Section 230 Is Good, Actually
In our 771st issue:
There are many, many misconceptions—as well as misinformation from Congress and elsewhere—about Section 230, from who it affects and what it protects to what results a repeal would have. To help explain what’s actually at stake when we talk about Section 230, we’ve put together responses to several common misunderstandings of the law.
“You have to choose: are you a platform or a publisher?” We’ll say it plainly here: there is no legal significance to labeling an online service a “platform” as opposed to a “publisher.” Nor does the law treat online services differently based on their ideological “neutrality” or lack thereof. Section 230 explicitly grants immunity to all intermediaries, both the “neutral” and the proudly biased. It treats them exactly the same, and does so on purpose. That’s a feature of Section 230, not a bug.
Our free speech online is too important to be held as collateral in a routine funding bill. Congress must reject President Trump’s misguided campaign against Section 230.
We are at a critical juncture in the world of copyright claims. The “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act”—the CASE Act—is apparently being considered for inclusion in next week’s spending bill. That is “must pass” legislation—in other words, legislation that is vital to the function of the government and so anything attached to it, related to spending or not, has a good chance of becoming law. The CASE Act could mean Internet users face $30,000 penalties for sharing a meme or making a video. It has no place in must pass legislation.
EFF recently launched How to Fix the Internet, a new podcast mini-series examining potential solutions to the ills facing the modern digital landscape. Over the course of six episodes, we consider how current tech policy isn’t working well for users and invite experts to join us in imagining a better future. Hosted by EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn and our Director of Strategy Danny O’Brien, How to Fix the Internet digs into the gritty technical details and the case law surrounding these digital rights topics, while charting a course toward how we can better defend the rights of users.
Many of the smartphone apps people use every day are collecting data on their users and, in order to make money, many of these apps sell that information. One of the customers for this data is the U.S. government, which regularly purchases commercially available geolocation data. This includes the Department of Defense, CBP, ICE, the IRS, and the Secret Service. But it violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution for the government to purchase commercially available location data it would otherwise have to get a warrant to acquire.
Last week five Senators joined the chorus of privacy advocates, students, and teachers expressing concern over surveillance proctoring apps, which are used to watch students remotely during exams. EFF agrees that these apps pose a serious danger to students’ privacy. Surveillance shouldn’t be a prerequisite for an education.
The recent removal of youtube-dl’s source code by Github caused an outcry. After receiving EFF’s letter explaining that it does not infringe or encourage the infringement of any copyrighted works, GitHub has reversed course. GitHub had taken down the repository last month after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) abused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice-and-takedown procedure to pressure GitHub to remove it.
Every three years, the Copyright Office holds a rulemaking process where it grants the public permission to bypass digital locks for lawful purposes. We need your input to make the best case possible: if you use a device with onboard software and DRM keeps you from repairing that device or modifying the software to suit your purposes, we want you to tell us your story.
The term "video analytics" seems boring, but don't confuse it with how many views you got on your YouTube “how to poach an egg” tutorial. In a law enforcement or private security context, video analytics refers to using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision to automate ubiquitous surveillance. Hair color, accessories, and clothing all are automatic identifiers for these new disturbing video analytics tools.
December 10, 2020 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm PST
For EFF's 30th Anniversary, we're inviting you to our second EFF30 Fireside Chat! We'll explore Section 230, why it's under fire, and the future of free speech on the Internet. Join the live Q&A with EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
December 10, 2020 - 6:00pm PST
Ethics in Tech will host a special event to interview strong women leaders in our community. We cordially invite you to join us for an evening of celebration, information, and reflection followed by laughter and love thanks to our guest comedians.
December 11, 2020 - 5:00am PST, Virtual/Europe (CET)
How do restrictions in access to social media platforms affect media behavior and the power of mobilization of far-right hate groups? Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian C. York will join this event led by Germany's Instituts für Demokratie und Zivilgesellschaft.
December 19, 2020 - 11:00am to 12:00pm PST
If there has ever been an argument for holistic security (or, how our cyber-defense is related to our physical and emotional defense), 2020 really found a way to bring together pathos from multiple locations and serve it to us all on a single platter. Join Cypurr as they are joined by EFF's Grassroots Advocacy Organizer Rory Mir to review some of the bigger tech stories from the past year, and what we can hope for (cybersecurity-wise) in the new year!
When Hewlett-Packard unilaterally withdrew its "free ink for life" plan for its rental ink customers, they demonstrated the danger of devices that can be updated by the manufacturer in ways that owners can't override.
Civil Liberties groups, including EFF, have taken a stand against a program being used by the Pasco County Sheriff’s department that uses data to justify surveilling and harrassing people in hopes of preventing future crimes.
We've long feared that networked home surveillance cameras would one day become a massive police CCTV network. One pilot program in Jackson, Mississippi is bringing our fears to life.
Tune in to this week's Techdirt podcast to hear Mike Masnick, Daphne Keller, and our own Cory Doctorow talking about fighting tech monopolies with interoperability.