- Can a law ban calls to police by the public that are based on stereotyping or bias? Grand Rapids may find out [Scott Greenfield]
- Courts and EEOC have held that the federal ban on pregnancy discrimination encompasses a ban on discrimination related to abortion [Jon Hyman] Legislative proposal in Ohio, fortunately given little chance of passage, would make anti-vaxxers a protected group under state employment discrimination law [same]
- “Finally Some Robust Research Into Whether ‘Diversity Training’ Actually Works – Unfortunately It’s Not Very Promising” [Jesse Singal, British Psychological Society Research Digest, earlier]
- New EEOC employer reporting requirements represent “an order of magnitude increase in the amount of information the government wants” for one recreation management business [Coyote] How are federal agencies doing on civil rights issues in this administration? Federalist Society panel with Gail Heriot, Kenneth Marcus, Theodore Shaw, Timothy Taylor, moderated by Erik Jaffe;
- When an outcry arose over its partnership decisions, “Paul, Weiss did what every other mainstream institution does today when accused of racial bias: it fell on its sword.” [Heather Mac Donald, City Journal via Eugene Volokh]
- “Targeted Advertising and Age Discrimination: An Explainer” [Joe Ruckert, On Labor]
In a Cato Podcast with Caleb Brown, John Samples discusses his new Cato policy analysis, “Why the Government Should Not Regulate Content Moderation of Social Media.” One thing that changed just lately: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in the words of Nick Gillespie,
is explicitly calling for government regulation of specifically political speech on his platform and beyond. In his quest to limit expression on social media, Zuckerberg is joined not only by progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) but conservative Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who are calling for the equivalent of a Fairness Doctrine for Twitter and similar services.
For those of us who believe in freedom of expression, this is a revolting development.
More: “Will a Free Press Cheer on Government Censorship of the Internet?” [Scott Shackford, Hans Bader] Several commentators note that having made Facebook the big success in its market, Zuckerberg can now ask for regulations that would tend to lock in its dominance by heaping compliance burdens on rising competitors [Coyote, Andrea O’Sullivan, Mercatus]
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with similarly heavy-handed regimes such as California’s Consumer Privacy Act, entrenches established platforms that have the resources to meet their onerous compliance requirements. Since the GDPR’s implementation in May, the rank and market share of small- and medium-sized ad tech companies has declined by 18 to 32 percent in the EU, while these measures have increased for Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Via Alex Stamos thread on Twitter (“Anybody wonder why the big tech companies didn’t really fight that hard against GDPR? It isn’t due to a newfound love of regulation”) by way of James Pethokoukis; more, Antonio García Martínez.
Mike Masnick at TechDirt examines claims that YouTube, Facebook, and other social media companies irresponsibly refrained from deleting user-posted copies of the March 14 mass murder at Christchurch, New Zealand mosques.
- Was this an entry in a contest to draft the most unconstitutional bill? “Florida Bill Would Make It a Crime for Minors to Post Pictures of Guns on Social Media” [Eugene Volokh]
- “Everyone involved in politics has bad days, when one’s interests conflict with one’s ideals.” But conservatives should resist the temptation to call in government to regulate the Internet [John Samples] New Republican interest in antitrust explainable by wish to bust corporations considered unfriendly to Republicans [Steven Greenhut]
- Lafayette, La. mother jailed after posting video to social media showing fight between two high school students [Megan Wyatt, The Advocate; editorial; Dave Cohen, WWL]
- Suit over online harassment could puncture liability protections of Section 230, some hope and others fear [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
- “So, to be blunt here, Warren’s campaign screwed up with its ad design [by] including the [Facebook] logo.” The really bad part, though, was the spinning afterward [Scott Shackford]
- Tweeting wrong sorts of things about gender can result in a visit from the British police, cont’d [Tom Potter, Ipswich Star (Suffolk; quoting local activist who “said police had a right to intervene if it was felt the posts were causing offence.”)] And another case from Hitchin, Hertfordshire [Martin Beckford, Daily Mail; earlier here, here, etc.
- Content moderation “is, in many ways, the commodity that platforms offer.” Will they be left free to offer it? [Will Duffield, Cato Journal, reviewing Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie]
- “30 Years After the Rushdie Fatwa, Europe Is Moving Backward” on speech that gives religious offense [Jacob Mchangama and Sarah McLaughlin, Foreign Policy] Whether you call it blasphemy or hate speech, chilling effects on expression are the same [Helen Dale, Unherd]
- British writer faces police inquiry after “deadnaming” transgender activist online [Katie Herzog, The Stranger; Sophie Law, Daily Mail on Graham Linehan case] Social media “like” contributes to another police call [James Kirkup, The Spectator]
- How American law came to recognize hate speech as part of the zone of protected free speech: a look at the history [Flemming Rose, Cato Institute]
- Labour MP introduces bill to ban private Facebook groups [Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner]
- Far-right French politico Marine Le Pen, prosecuted over speech on Twitter, “ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination as part of the investigation.” Say what? [Jacob Sullum]
- The U.K.’s new anti-terrorism efforts should be terrifying to anyone who cares about free speech [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]
A “string of civil lawsuits intended to pin liability on online platforms for allegedly providing material support to terrorists” has mostly fared poorly in court, with Section 230 providing a bulwark against liability in most cases, “but some of these cases are on appeal and plaintiffs have filed several new ones. If these suits are successful, they could be detrimental for the Internet: platforms would have little choice to become much more restrictive in what sorts of speech they allow.” In particular, “if online platforms no longer have Section 230 immunity for hosting content even remotely related to terrorism, those forums and services will take aggressive action to screen their users, review and censor content, and potentially prohibit anonymous speech.” [Aaron Mackey, Electronic Frontier Foundation; examples here (Facebook), here (Twitter), here, here (San Bernardino: Facebook, Google, Twitter), here (attacks in Paris and Brussels, Twitter), here (Orlando), here (Facebook), here (Twitter), etc. ]
“Big internet platforms for speech are privately owned, but those who would pressure private firms to restrict speech are often the same people who would substantially restrict the rights of people to speak. John Samples and Emily Ekins discuss how Americans think about free speech today and ways to defend it in the modern age.” [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown]
More: John Samples on Facebook moderation policies; Matthew Feeney, “Keep Government Away From Twitter.” And if Congress abrogates the liability protections of Section 230, as some conservatives urge, one predictable consequence will be that more conservatives will wind up getting purged from social media [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
“Sony Music Entertainment has been forced to abandon its claim that it owned 47 seconds of video of musician James Rhodes using his own piano to play music written by Johann Sebastian Bach.” After Rhodes posted the video to Facebook, Sony sent a takedown notice saying that the performance “matches 47 seconds of audio” owned by Sony. Match-detecting algorithms have become commonplace in the copyright takedown field; in this case, Sony backed down after Rhodes’s tweet about the situation got considerable attention. [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica]
Sony does own the rights to the performances of important Bach interpreters such as Glenn Gould, so it is possible that a performance influenced by Gould’s would be especially likely to trip a similarity algorithm. But it gets worse. Last year an Australian music teacher named Sebastian Tomczak “posted on YouTube a 10-hour recording of white noise as an experiment” (in sound perception, not copyright practice) and “within days, the upload had five different copyright claims filed against it. All five would allow continued use of the material, the notices explained, if Tomczak allowed the upload to be “monetized,” meaning accompanied by advertisements from which the claimants would get a share.” [Joseph Bottum, Free Beacon]
And finally, from my own recent experience: a comment from a local performance group’s Facebook page about how a recording of a sing-through of Gilbert & Sullivan Utopia, Ltd. triggered a takedown based on supposed copying of an entirely different work, Rossini’s William Tell. The passage that showed too much similarity? The audience applause!
How efficient is social media in spreading viral-junk misinformation about the law? Well, the following post about Tuesday’s two-page Supreme Court ruling in Brakebill v. Jaeger, a case about voting procedures in North Dakota, has gotten more than 18,000 shares as of this morning:
1. Brakebill was not Justice Kavanaugh’s first ruling. If you so much as glance at the Court’s opinion, it’s hard to miss its second sentence: “JUSTICE KAVANAUGH took no part in the consideration or decision of this application.”
2. There is no indication that the vote was 5 to 4. Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer did not join the dissent.*
3. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent contains no language even remotely like that put within quotation marks here. Her tone is technical rather than indignant, and she does not challenge anyone’s motives as illegitimate.
4. The Court did not issue a decision upholding the laws. It was a denial of an application to vacate a stay, not a ruling on the merits.
And we haven’t even gotten to the merits! Three and a half days after posting, its author has not seen fit to correct any of his errors.
Here’s a rule of thumb about social media: the more anger, the less accuracy. More on viral junk and thinking before you share here.
* A reader on Twitter points out that in the absence of a signed majority opinion, we can’t know for sure that the vote against vacating the stay necessarily came out 6-2; we know only that if there were other Justices who wanted to vacate the stay, they declined to join the Ginsburg-Kagan dissent. I’ve corrected the text above accordingly.