Analysis | The Technology 202: The future of social media could be decided by the Supreme Court


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Good morning and TGIF! Today we replace Cristiano. Twitter shares fell this morning after Elon Musk he tweeted that his offer to buy the company was temporarily on hold. Here is the must-read story from our colleagues.

Bottom: Lawmakers want tech companies to file potential war crimes in Ukraine, and US cities are considering rolling back their facial recognition bans. But first:

The future of social networks could be decided by the Supreme Court

Unhappy with the big social media platforms’ content moderation policies, which they often call censorship, Republican leaders in Texas, Florida and other states have been busy writing and passing state laws that, if respected and enforced, They would turn the entire industry upside down.

The Texas law, for example, would bar companies like Facebook and Twitter from banning users or limiting their posts based on “point of view,” a standard so ill-defined that legal and industry experts say it would make the large-scale content moderation almost impossible.

First Amendment pundits widely criticized the Florida and Texas laws as unconstitutional, while the tech giants assumed the courts would strike them down before they went into effect.

Those hopes were dashed Wednesday night, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary injunction on the Texas law, allowing it to take effect while its substance continues to be litigated in a lower court.

The law, signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) in September, allows individuals and the state attorney general to file lawsuits against social media companies with more than 50 million monthly active users in the United States, such as Google’s Facebook and YouTube. if they believe they were illegally banned or censored. The law also requires platforms to build a complaint system, where people can challenge companies’ decisions to remove content or flag illegal activity.

Industry trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represent companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google, argued in court that the law violates the First Amendment, which limits the government’s power to tell private entities what to publish and what not to publish. .

The Fifth Circuit’s surprise move has left business and legal minds “scratching their heads,” he said. Eric Goldman, professor of law at the Santa Clara University School of Law. “I think everyone is in shock over this. Everyone is trying to figure out what happened and what’s next.”

Meanwhile, Texans who have had their accounts suspended or had their posts removed can start suing the platforms immediately.

Social media platforms should wait for an alleged victim to come forward and file a lawsuit to prove it, he said. elizabeth bankerVice President of Legal Advocacy at the Chamber of Progress, which counts Facebook, Twitter and Google as financial backers.

“I think the big concern … is that now not only can Texas AG start filing lawsuits, but the general public can,” Banker said. “So everyone who thinks they’ve been canceled now has access to the courts.”

The legal battle is almost certain to continue, but it’s unclear what the platforms will do in the meantime.

At this point, platforms essentially have two options, Goldman said. One is to try to comply with the law as best they can. “But no one is really discussing that,” he added, “because it’s not possible. The law was written in a way that is really not defensible to anyone.”

Social platforms are subject to laws that make certain types of speech illegal, but there is no practical way to comply without also removing content that could be sued under Texas law.

The other option, Goldman said, is to essentially cut Texas off, excluding Texans from its platforms altogether. But Texas law also includes language that attempts to prohibit that.

“The way the law is written is that it also protects the ability of people within Texas to receive communications,” Banker said. “So what you’re essentially trying to do is reach out to other jurisdictions and say that platforms can’t remove point of view-based speech in any other jurisdiction.”

Tech companies would have a hard time simply cutting off services to Texans, even if they decide that’s their best option, Banker added. For starters, it can be difficult to identify where individual users are at any given time.

A state that forces platforms to do business there is almost certainly unconstitutional, Goldman added. But he later thought that the rest of the law was also unconstitutional, and that is still in force for now.

Experts say the battle now looks set to end, one way or another, at the Supreme Court.

a justice, Clarence Tomas, has already suggested in an opinion that social media companies should have to play by the same rules as phone companies, acting as “common carriers” for anything anyone wants to say. The question of whether the court accepts the case may come down to how many of the other conservative Justices Thomas can convince to back an expansion of state power into the private sector.

jamel jamel, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, said these cases are more than just how tech companies craft their content moderation policies. It is about whether the government can usurp the power of private companies to dictate who can say what online.

“My deepest concern with Texas’s arguments here is that the argument they’re making about the First Amendment would give governments really broad power to manipulate and censor public speech,” Jaffer said. “Their argument is essentially that social media platforms have no First Amendment rights to assert. If you accept that proposal, then there really isn’t any regulation that Texas can’t pass regarding social media.”

Conservatives have amassed a following since Twitter accepted Musk’s offer

Right-wing accounts and Republican members of Congress saw an increase in Twitter followers, while the followers of their Democratic counterparts stagnated. Zakrzewski cat, Naomi Nix, Jeremy B. Merrill Y Madison Dong report. The data is an early indication that the vision of Elon Musk as a “free speech absolutist” could transform who uses the platform.

“It definitely says something about the possible future of Twitter,” he said. darren linville, associate professor at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub. “You are going to see an increase in conservative users.”

Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy He said the company is investigating the changes. “While we continue to take action on accounts that violate our spam policy, which may affect follower numbers, these fluctuations appear to have been largely the result of an increase in new account creation and deactivation.” NBC News first reported the first changes in the Conservatives’ following.

Ranking House Democrats Call on Tech Companies to Shelve Possible War Crimes in Ukraine

The letters to the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook’s parent YouTube call on the companies to preserve and archive content, and to “flag or flag content as containing potential evidence of war crimes and other atrocities.” “NBC News said. ben collins reports. The lawmakers said in the letters that the archived materials could be used in war crimes trials.

The letters were sent by the chair of the House Oversight Committee Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.); Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory W. Meeks (DN.Y.); Rep. Stephen F Lynch (D-Mass.), who chairs the Oversight Committee’s homeland security panel; and representative William R Keating (D-Mass.), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe panel. Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

US cities and states seek to roll back facial recognition bans

Virginia will lift its ban on local police use of the technology in July, and California and New Orleans could follow, Reuters said. Paresh Dave reports. The changes come “amid rising crime and increased pressure from developers,” writes Dave.

Critics say facial recognition technology is less effective at identifying people of color. In 2019, a federal study found that technology misidentified people of color more often than white people. But the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the technology has increased in accuracy, Dave reports.

The firing of Twitter’s head of consumer products Kayvon Beykpour during his paternity leave did not sit well with some Twitter users. Protocol megan morrone:

seven seven six founder alexis ohanianwho co-founded Reddit:

Twitter CEO shakes up his leadership team, again (Elizabeth Dwoskin, Will Oremus and Gerrit De Vynck)

Leaked memo reveals Apple’s anti-union talking points for store managers (Motherboard)

Sony PlayStation staff furious over CEO’s abortion comments (Bloomberg)

DOJ loses bid to sanction Google for withholding documents (Bloomberg)

Anonymous social media app Yik Yak exposed users’ precise locations (motherboard)

US SEC’s Peirce sees “move” in stablecoin regulations (Reuters)

Instagram dispute fuels ‘Wagatha Christie’ defamation case (The New York Times)

  • Airbnb has announced that 22 organizations have joined its Trust and Safety Advisory Coalition, which will advise the company on its policies, products, employee training and other topics.
  • The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory houses a event on content moderation amid war in Ukraine on Wednesday at 11 am

ThatIs all for today. Thank you very much for joining us! Be sure to tell others to subscribe to The Technology 202 here. Get in touch with advice, comments or greetings at Twitter either E-mail.


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