Q2 2016 Quick Links, Part 2 (Terrorism Content, Hate Speech, Thiel/Gawker, Censorship & More)

Terrorism Content

* Washington Post: “There’s a new tool to take down terrorism images online. But social media companies are wary of it.” For good reason. If all it takes to scrub content permanently is to deem it “terrorism content,” we’ll all be amazed how much content will be classified that way. Social media sites said no to this new tool, but…

Reuters: Google, Facebook quietly move toward automatic blocking of extremist videos. The article suggests this is piggybacking on the copyright fingerprinting system. Are you surprised the copyright filters are being extended for other censorious purposes? Who could have foreseen that happening? If you build a censorship infrastructure, the censors will come!

* Reuters: Proposals to curb online speech viewed as threat to open internet. The pro-censorship forces are on a major winning streak.

* Gonzalez v Twitter complaint. Twitter, Facebook & YouTube sued for allegedly providing material support to ISIS

* NY Times: Facebook Groups Act as Weapons Bazaars for Militias

Hate Content

* European Commission’s Press release: European Commission and IT Companies announce Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech. The code of conduct:

The IT Companies to have in place clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access to such content. The IT companies to have in place Rules or Community Guidelines clarifying that they prohibit the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct.

Upon receipt of a valid removal notification, the IT Companies to review such requests against their rules and community guidelines and where necessary national laws transposing the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA with dedicated teams reviewing requests.

The IT Companies to review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.

Reuters: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Microsoft back EU hate speech rules

Removing illegal content within 24 hours of notice doesn’t sound too bad. But removing “illegal” hate content sounds problematic given the capacious definitions of what might qualify.

Civil society is unhappy about this “voluntary” code of conduct. EDRi and Access Now withdraw from the EU Commission IT Forum discussions. Separately, CDT’s letter.

* NY Times: Reddit Steps Up Anti-Harassment Measures With New Blocking Tool

* NY Magazine: Every Time She’s Harassed, This Biologist Creates a Wikipedia Page for a Woman Scientist. A variation on the maxim that the best cure for bad speech is more speech?

Peter Thiel/Lawfare

* Felix Salmon: Peter Thiel just gave other billionaires a dangerous blueprint for perverting philanthropy

* Poynter: Peter Thiel isn’t the only billionaire waging legal battles against the press

* New Republic: Peter Thiel’s Revenge Against Gawker Is Neither Justice Nor Philanthropy

* Law.com: Billionaire’s Backing of Gawker Suit Raises Transparency Concerns

* Wired: Gawker’s Bankruptcy Is How a Free Press Dies, One VC at a Time

* This NY Times article says: “After the news that one of Silicon Valley’s stars secretly funded a lawsuit to bring down a gossip site, the overwhelming response in the tech community has been: More power to him.” That’s not my experience at all. Indeed, Thiel violated one of Silicon Valley’s norms by using the courtroom as a weapon. And if Silicon Valley insiders are really endorsing lawfare, SHAME ON THEM. Silicon Valley has succeeded in spite of, not because of, lawfare by incumbents seeking to suppress start-ups.

Editorial Bias

* The Guardian: I worked on Facebook’s Trending team – the most toxic work experience of my life: “A former contractor says that while the social media company did not impose political bias upon news ‘curators’, she and other employees were subject to poor management, intimidation and sexism that left them feeling voiceless”

EFF: Senator’s Inquiry Into Facebook’s Editorial Decisions Runs Afoul of the First Amendment

Facebook’s Trending Review Guidelines.

* Timothy B. Lee: There’s no evidence that Google is manipulating searches to help Hillary Clinton

Search Engine Land: Google spokesperson: Google Autocomplete does not favor any candidate or cause

* Fusion: “The short answer to why Google’s algorithm returns racist results is that society is racist.”

* Search Engine Land: Google uses RankBrain for every search, impacts rankings of “lots” of them


* Global Voices: Russian State Censor Can Now Un-Delegate Website Domain Names Extrajudicially

* Reuters: China tightens controls on paid-for internet search ads

* NY Times: U.S. Adds China’s Internet Controls to List of Trade Barriers

* If you know what URLs are delisted due to the RTBF, it’s usually not difficult to figure out who might have asked for the delisting. Is this a sign that the RTBF needs to be further strengthened, or that efforts to create artificial obscurity are ill-conceived?

* Wired: The Ingenious Way Iranians Are Using Satellite TV to Beam in Banned Internet

Sex and Pornography

* State v. E.G., 2016 WL 3361187 (Wash. Ct. App. June 14, 2016). A minor sent his dick pic to an adult and was convicted of child pornography distribution. The court rejects a First Amendment challenge:

The First Amendment does not consider child pornography a form of protected expression. There is no basis for creating a right for minors to express themselves in such a manner

The court also addresses the ubiquity problem:

E.G. also contends that the statute is vague because 20 percent of teenagers allegedly engage in “sexting,” the transmission of sexually suggestive or explicit photographs via cell phone, and therefore could be subject to prosecution. His argument, even if the facts supported the claim, is irrelevant. The fact that a large number of people do something is not the test of whether police or prosecutors arbitrarily enforce a law, nor does not tell us whether it is vague. If a large number of people, especially those charged with enforcing the law, do not understand what a statute means, then the law may be vague and subject to arbitrary enforcement, leading to its demise as a matter of due process. But ignorance of a law is not the same as ignorance of the meaning of a law. The fact that minors may not appreciate they are breaking a law is not proof that they do not understand it.

* After a woman receives an unsolicited dick pic, she fights fire with fire.

* People v. Villapando, 2016 WL 3048962 (Cal. App. Ct. May 20, 2016):

Villapando was charged in an amended information with attempting to commit a lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14 years old, in violation of Penal Code sections 664, subdivision (a) and 288, subdivision (a) (count 1), and attempted contact with a minor with the intent to commit a lewd act on a child under 14 years old, in violation of Penal Code section 288.3, subdivision (a) (count 2). The jury found Villapando not guilty as to count 1 but guilty as to count 2. The trial court imposed a total prison sentence of three years but suspended execution of the sentence, placing Villapando on five years’ formal probation on terms and conditions.

Prior blog post.

* Oddee: 8 Weird Naked Businesses. If these businesses are legal, they reinforce the legitimacy of Craigslist’s “Adult Services” category and similar venues.