Asking the Right Questions About Content Moderation, Big Tech, and Data Privacy
In our 770th issue:
Online disinformation is a problem that has had real consequences in the U.S. and all over the world—it has been correlated to ethnic violence in Myanmar and India, and to Kenya’s 2017 elections, among other events. But it is equally true that content moderation is a fundamentally broken system. It is inconsistent and confusing, and as layer upon layer of policy is added to a system that employs both human moderators and automated technologies, it is increasingly error-prone. Even well-meaning efforts to control misinformation inevitably end up silencing a range of dissenting voices and hindering the ability to challenge ingrained systems of oppression.
The Senate Commerce Committee met last week to question the heads of Facebook, Twitter, and Google about Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. The questions followed a familiar partisan pattern, with Republicans scolding Big Tech for “censoring” and fact-checking conservative speech and Democrats demanding that tech companies do more to curb misleading and harmful statements on their platforms. Neither side recognized the severe unintended consequences that undermining Section 230 would bring for speech online as a whole.
One bad privacy idea that won’t die is the so-called “data dividend,” which imagines a world where companies have to pay you in order to use your data. Sound too good to be true? It is. Let’s be clear: getting paid for your data—probably no more than a handful of dollars at most—isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with privacy today. The data dividend scheme hurts consumers, benefits companies, and frames privacy as a commodity rather than a right.
Copyright law is supposed to promote creativity, not stamp out criticism. Too often, copyright owners forget that – especially when they have a convenient takedown tool like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). EFF is happy to remind them about copyright law – as we did this month on behalf of Internet creator Lindsay Ellis. Ellis had posted a video about a copyright dispute between authors in a very particular fandom niche: the Omegaverse realm of wolf-kink erotica.
U.S. government employees can donate to EFF through the Combined Federal Campaign! The pledge period is underway and goes through January 15, 2021. Join EFF and many other government employees in our fight for digital rights by making a pledge using our CFC ID # 10437 today.
Black, white, or indigenous; well-resourced or indigent; San Francisco residents should be free to assemble and protest without fear of police surveillance technology or retribution.
EFF, joined by several leading civil liberties and immigrant rights organizations, recently filed a comment calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to withdraw a proposed rule that would exponentially expand biometrics collection from both U.S. citizens and noncitizens who apply for immigration benefits. It would also allow DHS to mandate the collection of face data, iris scans, palm prints, voice prints, and DNA.
November 9, 2020 - 12:10pm PST
EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow and Lincoln Project CTO Sean Roberts discuss interoperability, competitive compatibility, and other technological means to make the Internet more diverse, decentralized, and pluralistic.
November 10, 2020 - 5:00pm PST
Join EFA member group EFF-Austin for a talk by Jon Lebkowsky, co-founder and co-host at the Plutopia News Network, as he considers the 1960s phrase "question authority" in light of the 21st century evolution of the Internet as a platform for all media. Are we still questioning authority, or have we lost all sense of an authority for truth? What's been the impact of blogging and disruptive social media on our perception of the world? How do we find consensus about what's real? And why would that be important?
November 18, 2020 - 9:00am PST
Privacy is a fundamental and complex issue that intertwines a range of high-level expertise—engineering, design, governance and the law—with our deeply held notions of social responsibility and individual freedom. With the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, EFF will host this event to give journalists the tools to help the public better understand what's at stake with data privacy. In conversation with journalists, technologists, and privacy experts, we will unpack the messages and the mechanisms surrounding data privacy and develop strategies for more effective coverage around this important issue. Featured keynote from EFF Activism Project Manager Lindsay Oliver.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is now accepting applications for its 2021-2023 Frank Stanton Fellowship. Applicants should be recent law school graduates or law students who will be graduating no later than Spring 2021, and have an interest in developing an expertise in First Amendment issues implicated by new technologies. EFF will accept applications until November 30, 2020.
Three employees of the face recognition and video analytics company have been fired.
EFF’s Lindsay Oliver and Jason Kelley talk in-depth about the dangers of proctoring apps being used by millions of students across the nation (continue listening to part 2 here).
With the required use of proctoring apps, “What are we telling kids about what they should expect for the rest of their lives?”
Teen Vogue dives deep into the problems with student proctoring software, from privacy invasions and stress caused by overbroad surveillance to discrimination.