House Approves SESTA/FOSTA Bill Despite DOJ’s Concerns
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a combined SESTA/FOSTA bill which will make major changes to Section 230. This legislation was overwhelmingly approved despite a letter from the DOJ stating that the combined SESTA/FOSTA bill would actually make it more difficult to prosecute sex traffickers. For an in-depth analysis of the proposed changes, I recommend reading Professor Goldman’s post on this topic at his blog, Technology and Marketing.
Congress Still Tinkering with Sec. 230
Professor Goldman, on his Technology and Marketing Blog, provides a good update on the latest legislative efforts to limit Sec. 230 protection as it relates to sex trafficking (FOSTA/SESTA). As many have argued, any tinkering with Sec. 230, even for the noble purpose of going after sex traffickers, will have harmful long term consequences for online providers and users.
Football Player Detained Over Social Media Post
Another example of a social media post having real-world consequences. Here, former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin has been detained by law enforcement in Los Angeles for posting threatening images on Instagram. As some may recall, Martin had previously been the victim of both online and offline bullying by his fellow Miami Dolphins teammates two of whom ( Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey) are mentioned in the photo. Based on the Instagram post, it appears that Martin still harbors ill-feelings from his time on the Dolphins.
Voices along the whole of the political spectrum are calling for heightened scrutiny of American information-technology companies, especially the Big Five of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. One of the principal themes of this uprising is that present-day antitrust policy, forged in the rusty era of steel, oil, and cars, is now obsolete. We are in the age of information, which ipso facto calls for new rules. A second animating theme is that the antitrust thinking of the Chicago School, which came to prominence in the last quarter of the last century, must be completely overthrown. Proponents of this new antitrust ground their arguments by returning to the historical roots of American antitrust policy. My contention, however, is that the new antitrust gets this history wrong. It both misconceives the nature of the competitive process and deliberately refuses to confront the political economy of antitrust. In so doing, it adopts some of the worst traits of the Chicago School it criticizes while manifesting few of that school’s many virtues.
Regulating Political Social Media Ads
Unlike other forms of communication, such as television, social media, for the most part, has been unregulated by the government. In fact, many consider social media to be the Wild Wild West. However, this laissez-faire approach by the government appears to be waning as society becomes increasingly aware of the problems brought on by social media. Furthermore, social media providers, like any other companies, when left to their own devices do not necessarily police themselves adequately. We saw this with respect to Backpage.com and sex trafficking. Now, it appears that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) may be ready to step in and regulate online political ads.
A recent proposal has been introduced by the vice-chair of the FEC, Ellen Weintraub, to require online advertisements to carry the same disclaimers from their sponsors as radio, television, and print ads. A formal hearing on the Weintraub proposal will be held on March 8th. In an effort to forestall legislation like the Weintraub proposal Facebook has introduced its postcard program for political ads; however, at this point, it appears to be too little, too late.
Teacher at Catholic School Loses Job for Same-Sex Marriage Posts on Facebook
Another example of how personal conduct on social media leads to loss of employment. Here, a popular elementary school teacher lost her job because her Catholic employer did not approve of her same-sex marriage photos that she posted on Facebook.