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US Censorship News


2020: Oct-Dec

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Ticking countdown paused...

US Dept of Commerce halts the US ban on downloading the TikTok app


Link Here13th November 2020
Full story: TikTok Censorship...Chinese ownership adds to the usual social media censorship
The US Commerce Department has halted a ban on TikTok that was due to come into effect on Thursday night. The order would have prevented the app from being downloaded in the US.

The Commerce Department delayed the ban pending further legal developments, citing a Philadelphia court ruling from September where three prominent TikTokers had argued the app should be allowed to operate in America.

In September, TikTok's Chinese owner, ByteDance announced a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok's US assets into a new entity called TikTok Global.

Donald Trump tentatively supported the deal. However on Tuesday TikTok said it had had no feedback from the US government in two months. Both Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have repeatedly said that the data of US users could be passed on to the Chinese government,

 

 

Land of the free to propose censorship...

US lawmakers are queuing up to propose internet censorship laws


Link Here1st November 2020
US Representative Greg Steube has just introduced yet another legislative proposal aimed at internet censorship via ending Section 230 protections, and his CASE-IT Act has the distinction of attempting to define adult content in explicit and broad terms.

This adds to a long list of censorship proposals:

  • The House version of the EARN IT Act, introduced by Representative Sylvia Garcia and notorious anti-sex work crusader Ann Wagner, one of the intellectual authors of FOSTA-SESTA
  • The "Don't Push My Buttons" Act, introduced by Senator John Kennedy
  • The "See Something Say Something" Act, introduced by Senators Joe Manchin and John Cornyn
  • A highly unusual "draft legislation recommendation" by William Barr's Department of Justice
  • The "Online Content Policy Modernization" Act (S.4632) introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham
  • The "Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity" Act, introduced by Senators Roger Wicker, Graham and Marsha Blackburn
  • The PACT Act, introduced by Senators John Thune and Brian Schatz
  • Trump's unprecedented "Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship"
  • The EARN IT Act, introduced by Graham

 

 

Updated: Social media influence...

Facebook and Twitter censors an expose of Hunter Biden seemingly in support of Joe Biden's election campaign


Link Here16th October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA
Facebook and Twitter censored a controversial New York Post article critical of Joe Biden, sparking debate over social media platforms and their role in influencing the US presidential election.

In an unprecedented step against a major news publication, Twitter blocked users from posting links to the Post story or photos from the unconfirmed report. Users attempting to share the story were shown a notice saying:

We can't complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.

Users clicking or retweeting a link already posted to Twitter are shown a warning the link may be unsafe.

Twitter claimed it was limiting the article's spread due to questions about the origins of the materials included in the article. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, said the company's communication about the decision to limit the article's spread was not great, saying the team should have shared more context publicly.

Facebook, meanwhile, placed restrictions on linking to the article, claiming there were questions about its validity.

The social media censorship drew swift backlash from figures on the political right, who accused Facebook and Twitter of protecting Biden, who is leading Trump in national polls.

Update: Censors caught red handed

16th October 2020. See article from bbc.co.uk

Twitter has updated a censorship policy which led it to block people from sharing a link to a story from the New York Post about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The article contained screenshots of emails allegedly sent and received by Hunter Biden, presidential candidate Joe Biden's son. It also contained personal photos of Hunter Biden, allegedly removed from a laptop computer while it was undergoing repairs at a store.

Twitter's Vijaya Gadde has now said posts will be flagged as containing hacked material, rather than blocked. She tweeted:

We tried to find the right balance between people's privacy and the right of free expression, but we can do better.

Empowering people to assess content for themselves was a better alternative for the public.

 

 

The Online Content Policy Modernization Act Is an Unconstitutional Mess...

Another internet censorship bill in the US


Link Here 2nd October 2020
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

EFF is standing with a huge coalition of organizations to urge Congress to oppose the Online Content Policy Modernization Act (OCPMA, S. 4632 ). Introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the OCPMA is yet another of this year's flood of misguided attacks on Internet speech ( read bill [pdf] ). The bill would make it harder for online platforms to take common-sense moderation measures like removing spam or correcting disinformation, including disinformation about the upcoming election. But it doesn't stop there: the bill would also upend longstanding balances in copyright law, subjecting ordinary Internet users to up to $30,000 in fines for everyday activities like sharing photos and writing online, without even the benefit of a judge and jury.

The OCPMA combines two previous bills. The first--the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act ( S. 4534 )--undermines Section 230, the most important law protecting free speech online. Section 230 enshrines the common-sense principle that if you say something unlawful online, you should be the one held responsible, not the website or platform where you said it. Section 230 also makes it clear that platforms have liability protections for the decisions they make to moderate or remove online speech: platforms are free to decide their own moderation policies however they see fit. The OCPMA would flip that second protection on its head, shielding only platforms that agree to confine their moderation policies to a narrowly tailored set of rules. As EFF and a coalition of legal experts explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

This narrowing would create a strong disincentive for companies to take action against a whole host of disinformation, including inaccurate information about where and how to vote, content that aims to intimidate or discourage people from casting a ballot, or misleading information about the integrity of our election systems. S.4632 would also create a new risk of liability for services that editorialize alongside user-generated content. In other words, sites that direct users to voter-registration pages, that label false information with fact-checks, or that provide accurate information about mail-in voting, would face lawsuits over the user-generated content they were intending to correct.

It's easy to see the motivations behind the Section 230 provisions in this bill, but they simply don't hold up to scrutiny. This bill is based on the flawed premise that social media platforms' moderation practices are rampant with bias against conservative views; while a popular meme in some right-wing circles, this view doesn't hold water. There are serious problems with platforms' moderation practices, but the problem isn't the liberal silencing the conservative; the problem is the powerful silencing the powerless . Besides, it's absurd to suggest that the situation would somehow be improved by putting such severe limits on how platforms moderate; the Internet is a better place when multiple moderation philosophies can coexist , some more restrictive and some more freeform.

The government forcing platforms to adopt a specific approach to moderation is not just a bad idea; in fact; it's unconstitutional. As EFF explained in its own letter to the Judiciary Committee:

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from directly interfering with intermediaries' decisions regarding what user-generated content they host and how they moderate that content. The OCPM Act seeks to coerce the same result by punishing services that exercise their rights. This is an unconstitutional condition. The government cannot condition Section 230's immunity on interfering with intermediaries' First Amendment rights.

Sen. Graham has also used the OCPMA as his vehicle to bring back the CASE Act, a 2019 bill that would have created a new tribunal for hearing small ($30,000!) copyright disputes, putting everyday Internet users at risk of losing everything simply for sharing copyrighted images or text online . This tribunal would exist within the Copyright Office, not the judicial branch, and it would lack important protections like the right to a jury trial and registration requirements. As we explained last year, the CASE Act would usher in a new era of copyright trolling , with copyright owners or their agents sending notices en masse to users for sharing memes and transformative works. When Congress was debating the CASE Act last year, its proponents laughed off concerns that the bill would put everyday Internet users at risk, clearly not understanding what a $30,000 fee would mean to the average family. As EFF and a host of other copyright experts explained to the Judiciary Committee:

The copyright small claims dispute provisions in S. 4632 are based upon S. 1273, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (CASE Act), which could potentially bankrupt millions of Americans, and be used to target schools, libraries and religious institutions at a time when more of our lives are taking place online than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laws that would subject any American organization or individual -- from small businesses to religious institutions to nonprofits to our grandparents and children -- to up to $30,000 in damages for something as simple as posting a photo on social media, reposting a meme, or using a photo to promote their nonprofit online are not based on sound policy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider the OCPMA soon. This bill is far too much of a mess to be saved by amendments. We urge the Committee to reject it.


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