussion comes at a particularly prominent time, three weeks after a riotous mob was instigated on social media and allegedly incited by Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol. In the days following the riot, Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account and Facebook suspended it indefinitely.

If the goal is to prevent future events like the riot at the Capitol, then repealing or altering Section 230 may not work, said Ellen Goodman of Rutgers Law School, expressing concern over how the law would be changed. She said that the problems with social media need to be clearly identified, because the solutions to social media issues might not be found by revising Section 230.

While the statute is under intense scrutiny, Santa Clara University Law School’s Eric Goldman defended the good aspects of the law, pointing to Wikipedia, Yelp, Zoom, social media and other online services that people enjoy, reminding audiences that they are all enabled by Section 230.

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Social Media

Oversight Board Upholds Trump’s Ban From Facebook

The Oversight Board has sent the decision back to Facebook management, criticizing it for setting a “standardless” penalty.

Benjamin Kahn

Published

on

January 27, 2021—In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation has spread across social media like a contagious virus transmitted from population to population, said experts during the first panel of the entirely-virtual State of the Net 2021 conference on Tuesday.

“President Joe Biden has put together a plan to combat COVID-19, based on science and evidence,” said Representative Anna Eshoo, D-California, in her opening keynote address to SOTN conference attendees.

Eshoo said part of the challenge is wrestling with misinformation on social media platforms, which by design benefit from content creation that is based on false information and emotional reaction rather than fact.

Although imposters and others acting like experts have existed for years before COVID-19, the pandemic created fertile grounds for medical misinformation to run rampant, which has been exacerbated by social media, said Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Research Director Joan Donovan.

“The anti-vaccine movement was a pandemic of its own,” said Ana Santos Rutchman, advisor to the Biden campaign’s COVID-19 Innovation Committee, that fed into the spread of other information about COVID-19.

According to Stanford Internet Observatory’s Renee DiResta the anti-vaccine movement was very small and had to attach itself to other popular movements to gain traction, so it found a place in the tea party movement. DiResta said this forced the movement to evolve into an idea about government tyranny, leading it toshare space with pro-second amendment hashtags on social media. Fighting false information with science and fact-based expertise will always be a challenge, because science is slow and methodical, and will always lag behind other unverified information that becomes popular across social media, Donovan said. But getting correct information out there, like a public service announcement, will always be important, even when it comes later or is boring, she said.

Looking at social media platforms in how they curate information and use data is a key area for the Biden administration, not only to fight misinformation related to the pandemic, but also false political and medical information, DiResta said.

Public and private sectors need to join hands on cybersecurity

Following a massive data breach in December 2020 of several U.S. government agencies, the relationship between the public and private sectors in cybersecurity need to drastically improve, said cybersecurity experts convened for a SOTN panel.

“From a professional perspective, the SolarWinds attack was very well executed and showed excellent tradecraft,” said Morgan Wright, chief security advisor for SentinelOne, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm.

Companies that operate in the private sector, even large ones like the Fortune 500, do not have the capability to always prevent cyberattacks from foreign states, said US Telecom’s Cybersecurity Senior Vice President Robert Mayer, explaining that companies need to work with government agencies to expand cybersecurity efforts.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed in 2015, was a step in the right direction to encourage a working relationship between companies and the government, said Microsoft’s Digital Security Attorney Kemba Walden.

The panelists agreed that with a new president in the White House, the administration needs topnotch leadership in cybersecurity and robust communication between the agencies. The Biden cybersecurity team needs responsibility, accountability and authority to get the job done, Wright said.

Revising Section 230 proves to be a major challenge

Congress needs to take a cautious approach to reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, because its reform may have drastic, long-lasting effects whether for good or ill, said panelists at the 2021 SOTN conference, discussing the 1996 statute that protects platforms from being liable for content posted by third-party users.

Businesses having the absolute power to grant or deny speech on their social media platforms was a large concern of University of Chicago Law School’s Genevieve Lakier, who acknowledged that bad or morally-hazardous speech on social media is a problem. Lakier expressed concern that these private companies have too much control with zero government regulation.

The panel’s discussion comes at a particularly prominent time, three weeks after a riotous mob was instigated on social media and allegedly incited by Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol. In the days following the riot, Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account and Facebook suspended it indefinitely.

If the goal is to prevent future events like the riot at the Capitol, then repealing or altering Section 230 may not work, said Ellen Goodman of Rutgers Law School, expressing concern over how the law would be changed. She said that the problems with social media need to be clearly identified, because the solutions to social media issues might not be found by revising Section 230.

While the statute is under intense scrutiny, Santa Clara University Law School’s Eric Goldman defended the good aspects of the law, pointing to Wikipedia, Yelp, Zoom, social media and other online services that people enjoy, reminding audiences that they are all enabled by Section 230.

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Courts

Supreme Court Declares Trump First Amendment Case Moot, But Legal Issues For Social Media Coming

Benjamin Kahn

Published

on

Photo of Justice Clarence Thomas in April 2017 by Preston Keres in the public domain

January 27, 2021—In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation has spread across social media like a contagious virus transmitted from population to population, said experts during the first panel of the entirely-virtual State of the Net 2021 conference on Tuesday.

“President Joe Biden has put together a plan to combat COVID-19, based on science and evidence,” said Representative Anna Eshoo, D-California, in her opening keynote address to SOTN conference attendees.

Eshoo said part of the challenge is wrestling with misinformation on social media platforms, which by design benefit from content creation that is based on false information and emotional reaction rather than fact.

Although imposters and others acting like experts have existed for years before COVID-19, the pandemic created fertile grounds for medical misinformation to run rampant, which has been exacerbated by social media, said Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Research Director Joan Donovan.

“The anti-vaccine movement was a pandemic of its own,” said Ana Santos Rutchman, advisor to the Biden campaign’s COVID-19 Innovation Committee, that fed into the spread of other information about COVID-19.

According to Stanford Internet Observatory’s Renee DiResta the anti-vaccine movement was very small and had to attach itself to other popular movements to gain traction, so it found a place in the tea party movement. DiResta said this forced the movement to evolve into an idea about government tyranny, leading it toshare space with pro-second amendment hashtags on social media. Fighting false information with science and fact-based expertise will always be a challenge, because science is slow and methodical, and will always lag behind other unverified information that becomes popular across social media, Donovan said. But getting correct information out there, like a public service announcement, will always be important, even when it comes later or is boring, she said.

Looking at social media platforms in how they curate information and use data is a key area for the Biden administration, not only to fight misinformation related to the pandemic, but also false political and medical information, DiResta said.

Public and private sectors need to join hands on cybersecurity

Following a massive data breach in December 2020 of several U.S. government agencies, the relationship between the public and private sectors in cybersecurity need to drastically improve, said cybersecurity experts convened for a SOTN panel.

“From a professional perspective, the SolarWinds attack was very well executed and showed excellent tradecraft,” said Morgan Wright, chief security advisor for SentinelOne, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm.

Companies that operate in the private sector, even large ones like the Fortune 500, do not have the capability to always prevent cyberattacks from foreign states, said US Telecom’s Cybersecurity Senior Vice President Robert Mayer, explaining that companies need to work with government agencies to expand cybersecurity efforts.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed in 2015, was a step in the right direction to encourage a working relationship between companies and the government, said Microsoft’s Digital Security Attorney Kemba Walden.

The panelists agreed that with a new president in the White House, the administration needs topnotch leadership in cybersecurity and robust communication between the agencies. The Biden cybersecurity team needs responsibility, accountability and authority to get the job done, Wright said.

Revising Section 230 proves to be a major challenge

Congress needs to take a cautious approach to reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, because its reform may have drastic, long-lasting effects whether for good or ill, said panelists at the 2021 SOTN conference, discussing the 1996 statute that protects platforms from being liable for content posted by third-party users.

Businesses having the absolute power to grant or deny speech on their social media platforms was a large concern of University of Chicago Law School’s Genevieve Lakier, who acknowledged that bad or morally-hazardous speech on social media is a problem. Lakier expressed concern that these private companies have too much control with zero government regulation.

The panel’s discussion comes at a particularly prominent time, three weeks after a riotous mob was instigated on social media and allegedly incited by Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol. In the days following the riot, Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account and Facebook suspended it indefinitely.

If the goal is to prevent future events like the riot at the Capitol, then repealing or altering Section 230 may not work, said Ellen Goodman of Rutgers Law School, expressing concern over how the law would be changed. She said that the problems with social media need to be clearly identified, because the solutions to social media issues might not be found by revising Section 230.

While the statute is under intense scrutiny, Santa Clara University Law School’s Eric Goldman defended the good aspects of the law, pointing to Wikipedia, Yelp, Zoom, social media and other online services that people enjoy, reminding audiences that they are all enabled by Section 230.

Continue Reading

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