2H 2019 and Q1 2020 Quick Links, Part 7 (Content Moderation, Censorship, Defamation, & More)

Content Moderation

* The Verge: The Terror Queue: These moderators help keep Google and YouTube free of violent extremism — and now some of them have PTSD

* The Intercept: Trauma Counselors Were Pressured to Divulge Confidential Information About Facebook Moderators, Internal Letter Claims

* NBC News: Inside Facebook’s efforts to stop revenge porn before it spreads

Use of AI in Online Content Moderation 2019 Report (Produced on Behalf of OFCOM)

* Washington Post: Content moderators at YouTube, Facebook and Twitter see the worst of the web — and suffer silently

* Gizmodo: Horror Stories From Inside Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

* Reuters: Social media giants warn of AI moderation errors as coronavirus empties offices


* MediaPost: Republican Senators Take Aim At Facebook’s Fact Checkers

* Reuters: China orders ByteDance’s Toutiao to fix search, saying national hero smeared

* Reuters: Russia checks its internet can work if cut off from worldwide web

* MediaPost: Facebook Lets Trump Smear Biden In Ad

* evelyn douek, Australia’s “Abhorrent Violent Material” Law: Shouting “Nerd Harder” and Drowning Out Speech, Australian Law Journal, forthcoming 2020. An insightful but dispiriting account of what happens when a legislature moves fast & breaks (many) things.

* Technology Review: Limiting message forwarding on WhatsApp helped slow disinformation

* Wired: Maybe It’s Not YouTube’s Algorithm That Radicalizes People

* The Guardian: One year inside Trump’s monumental Facebook campaign

* NY Times: Trump’s Twitter Presidency: 9 Key Takeaways

* Google to Cease Posting French News Snippets to Avoid EU Licensing Requirement

* Edwards v. State, No. 2018-KA-01341-COA (Miss. Ct. App. April 14, 2020):

Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-45-17 (Rev. 2014) makes it a felony to “post a message for the purpose of causing injury to any person through the use of any medium of communication, including the Internet or a computer, . . . without the victim’s consent.” Following a jury trial, William Edwards was convicted of this offense and sentenced to serve five years in the custody of the Department of Corrections for posting Facebook Live video in which he accused a local pastor of sexual misconduct.

On appeal, Edwards argues that his conviction must be reversed and rendered because section 97-45-17 is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We agree with Edwards that the statute violates the First Amendment. Therefore, we reverse and render his conviction.


* Lokhova v. Halper, 2020 WL 963032 (E.D. Va. Feb. 27, 2020):

she argues that each time the allegedly offending articles have been tweeted, retweeted, hyperlinked, referenced, or otherwise relied upon (hereinafter, “electronic references”), the statute of limitations begins anew. This argument is unpersuasive…although “creating hypertext links to previously published statements” may technically direct audiences’ attention to the prior dissemination of those statements, such links do not constitute republication

Lokhova has not cited any case holding that a media organization is liable in perpetuity for third-party tweets of its allegedly defamatory materials….if a defendant’s own hyperlink or reference to the alleged defamatory material does not constitute republication that creates additional liability for the defendant, it would be bizarre to conclude that an unrelated third party’s independent hyperlink, tweet, or other electronic reference does so….defendants are not liable for third-party tweets and other postings because those statements cannot be attributed to them

* Puryear Law P.C. v. Fishback, 2019 WL 4309061 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 11, 2019): Google review of a lawyer isn’t defamatory:

The general tenor of Fishback’s statements “charged $1500 for really nothing being done” and “[c]an’t even make an appointment until they are paid in full and up to date” reflect his subjective reaction as a client of the law firm and negate the impression that he was asserting objective facts; his review was not capable of being proved true or false because when considered as a whole and without considering words in isolation, it generally reflects his strong personal opinion as a client of Puryear. We further observe the use of hyperbolic vocabulary further negates the impression Fishback was asserting objective facts. Finally, considering the broader context in which the statements were made—a website where people post business reviews and comment on their experiences and degrees of satisfaction with particular businesses—indicates the statements were an expression of opinion.

* Creditors Relief LLC v. United Debt Settlement LLC, 2019 WL 7288978 (D.N.J. Dec. 30, 2019):

based on the context of Statement 2, that its use of the term “scam” is protected opinion, and would not be understood to be reporting an objective fact. First, Defendants posted the statement as a Google review, which is much more similar to the blog post in Roberts than to the news article in McCabe. Second, the words surrounding the “scam” epithet are non-factual: “Read the reviews on the CEO Michael Lupolover. Beware collects ridiculous fees and does NOT get the job done!” Unlike the reporting in Shadle, they do not suggest that Plaintiff is engaged in any malfeasance, but rather that Plaintiff’s prices are too high or that its performance is inadequate. This does not imply fraud, which is provably true or false, but instead suggests the speaker’s opinion as to the value of Plaintiff’s services. Put another way, “a reader would not reasonably understand defendant[s] as charging [Plaintiff] with a crime or fraud. Instead, a reasonable reader would interpret these statements as name-calling and hyperbole.” Therefore, the Court find that Statement 2 is a non-actionable opinion.

* Simoni v. Swan,  2019 WL 5485209 (Cal. App. Ct. Oct. 25, 2019). Doctor sued patient for Yelp review that said “He screwed up so badly on the surgery he did on me that I have had 10 surgeries to try to fix it and I still need many more.” The court rejected the patient’s anti-SLAPP motion because the remarks were provably false, not just opinions.

* Weight Watchers International, Inc. v. Noom, Inc., 2019 WL 3890139 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2019): “The Court takes judicial notice that customer reviews of businesses, products and services have become common on many websites and mobile apps, including Google, Facebook and Yelp. Reviewers frequently express their views in strong, personal terms.”


* Morning Consult: In Washington, Cracking Down on Big Tech Is Popular. In the Rest of U.S., Not So Much

* NY Post: What conservative voters really think about Silicon Valley

* Politico: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s private meetings with conservative pundits

* Cracked: The Stories From 2019 YouTube Hopes You Forgot

* Input: Thank god for the internet

* NYT: Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won.

Search Engines

* Search Engine Land: Misquoted and misunderstood: Why many in the search community don’t believe the WSJ about Google search

* Search Engine Land: Amazon keeps chipping at Google’s search ad dominance

* WSJ: France Fines Google for Mistreating Search Advertisers

Social Media

* State v. Bailey, 2020 WL 1316838 (Del. Superior Ct. March 16, 2020):

having a connection on Facebook does not mean that two people know each other in any significant way. This is especially true in this case, based on the fact that Juror #4 has 860 Facebook friends. It is plausible that Juror #4 does not even remember all the people he is connected to as “friends” on Facebook. It is even more plausible that Juror #4 does not communicate with all his 860 Facebook “friends.” Therefore, their Facebook connection alone would not have been enough to exclude Juror #4 in the first place.

*  Toll v. Honorable James E. Wilson ex rel Gilman,  2019 WL 6629145 (Nev. Sup. Ct. Dec. 5, 2019): “just because a newspaper can exist online, it does not mean it ceases to be a newspaper…While we decline to resolve whether or not a blog falls under the definition of a newspaper, we conclude that a blog should not be disqualified from the news shield statute under MRS 49.275 merely on the basis that the blog is digital, rather than appearing in an ink-printed, physical form.”

* FP UC Holdings LLC v. Hamilton, 2020 WL 1492783 (Del. Ct. Chancery, March 27, 2020):

Fast Pace’s assertion that Mr. Hamilton breached the non-solicitation when he invited Company employees to “like” Thrive’s Facebook page likewise lacks merit. The Grant Agreement prohibits Mr. Hamilton from “directly or indirectly” inducing any employee “to leave the employ or engagement” of Fast Pace or otherwise “interfere” with Fast Pace’s relationship with its employees. At this stage, Fast Pace has not shown how a Facebook invitation, inviting individuals to “like” Thrive’s Facebook page, is an attempt to “induce” any employee to leave Fast Pace’s employ or to interfere with the employment relationship. Accordingly, Fast Pace is not entitled to an injunction enforcing the non-solicitation covenant because it has failed to show Mr. Hamilton’s Facebook posts breached that provision.

* Miller Industries Towing Equipment Inc v. NRC Industries, 2020 WL 1897171 (E.D. Tenn. April 16, 2020): “NRC’s use of third-party websites also fails to support jurisdiction. Like NRC’s website, YouTube is a passive website that does not specifically target customers in the forum state, does not allow viewers to purchase products, and does not constitute purposeful availment.” 

    * NYT: Neighbors Are Reaching Out on Nextdoor


    * Gartner v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2020 WL 1896703 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 7, 2020). Amazon is deemed the seller of marketplace items, but it qualifies for Section 230 “as it relates to Amazon’s editorial control over its website.”

    * Buzzfeed: Political Operatives Are Faking Voter Outrage With Millions Of Made-Up Comments To Benefit The Rich And Powerful

    * California Labor Code 2750.3:

    (a) (1) For purposes of the provisions of this code and the Unemployment Insurance Code, and for the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following conditions are satisfied:

    (A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

    (B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

    * NY Times: ‘Scared to Death’ by Arbitration: Companies Drowning in Their Own System

    * Wired: What Happened to Urban Dictionary?

    * The Atlantic: wikiHow embodies an alternative history of the internet, and an interesting possibility for its future.

    * Buzzfeed: The 100 Memes That Defined The 2010s

    * Techdirt: CBP, DHS Using Quasi-Scientific Guesswork To Turn Adult Immigrants Into Minors

    * The Hustle: The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets