Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Facebook won’t set itself up as arbiter of campaign ads’ truth

Facebook has done the right thing by not committing to a promise to identify and block false campaign ads, despite political pressure to do so [John Samples, earlier] I don’t think many people have an especially high regard for Facebook’s authority as a guide to political truth. Instead I think the demand for such a promise was driven largely by groups and factions that expect to be good at bringing pressure on Facebook management in the contentious ban-wars that would be certain to result.

For a taste of how the label of “false” in political controversy can depend on ideological presumptions and contestable judgments, here’s Christopher Snowdon’s brisk review of the claim circulated toward the end of the U.K. election campaign that 88% of the Conservative ads (but, conveniently, none of the Labour ads) were dishonest.

January 8 roundup

  • Lenawee County, Mich. authorities have posted condemnation notices on Old Order Amish farmhouses over their use of outhouses rather than modern septic systems as required by code. Dispute now heading for court [Tom Henry, Toledo Blade]
  • Baltimore Mayor Young promotes white-van-abduction urban legends, police misconduct transparency, Montgomery County is watching drivers and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
  • Following outcry from activists, Facebook disables as misleading ads some trial lawyer ads soliciting plaintiffs to sue over purported side effects of HIV prevention drugs [Tony Romm, Washington Post/Toronto Star, Peter Lawrence Kane, The Guardian, WTHR]
  • From Lowering the Bar, legal things that actually did happen in 2019;
  • 20 years ago I warned that by trying to dictate employers’ choices, a Wisconsin law might work to impede convict re-entry into the job market rather than encourage it [Reason, from its archives]
  • If county and city law enforcement officials have discretion not to charge low-level drug offenders, do they also have discretion not to charge low-level gun offenders? [Cam Edwards, National Review on Virginia battle over “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions]

December 18 roundup

  • Examples ranging from eminent domain and free speech to racial and religious discrimination contradict Attorney General’s suggestion that it’s unusual for modern courts to scrutinize motives behind government action [Milad Emam, Institute for Justice; Ilya Somin]
  • Article deems it “unusual” that lawyer trying to get money out of Facebook on lurid sex-trafficking theories is a personal-injury specialist who’s pursued car-crash and insurance claims. Doesn’t take much to surprise the New York Times, does it? [Jack Nicas, New York Times]
  • “We learned very quickly that it was a numbers game — the more people you come in contact with, the greater your chances of getting a gun.” How Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force went “hunting” among city residents [Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun this summer, earlier]
  • “Politically Incorrect Paper of the Day: The United Fruit Company was Good!” [Alex Tabarrok on Esteban Mendez-Chacon and Diana Van Patten paper]
  • “I’ve often noted to people that [lawyers who] are unethical at the start of representation are not likely to be ethical later as their interests are directed to the self and not the client” [Eric Turkewitz on NYPD 911-call-injury-referral scandal, earlier]
  • “The Color Magenta, Or How T-Mobile Thinks It Owns A General Color” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]

Social media law roundup

  • Despite warnings that its “copyright small claims” format could call forth a new troll business model and trip up ordinary Internet users, U.S. House of Representatives votes lopsidedly in favor of CASE Act [Makena Kelly, The Verge; Jonathan Bailey, Plagiarism Today; Katharine Trendacosta and Ernesto Falcon, Electronic Frontier Foundation, here, here, here, and here; Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Copyright Alliance and ABA president Judy Perry Martinez (supportive of bill); earlier]
  • A social media platform that proposes to vet political claims for truthfulness will inevitably be drawn into taking sides in favor of some political factions against others [John Samples, Cato] You’d think New Yorker writers and New York Times editors would know better: no, free speech is not “killing us.” [same]
  • “Top Myths About Content Moderation” [Eric Goldman] And a Cato Daily Podcast about content moderation with Thomas Kadri and Caleb Brown;
  • “Attorney Who Sued Grindr Responds Extremely Poorly To The Supreme Court’s Rejection Of Her Section 230 Lawsuit” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt, on “victims’ lawyer” Carrie Goldberg; Cathy Gellis in January]
  • It must be campaign season because here come the DMCA takedown notices over fair use [Paul Alan Levy]
  • “Facebook isn’t liable for algorithm that put terrorist content in news feeds, 2nd Circuit rules” [ABA Journal, earlier here, etc.]

An old story: social critics decry new technologies

In something of a convergence, anti-tech themes have become common both among the cultural critics of the social justice Left and the populist moralists of the Right. [Corbin Barthold, Truth on the Market]

As for the stuff the industry does make, [Republican Missouri Senator Josh] Hawley wants it changed. He has introduced a bill to ban infinite scrolling, music and video autoplay, and the use of “badges and other awards” (gamification) on social media. The bill also requires defaults that limit a user’s time on a platform to 30 minutes a day. A user could opt out of this restriction, but only for a month at a stretch.

The available evidence does not bear out the notion that highbrow magazines, let alone Josh Hawley, should redesign tech products and police how people use their time. You’d probably have to pay someone around $500 to stay off Facebook for a year. Getting her to forego using Amazon would cost even more. And Google is worth more still—perhaps thousands of dollars per user per year. These figures are of course quite rough, but that just proves the point: the consumer surplus created by the internet is inestimable.

It’s priggish, but enduringly popular, to see one’s fellow humans as being merely entrapped by the temptation to use new technology in frivolous or destructive ways, incapable of turning them to solid benefit. “When a lantern inventor obtained a patent to light London, observed Macaulay, ‘the cause of darkness was not left undefended.'”

California Consumer Privacy Act: legislate in haste…

The California Consumer Privacy Act, drawn up hastily to avert a threatened ballot initiative, purports to create six new categories of data-related consumer rights, “including the right to know; the right of data portability; the right to deletion; the right to opt-out of data sales; the right to not be discriminated against as a user; and a private right of action for data breaches.” Although sometimes compared to the European GDPR, the two laws are different and compliance with the one enactment (which has been immensely expensive already) does not accomplish compliance with the other. Expect uncertainty, fines, the California specialty of entrepreneurial class-action litigation, and more tilting of compliance cost structures to the benefit of tech companies and advertising intermediaries big enough to afford to spread the high expense over large revenue streams [Alec Stapp, Truth on the Market; more: Al Saikali, Washington Legal Foundation; Petrina McDaniel, Elliot Golding and Keshia Lipscomb, Squire Patton Boggs]

Free speech roundup

  • 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]

International free speech roundup

  • Singapore law restricting so-called fake news “could force companies to tell the government what websites users have viewed” [Jennifer Daskal, New York Times] Ruling People’s Action Party “is notorious for its practice of bringing lawsuits against opposition members,” sometimes “for defamation upon criticizing the PAP,” while blog authors are “often pressured to register as members of political bodies if their posts touch upon national issues.” [Sally Andrews, The Diplomat]
  • Australian federal police raid national broadcaster, seize files over story exposing alleged killings of unarmed civilians by special forces [Matthew Lesh, Spiked]
  • U.K.: “Man investigated by police for retweeting transgender limerick” [Camilla Tominey and Joani Walsh, Daily Telegraph; Jack Beresford, Irish Post; Ophelia Benson followup on “Harry the Owl” case; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • From President John Adams’s time to our own, rulers around the world have used alarms over fake news as excuse for measures against political opponents [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]
  • “In a world first, Facebook to give data on hate speech suspects to French courts” [Mathieu Rosemain, Reuters, Jacob Mchangama on Twitter]
  • Michael Jackson fan clubs sue sex-abuse complainants “under a French law against the public denunciation of a dead person,” good example of why laws like that are a bad idea [AP/GlobalNews]
  • Turkish “Academics for Peace” initiative of 2016: “Of the petition’s more than 2,000 signatories, nearly 700 were put on trial and over 450 were removed from their posts by government decree or direct action from their own university.” [Brennan Cusack, New York Times]

One year later, the harms of Europe’s data-privacy law

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect just over a year ago, has resulted in a broad array of consequences that are expensive, unintended, or both. Alec Stapp reports at Truth on the Market, with more discussion at Marginal Revolution:

GDPR can be thought of as a privacy “bill of rights.” Many of these new rights have come with unintended consequences. If your account gets hacked, the hacker can use the right of access to get all of your data. The right to be forgotten is in conflict with the public’s right to know a bad actor’s history (and many of them are using the right to memory hole their misdeeds). The right to data portability creates another attack vector for hackers to exploit.

Meanwhile, Stapp writes, compliance costs for larger U.S.-based firms alone are headed toward an estimated $150 billion, “Microsoft had 1,600 engineers working on GDPR compliance,” and an estimated 500,000 European organizations have seen fit to register data officers, while the largest advertising intermediaries, such as Google, appear to have improved their relative competitive position compared with smaller outfits. Venture capital investment in Euro start-ups has sagged, some large firms in sectors like gaming and retailing have pulled out of the European market, and as of March more than 1,000 U.S.-based news sites were inaccessible to European readers.

More in Senate testimony from Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski via Tyler Cowen:

The plain language of the GDPR is so plainly at odds with the business model of surveillance advertising that contorting the real-time ad brokerages into something resembling compliance has required acrobatics that have left essentially everybody unhappy.

The leading ad networks in the European Union have chosen to respond to the GDPR by stitching together a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of consent,a mechanism whereby a user wishing to visit, say, a weather forecast is first prompted to agree to share data with a consortium of 119 entities, including the aptly named “A Million Ads” network. The user can scroll through this list of intermediaries one by one, or give or withhold consent en bloc, but either way she must wait a further two minutes for the consent collection process to terminate before she is allowed to find out whether or it is going to rain.

This majestically baroque consent mechanism also hinders Europeans from using the privacy preserving features built into their web browsers, or from turning off invasive tracking technologies like third-party cookies,since the mechanism depends on their being present.

For the average EU citizen, therefore, the immediate effect of the GDPR has been to add friction to their internet browsing experience along the lines of the infamous 2011 EU Privacy Directive (“EU cookie law”) that added consent dialogs to nearly every site on the internet.

On proposals to base legislation in the United States on similar ideas, see Roslyn Layton and Pranjal Drall, Libertarianism.org. [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]