The U.S. House of Representatives appears about to vote on a bill forcing platforms to monitor users’ content and undermining Section 230, charter of freedom for online social media, all in the name of the widening campaign against real or imagined trafficking. [Electronic Frontier Foundation; Eric Goldman post and podcast and background from September; Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks; earlier here, etc.] More: John Samples, Cato; Cathy Gellis, TechDirt.
- “‘Hate speech’ is not a legal category, and banning it wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny.” [Cato Daily Podcast episodes with Caleb Brown interviewing Matthew Feeney and Lou Perez]
- “Civil FOSTA Suits Start Showing Up In Court; Prove That FOSTA Supporters Were 100% Wrong About Who Would Be Targeted” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt, earlier]
- Cause célèbre in the U.K.: employment law tribunal, an institution with no exact counterpart in American law, rules against worker fired from nonprofit over tweets expressing view that sex is immutable biological characteristic [Owen Bowcott, The Guardian; Jodie Ginsberg (chief executive of Index on Censorship group]
- California attorney general’s office demands donor lists of non-profits, including those out of state. Supreme Court should now clarify its doctrine that all laws infringing on First Amendment freedoms be narrowly tailored [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and James Knight on Cato certiorari amicus brief in Institute for Free Speech v. Becerra; earlier and related here, here, etc.]
- Trump sues the New York Times for libel over a Max Frankel op-ed and Eric Turkewitz doesn’t think much of his prospects [earlier]
- “Was This the Decade We Hit Peak Free Speech?” [Jesse Walker]
- Second Circuit decision restricting public officials from blocking foes on Twitter is likely to discourage local electeds from sharing on social media, among its other problems [Gabriel Malor thread, John Samples/Cato, earlier]
- State of Washington defines lawyers’ pro bono work as “campaign expenditure,” even when it goes toward ballot access effort for a measure that never reached the ballot to be campaigned over. Review and clarification by high court sorely needed [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Patrick Moran on Cato amicus brief in Evergreen Freedom Foundation v. State of Washington]
- Freedom of press not just for those who own one: “Minnesota Supreme Court Holds That Nonmedia Speakers Are Fully Protected by First Amendment” [Eugene Volokh, defamation law]
- “Publishing Court Records Containing Home Address Not Actionable Invasion of Privacy” [Volokh on a pattern that sometimes gives rise to claims of “doxxing”]
- FOSTA, the law hailed as creating a pioneering exception to Section 230 for speech promoting “sex trafficking,” isn’t just your ordinary incursion on Internet freedom. It comes with a body count [Mike Masnick, Techdirt; related, Violet Blue, Engadget]
- If they’re farming, don’t you be filming: John Stossel on ag-gag laws [Reason video and story, earlier]
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996).
Those 26 words (and not a member of Congress) invented the internet as we know it. These words protect internet platforms from lawsuits based on user-generated content, allowing them to open their doors to a dizzying variety of sentiment and speech. Absent that sentence, social media platforms would have strong incentives to suppress any speech that might cause them legal woes. Or, in contrast, they might avoid legal liability by not moderating their forums at all, likely rendering them unusable. Jeff Kosseff tells the story of the institutions that flourished as a result of this powerful statute. He introduces us to those who created CDA 230, those who advocated for it, and those who were involved in some of the most prominent cases decided under the law. As section 230 and the platforms it protects face increasing scrutiny, Twenty-Six Words demystifies this little-known yet vital statute.
Commenting at the Cato forum for Jeff Kosseff and his book were: David Post, former professor of law, Temple Law School; Emma Llansó, Center for Democracy and Technology; and Cato’s John Samples as moderator.
More: Nick Gillespie, Reason (conservatives, liberals on Capitol Hill both turning against Section 230). And Eric Goldman has written recently about how the First Amendment is by no means a dependable backstop should incursions on Section 230 widen speech liability, and how the FOSTA law, which curtailed some Section 230 protections in the name of combating sex trafficking, is unlikely to achieve much toward that goal even as it prepares the way for further incursions on online liberty.
- Dangerous and misguided: Michigan pursues prosecution on charges of jury tampering of man who handed out “jury nullification” pamphlets on public sidewalk outside courthouse [Jay Schweikert, Cato; Jacob Sullum, earlier here, here, etc.]
- “‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration” [Eric Goldman] Among first casualties: Craigslist personals [Merrit Kennedy/NPR, Elizabeth Nolan Brown] And Elizabeth Nolan Brown joins (no relation) Caleb Brown on a Cato Daily Podcast;
- Is reprinting thumbnail headshots fair use? [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- “16 Pulse survivors sue Google, Facebook, Twitter for ‘supporting’ ISIS” [Daniel Dahm, WKMG Orlando]
- Not the group it used to be: ACLU calls for government-owned broadband, claims First Amendment may require as opposed to forbid state-operated communications infrastructure [Randolph May and Theodore Bolema, Free State Foundation] More: Scott Greenfield;
- Cato amicus commercial speech triple-header: Virginia’s ban on promoting happy hours (bars may hold them, but not promote them off premises) is an irrational leftover of Prohibition [Ilya Shapiro] While some commercial speech can be mandated, Ninth Circuit goes too far in upholding government-ordered scripts [Shapiro and Meggan Dewitt on structured-mortgage-payment case Nationwide Biweekly Administration v. Hubanks] Sign laws face tough scrutiny under 2015’s Reed v. Town of Gilbert, and Tennessee’s billboard law, which applies even to noncommercial speech, may run into trouble [Shapiro and Aaron Barnes]
- “Special economic zones can be anything from tools of crony capitalism to seeds of a freer world order.” [Tom W. Bell on The Political Economy of Special Economic Zones by Lotta Moberg]
- 33 state constitutions have “baby Ninths,” which like federal version suggest existence and protection of some unenumerated individual rights. Potential there [Anthony B. Sanders, Rutgers Law Review forthcoming/SSRN]
- Judge hears argument on Seattle law ordering landlords to accept first otherwise qualified tenant who applies [Heidi Groover/The Stranger, earlier]
- Labeling of food, other products as “natural” helps keep class action lawyers in business [Julie Creswell, New York Times]
- SESTA, FOSTA, and trafficking: L.A. Times editorial warns on dangers of abridging Section 230 protections for Internet freedom [earlier here, here, etc.]
- Saga of Zen Magnets versus the CPSC, told in detail [Alan Prendergast, Westword (Denver); earlier; related, Nancy Nord]
- What’s worse than undermining Section 230, charter of Internet freedom? Turning it all into a pinata for trial lawyers [No go, NRO; earlier on SESTA and FOSTA] Carve-out to Section 230 in name of fighting sex trafficking could erode protection for other businesses against being sued [WSJ editorial] More: Karol Markowicz;
- “If You Owe the IRS Over $51,000, It Can Trap You in the United States” [Brian Doherty, Reason]
- How far can a theft ring go in stealing a rental vehicle before the police step in? [related Twitter threads, Sharky Laguana and Noah Lehmann-Haupt]
- “Federalism as a Check on Executive Authority,” panel at Federalist Society 2017 Annual Texas Chapters Conference with Caitlin Halligan, Scott Keller, Ernest Young, moderated by Hon. Jeff Brown [video]
- Revisiting an auto scare: “Will the Corvair Kill You?” [Larry Webster, Hagerty, earlier here and here]
- No, peacocks-in-the-airline-cabin isn’t really some failure of “fetishizing [individualism over] communal well-being.” It’s a failure of collectivized legal compulsion overriding contract and choice [David Leonhardt, New York Times; Elizabeth Preske, Travel and Leisure on underlying episode; earlier on emotional-support and other service animals]