July 22, 2021—Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, introduced a bill Thursday that would remove online platforms’ Section 230 liability protections when the platforms are used to spread misinformation about coronavirus vaccines or other public-health emergencies.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms like Facebook and Twitter from civil liability for third-party content posted on their platforms. The measure has come under intense scrutiny over the past year, with prominent figures from both major political parties calling for reform.
Klobuchar said she decided to pursue new legislation because previous attempts to persuade Facebook to regulate the content have not been successful, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Earlier this year, I called on Facebook and Twitter to remove accounts that are responsible for producing the majority of misinformation about the coronavirus, but we need a long-term solution,” Klobuchar says. “This legislation will hold online platforms accountable for the spread of health-related misinformation.”
The coronavirus has been labeled a public-health emergency since January 2020, and Klobuchar’s bill would apply only to events formally declared a public-health emergency by the government. It would also only apply when platforms spread misinformation through the use of their algorithms.
The bill’s introduction cites a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which says that only 12 social media pages are responsible for a significant amount of false information being circulated about vaccines.
Last week, President Joe Biden said that Facebook was “killing people” by spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. Biden later clarified his statement, saying that he wasn’t accusing the company of murder, but wanted them to “do something about the misinformation.”
The following day, Facebook rejected Biden’s criticism in a blog post, saying that 85 percent of its U.S. users either want to be or already have been vaccinated, citing this as evidence that Facebook was not the reason Biden’s goal of a 70 percent vaccination goal by July was not Facebook’s fault. Facebook said it was helping efforts to vaccinate the country by operating vaccine clinics in low-income communities in several states.
Klobuchar had, earlier this year, already introduced legislation called the Safe Tech Act that would amend Section 230 to maintain company liability protections except for content that that the platforms get paid for.
Consolidation, Bloat, and a Waning American ‘Brand’ Hurt the Economy, Says Tim Wu
He argued that fundamental changes must be made to restore peoples’ faith in an American system that works for everyone.
WASHINGTON, January 26, 2022 –White House Special Assistant Tim Wu said Wednesday that the U.S. economy is over-consolidated and bloated in the middle.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Wu, a member of the National Economic Council with a portfolio over Technology and Competition Policy, argued that that the “American dream” has suffered major setbacks in recent decades.
Wu, who is credited with coining the term “net neutrality” and a longstanding critic of telecom monopolies, has more recently become an outspoken critic of big technology companies.
- Broadband Breakfast Explainer 1 (Net Neutrality): On the Cusp of Sea Change, Broadband Breakfast Examines the Net Neutrality Debate
- Broadband Breakfast Explainer 2 (Spectrum): Is Spectrum Sharing a Key to Broader Connectivity Goals?
- Broadband Breakfast Explainer 3 (Section 230): With Florida Social Media Law, Section 230 Now Positioned In Legal Spotlight
- Broadband Breakfast Explainer 4 (Antitrust): Antitrust Heats Up as Biden Selects Tech Critic Jonathan Kanter for Top Enforcement Spot
“We can see very vividly how fragile this concentrated economic system we built has been and how poorly it is working for the whole country,” Wu said.
“Our country has become too centralized. It is too national in its character – in terms of where businesses are location – too centered on consumption, as opposed to production.
“Too many of the [economic] returns go to too few people who often live very far away from the communities they serve.”
Hearkening to the post-World War II decades in which Western nations endorsed significant government intervention in the economy as part of social democracy, Wu said that America is “relearning the virtues and merits of a mixed economy – that is the truer American tradition of small and medium business – market structures where [people] can all survive and prosper; what [President Joe Biden] calls ‘an economy that works for everyone.’”
Can elements of a new form of social democracy be revived in a technology-drenched age?
Wu distilled his criticisms to three primary points: Too many industries have become too consolidated, a bloated “middleman” economy has emerged, and the “American brand” has diminished.
“We have all seen so many industries consolidate into just the ‘big three’ or ‘big four,’” Wu said. “That is a traditional problem that I think extracts a lot from the economy.”
Wu went on to explain the “middleman” economy – a rise of a “highly concentrated middle layer” across many industries. This bloat on the processing end takes place somewhere between the inception of a product or service and the consumer is extracting too much revenue, Wu said.
“When you think about monopoly – which is just high prices – it leads to this problem where the middlemen have power over their suppliers and are able to squeeze their suppliers and also often able to squeeze their employees,” Wu said. This is “a new kind of problem for the economy, and one that we need to face.”
What is the ‘American brand’?
Wu’s final point related to what he referred to as the “American brand.”
“There has been a real sense that the sense of opportunity that has been the ‘American brand’ has diminished,” he said. “The statistics are a little depressing that confirm this.”
75 percent of U.S. industries are controlled by fewer companies than they were 20 years ago, Wu said. He pointed to mergers that skyrocketed in the 1980s and predicted that 2022 will feature a record number of mergers.
“These are real challenges and I just want to assure you that the administration of the White House is very focused on [them] and we see it not just in terms of the economy, but in terms of the Democratic soul of this nation,” Wu said. “Freedom and opportunity are not trivial things when it comes to describing what democracy is all about.
Vague Social Media Laws Create Fear in the Middle East. Can Encryption Tools Help?
Experts discuss how social media is being treated in the Middle East and how to respond.
WASHINGTON, January 25, 2022 – Far from being the savior of democracy in the Middle East, four experts said Monday that social media, and government regulation of it, is beginning to hurt civil rights activists.
The world is witnessing an increase in laws restricting social media access and hence regulating freedom of speech, especially in the Middle East, agreed the panelists, speaking at a Brookings Institution event.
Dina Hussein, the head of counterterrorism and dangerous organizations for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Facebook, and Chris Meserole, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, stated that too many countries are passing vague laws about what is and isn’t allowed on social media.
These new laws are purposefully unclear, they said. This new strategy has made it easier for the government to take down posts and restrict critics’ internet access while leaving up the posts of supporters and government officials.
These laws also spread fear within the regime because the vagueness puts anyone at risk of being arrested for something they post, they said.
When asked what can be done, Hussein said that Facebook promotes honesty through a website that focuses on Facebook’s own transparency and raises awareness of other countries’ laws for their users. In addition, Facebook is personally working to support civil rights activists in the areas of the world that are implementing such laws, Hussein said.
Encryption to avoid surveillance
Meserole said that democratic governments should not be fighting “fire with fire.” Instead, he wants civil rights groups in the Middle East to strengthen their ability to operate without social media. Many activists rely on social media to build their bases and spread their message. So, Meserole emphasized that as the authoritarian regimes increase their abilities to watch, manipulate, and censor social media, democratic governments should invest in technology that will help those who are fighting for civil rights encrypt their media or work outside of the surveillance of government.
Another concern of the guest speakers was the rise in online misinformation and the trend of authoritarian regimes making new accounts to promote their message rather than trying to censor the language of the opposition.
Some people wonder why these groups don’t just eliminate media within their countries. Meserole’s answer is that the government has it is own various benefits to having social media, and so they pass vague internet laws that allow them to have more legal control instead.
FTC Mum on Microsoft-Activision Deal, Proposes Review of Merger Guidelines
The deal would elevate Microsoft in an even more favorable position in the games-as-a-service market.
WASHINGTON, January 24, 2022 – As Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan does media rounds this past week, she has refused to comment on last week’s news that Microsoft has agreed to buy video game making giant Activision-Blizzard for nearly $70 billion.
As per policy, the FTC and the Department of Justice, which on Tuesday jointly held a press conference on merger reform on the same day of the announced consolidation, said they could not comment on the deal, which would increase the Xbox maker’s gaming market share and allow it to better compete with Japanese behemoth Sony.
During the press conference, Khan, installed as chairwoman in June as an already outspoken critic of certain big tech practices, announced that the organizations would be launching a review of merger guidelines. Khan stressed that the current guidelines do not adequately protect consumers and promote competition in the era of the digital economy.
“While the current merger boom has delivered massive fees for investment banks, evidence suggests that many Americans historically have washed out with diminished opportunity, higher prices, lower wages, and lagging innovation,” she said. “These facts invite us to assess how our merger policy tools can better equip us to discharge our statutory obligations and halt this trend.”
She reiterated those goals on a CNBC interview on Wednesday. The purchase of the highly influential Call of Duty franchise maker will have to go through her office. It also presents another stress test for the office, as it is already engaged in an existing lawsuit against Facebook practices. Both Facebook and Amazon have asked for Khan to be recused from investigations in their companies because of her past positions on them.
The deal would significantly expand Microsoft’s Game Pass platform, which offers free games to play for a monthly subscription. Microsoft announced on the day of the proposed deal that Game Pass surpassed 25 million subscriptions.
“Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog,” said Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in a statement.
Despite its numerous successful intellectual properties, Activision Blizzard has been marred with scandal in recent years. In 2021, the company was sued by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for promoting a “frat boy” culture, whereby female employees were not only allegedly discriminated against, but also subjected to sexual assault and misconduct.
- Yellowstone Fiber Launches $65M Fiber Project with UTOPIA in Gallatin County, Montana
- FCC Axes China Unicom, Tucows Has New Software Business, Texas County Broadband Initiative
- Families Need Outreach, More Time to Enroll in Affordable Connectivity Program
- Consolidation, Bloat, and a Waning American ‘Brand’ Hurt the Economy, Says Tim Wu
- Fear of Big Tech in Auto Industry, Montana Hires Lightbox, USTelecom Hires Media Affairs Director
- Vague Social Media Laws Create Fear in the Middle East. Can Encryption Tools Help?
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Cox’s Wireless Deal with Verizon Dies, Apple Appeals Epic Games Case, AT&T’s Fiber Investment
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
AT&T Hurricane Survey, FCC Announces $1.1B from Emergency Connectivity Fund, Comcast’s Utah Plans
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Facebook Changes and Second Whistleblower, Comcast’s Spam Call Feature, AT&T Picks Ericsson for 5G
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
O’Rielly ‘Perplexed’ By Delay in Rosenworcel Decision, China Mobile Domesticating Contracts, AT&T Partners with Frontier
Expert Opinion4 months ago
Mike Harris: Investing in Open Access Fiber Optics is Investing in the Future
Spectrum3 months ago
More Experts Weigh In On Possibility 12 GHz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Services
Artificial Intelligence1 month ago
Henry Kissinger: AI Will Prompt Consideration of What it Means to Be Human
Broadband's Impact4 months ago
Steve Lacoff: A New Standard for the ‘Cloudification’ of Communications Services