CLIP-ings: February 12, 2021

Internet Governance

Nevada Invites Technology Companies To Form “Alternative Local Governments”: A proposed bill in Nevada would allow companies working on emerging technologies to form local governments in “Innovation Zones,” which would have authorities similar to those of counties, including the power to impose taxes and provide government services.

New Section 230 Reform Would Restrict Immunity For Online Platforms: If passed, the proposed SAFE TECH Act update to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would lift immunity for platforms in cases alleging stalking, harassment, or intimidation, as well as cases relating to advertisements and wrongful death;  critics of the bill argue that it is too broad and would likely result in “potentially dire” unintended consequences for the internet as we know it.   

Privacy

Eleventh Circuit Denies Standing Based On Future Harm Theory In Data Breach Incidents: The Eleventh Circuit joined four other circuits and denied a plaintiff standing in a data breach case on the basis that his allegations of an increased risk of future harm were too speculative;  in a separate case before the Supreme Court, technology companies filed an amicus brief that implores the Court to prohibit “abusive no-injury class action lawsuits.”

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Water Treatment Plant In Florida Hacked Due To Weak Security Practices: A Florida water treatment plant network that was hacked last week left itself vulnerable to an attack by lacking a firewall and employing poor password security; through the hack, an attacker was able to increase the sodium hydroxide content in the water supply for 15,000 people to poisonous levels before a plant operator noticed and reversed the change. 

Intellectual Property

Microsoft Patent Enables Virtual Conversations With Deceased Or Fictional Personalities: Microsoft was recently granted a patent for technology that would cull an individual’s “social data” to train a chatbot to converse in the personality of that individual, but the company says it doesn’t plan to create a product from the technology due to AI ethics concerns. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Facebook Plans To Remove Posts With Erroneous Claims About Vaccines: Whereas the social network had only “downranked” misleading claims about certain vaccines in the past, Facebook recently announced it will remove any false claims about vaccines that have been debunked by the World Health Organization and other leading health institutes.

Facebook’s Algorithm Is Blocking Ads By Adaptive Fashion Brands: By misidentifying adaptive fashion advertisements as the promotion of “medical and health products and services including medical devices,” Facebook’s automated intelligence system routinely rejects these ads and blocks them from the social media platform.

On the Lighter Side

From Kitten Filters To Upside-Down Heads, Attorneys Fumble In Video-Conferencing Meetings: In the latest news of video-conferencing mishaps, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer appeared up-side down in a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee, while earlier this week, a Texas attorney had trouble removing his kitten filter during a Zoom court appearance. 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows