CLIP-ings: April 2, 2021

Internet Governance

Congress Questioned Big Tech About Spread Of Misinformation: During the five-hour congressional hearing in which the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified regarding their platforms’ handling of misinformation and extremism, only Jack Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter might have played a part in spreading misinformation that contribution to the January 6th Capital riot, while Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai avoided answering the question directly; other questions focused on the spread of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation on the platforms. 

Privacy

Google Begins Origin Trial To Replace Third-Party Tracking Cookies With FLoC Alternative: The tech company has started testing its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) technology as a replacement for third-party tracking cookies so that ad companies can continue targeting specific demographics while protecting targeted users’ identities; FLoC, which runs locally, analyzes browsing data to group users into cohorts with shared interests so that advertisers may deliver relevant ads without necessitating the use of tracking cookies or the sharing of browsing data with Google. 

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Mobile Carriers Fixed SMS Routing Loophole To Prevent Hacking: After an investigation revealed that hackers could pay as little as $16 to reroute SMS text messages then leverage that access to break into online accounts, major carriers such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T have begun to take measures to patch the security vulnerability. 

Twitter Bans Fake Amazon Accounts Impersonating Warehouse Employees: As the union vote count by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama is underway, a series of anti-union tweets from several Twitter accounts praised Amazon’s working conditions; the company has since confirmed that many of the accounts are fake accounts that violate Twitter’s terms. 

Intellectual Property

Facebook Video Creators Claim The Platform Shorted Them Thousands of Dollars In Its Revenue-Sharing Model: Several Facebook video creators have been receiving monthly payments for their content that are inconsistent with projections provided by the company’s revenue estimation tool for content creators; Facebook has since apologized, citing “a technical issue” that has prevented certain video creators from receiving their full payouts. 

Free Expression & Censorship

Apple’s Latest iOS Update Fixes Bug That Blocks Web Searches Including The Term “Asian”: The iOS 14.5 Beta version that was released to developers last week remedies a year-old bug that blocks web searches including the term “asian” when the device’s adult-content filter is engaged; the bug became apparent as searches for “Stop Asian Hate” increased in the wake of anti-Asian violence across the country. 

Facebook Removed Lara Trump’s Interview With Donald Trump: After blocking Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following the Capitol riot in January, Facebook recently removed a post by Lara Trump in which she interviews the former President.

On the Lighter Side

An Alleged Italian Mafia Fugitive Arrested After Posting Cooking Tutorials Online: The fugitive, who was hiding from Italian police in the Dominican Republic, was identified by his tattoos in the cooking tutorials he posted on YouTube.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: March 19, 2021

Internet Governance

Uber Will Treat Its UK Drivers As “Workers” While Spain Plans To Grant Gig Economy Drivers Employee Rights: Following a UK Supreme Court decision that categorized 25 former Uber drivers as “workers”—a unique classification that grants entitlements to some, but not all of the rights of employees—Uber says that it will now classify all of its drivers with the same status, entitling them to employment benefits such as minimum wage guarantees; similarly, Spain will likely become the world’s first country to formally give gig economy delivery drivers employee rights.

Privacy

French Competition Watchdog Rejects Request To Stall Apple’s iOS 14 Privacy Protections: France’s competition authority rejected a request from online advertising lobby groups to delay the implementation of Apple’s anti-tracking controls on iOS14 on the basis that the authority did not view the privacy update as an abusive practice; however, the watchdog announced that it will still continue to investigate whether the tech company’s transparency updates give it an unfair advantage. 

California Approves New Regulations Under CCPA To Prohibit The Use Of “Dark Patterns”: The State approved regulations designed to strengthen consumer protections under the California Consumer Privacy Act by prohibiting websites from employing “confusing language or unnecessary steps” to thwart users from exercising their data privacy rights under the Act.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Hackers Robbed Thousands Of Dollars From NFT Art Collectors: Numerous users of Nifty Gateway, an NFT digital art marketplace, claimed that their accounts were hacked to purchase thousands of dollars worth of artwork and that they had been robbed of their existing art collection.

Intellectual Property

Wikipedia Hopes To Charge Big Tech For Using Its Content: Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, will offer tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon a paid service for accessing and re-publishing content from Wikipedia’s public database. 

Free Expression & Censorship

Big Tech Combats COVID-19 Ads And Vaccine Misinformation: Through improving its automated detection technology and implementing new misinformation policies, Google has blocked more than 99 million fake COVID-19 ads on topics ranging from vaccine doses to counterfeit N95 masks; similarly, in its fight to remove misleading anti-vaccine theories, Facebook data scientists found that half of the most “vaccine-hesitant” posts on the platform can be attributed to merely 111 accounts.

Practice Note

Second Circuit Affirms That Vimeo Is Immune From Suit For Banning Account: The court affirmed dismissal of a suit brought by a pastor whose account was banned for promoting conversion therapy, reasoning that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunized Vimeo for its good-faith restriction of objectionable content. 

On the Lighter Side

A New Tool Will Help You Self-Sabotage Zoom Meetings: If you need an excuse to escape your next Zoom call, this free web widget will let you add a variety of distracting effects to your audio feed, such as echoes, crying babies, barking dogs, and weeping. 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: March 12, 2021

Internet Governance

UK Investigates The App Store’s Terms For Anti-Competitiveness: The Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into the App Store in response to complaints from app developers such as Epic Games alleging that Apple uses its market position for distributing apps to set unfair terms that restrict competition among app developers.

Privacy

Activists Sue Clearview AI In California Court Over Privacy Violations: The lawsuit alleges that Clearview has violated the state’s constitution by building a facial recognition database consisting of the biometric data of 3 billion people harvested without consent via web scraping; Clearview now offers access to its database to more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies and private companies.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Cyberattack Of SITA Compromised Thousands Of Passengers’ Frequent Flier Information: The global aviation IT firm, which acts as an intermediary for inter-airline data transfer, was hit with a cyberattack that affected its Passenger Service System servers, which store frequent flier information of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest alliance of prominent airlines, including information such as membership number and tier status.

Microsoft Exchange Servers’ Critical Vulnerabilities Exploited by Hackers: Four critical vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s servers for the widely used email and calendar service were exploited by hackers including Hafnium, an alleged “state-sponsored actor” from China, to gain access to emails and address books of over 250,000 organizations globally, including governments, academic institutions, and businesses.

Intellectual Property

App Creator Accuses Apple Of Copyright Infringement For Skin-Tone Emojis: The creator of iDiversicons, an app that allows users to copy and paste different skin-tone emojis, is one of many mobile app developers who have accused big tech companies like Apple of incorporating ideas from other applications into its own operating system; despite initially learning of the diverse-emoji concept through iDiversicons, Apple subsequently rolled out its own skin-tone emoji options and made the app virtually obsolete..

Free Expression & Censorship

Digital Creators Innovate To Further Monetize Their Social Media Presence: As the digital market gets more competitive, creators are finding new ways to monetize their followings; from letting fans pay to vote in a poll to control a creator’s lifestyle choices to selling creator scandals as NFTs, creators are letting fans take more control of their personal lives for monetization..

Practice Note

Court Rejects Apple’s And T-Mobile’s Argument To Push Consumer Claims Into Arbitration: In a lawsuit where consumers claim that a flaw in the iPhone operating system, in conjunction with recycled T-Mobile phone numbers, have violated both companies’ privacy policies, a New York district judge has rejected Apple’s request to move the dispute to arbitration because “Apple is not a party to the T-Mobile [terms and conditions] agreement” and cannot enforce it.

On the Lighter Side

Jack Dorsey Auctions His First Tweet As An NFT For Charity: The Twitter CEO and co-founder plans to donate the proceeds from the NFT auction to Give Directly’s Africa Response fund for COVID-19 relief; currently, the highest bid is $2.5 million.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: March 5, 2021

Internet Governance

Ahead Of Other Major Powers, China Tests New Forms Of Digital Currency: China’s Central Bank is testing the electronic Chinese Yuan in cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing, where recipients of 200 electronic yuan have only a few weeks to spend it through the eCNY app before the digital money disappears; some economists worry the eCNY could provide the Chinese government a way to monitor citizens’ transactions. 

The FCC Subsidizes Low-Income Households For High-Speed Internet Adoption: The Federal Communications Commission approved $3.2 billion for eligible low-income households that may be “at risk of digital disconnection,” with eligible households entitled to receive up to $50 per month ($75 per month for households on Native American land) for broadband service, plus a one-time $100 discount on a computer or tablet.

Privacy

Virginia Becomes Second State To Pass A Comprehensive Data Privacy Law: Following in the footsteps of California, Virginia passed the Consumer Data Protection Act, which will become effective in 2023; although similar to California’s consumer privacy laws, Virginia’s law is viewed as weaker, as it contains no specific revenue threshold for application and lacks a private right of action, among other things.  

TikTok Settles Privacy Class-Action For $92 Million: The settlement resolves 21 class-action lawsuits alleging that TikTok used facial recognition technology to collect users’ biometric, gender, ethnicity, and age data without consent, and also harvested and sold other “highly sensitive personal data” in violation of multiple federal and state privacy and consumer protection laws. 

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Google Cloud Plans To Offer Cyber Insurance Designed For Google Cloud Customers: Leveraging a partnership with Allianz and Munich Re, Google Cloud will roll out a cyber insurance product, Cloud Protection +, embedded in its Cloud services for users in the U.S., indicating that cyber insurance might become more mainstream in businesses in the future.

Intellectual Property

Federal Jury Rules Intel Infringed Two Patents, Must Pay $2.18 Billion: Intel Corp. must pay VLSI Technology LLC one of the largest patent-damages awards in U.S. history for infringing two patents related to chip-making technology, despite Intel’s claims that it never infringed any of the patents and one of the patents covers the work of Intel engineers.

Free Expression & Censorship

On Facebook, Right-Wing Misinformation Has Higher Engagement Than Other Political Content: In assessing five months of Facebook post data from August 2020 to January 2021, researchers found that far-right sources of misinformation had the highest average number of interactions per post compared to sources promoting content reflecting views falling elsewhere on the political spectrum, but noted that further research is needed to determine why right-wing content achieves higher engagement.

On the Lighter Side

Plastic Surgeon In Surgery Attends Traffic Court Via Zoom: A judge postponed a virtual traffic court hearing after observing the defendant performing surgery on a patient while appearing in court.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: February 26, 2021

Internet Governance

Federal Judge’s Ruling Allows California To Enforce Net Neutrality Law: A California federal judge rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction by telecommunications providers to stop California’s net neutrality law, allowing the state to enforce the 2018 law that would ensure equal access to internet content.

U.K. Supreme Court Classifies Former Uber Drivers As Employees: The Court issued a unanimous decision classifying 25 former Uber drivers as “workers” entitled to employment benefits such as minimum wage while they worked for the company; while the ruling is limited to the 25-driver group, it nevertheless sets a precedent for more litigation over the employment status of gig workers in the country.

Privacy

WhatsApp Will Limit App Functionality If Users Do Not Accept New Privacy Policy: WhatsApp announced that starting May 15th, users will not be able to send or read messages through the app if they do not agree to the service’s new privacy terms, which outline how WhatsApp can share private messages with parent company Facebook and utilize that data for advertising.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

A “Bug” In Prison Software Keeps Arizona Inmates Behind Bars Despite Earning Early Release: A flaw in Arizona’s Correctional Information System inmate management software renders the program incapable of calculating early release dates, which forces Arizona prison employees to manually calculate early release credits earned by inmates who, under Arizona’s SB 1310 program, could be eligible for early release if they were convicted solely on certain drug charges and participated in self-improvement programs offered by the state.

Phishing Scams Targeted At Postmates Drivers Drain Their Weekly Earnings: Scammers claiming to be Postmates employees call gig workers to obtain login details for the accounts in which the company deposits drivers’ weekly earnings so that funds can be siphoned out, and drivers now ask for more safeguards, such as having a unique caller ID for calls originating from the company.

Intellectual Property

Twitch Dubbed Metallica’s Livestreamed Performance To Avoid Copyright Issues: During a livestream of the BlizzCon video game conference, Twitch overdubbed Metallica’s performance of its classic songs with generic, “copyright-free” music due to concerns over copyright infringement.

Free Expression & Censorship

TikTok Took Down 89 Million Videos, Some Of Which Had Shared Election And COVID-19 Misinformation: In its latest transparency report, the social media company revealed that from July to December 2020, it took down 347,225 videos for sharing election misinformation and 51,505 videos for spreading COVID-19 misinformation; however, some of the videos already had hundreds of thousands of views before they were removed.

On the Lighter Side

SEC Bans Trading Of The Long Blockchain Corp’s Stock: The company, formerly known as The Long Island Iced Tea Corp, diversified its iced tea business by investing in blockchain technologies but now has had its stock registration revoked by the SEC for failure to report on its financials since 2018.

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: February 19, 2021

Internet Governance

Maryland Becomes The First State To Impose A Tax On Digital Advertising Revenue: Maryland passed a bill to impose a “Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax” of up to 10 percent of the annual gross revenues of “digital advertising services” that target users within the state; proceeds from the tax will contribute to an education fund for Maryland public schools.

Facebook Limits Australian Access To News Content: In response to a proposed law in Australia that would require Facebook and other digital giants to pay for news content published on their platforms, Facebook has decided to block Australian users’ access to Australian news, and also prohibit the sharing of Australian news for both its Australian and international users; Google, which has threatened to pull its search engine from the country in response to the legislation, has begun to strike deals with news publishers.

Privacy

European Consumer Group Alleges TikTok Violates GDPR: Europe’s leading consumer advocacy group filed a formal complaint with European consumer protection authorities against TikTok, alleging that the social media company is violating the GDPR by, among other things, having “ambiguous” and fluid privacy policies, employing defective consent mechanisms, and subjecting children to the harms of hidden marketing.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Disaster Scammers Steal Account Numbers During Texas Snowstorm: As many Texans struggle without electricity due to the winter storm, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warns Texans not to hand over private account numbers to social media scammers who are posing as electricity workers to steal account information.

Three North Korean Hackers Indicted By DOJ For Hacking Banks And U.S. Government Agencies: The suspected military intelligence hackers have been charged by the Department of Justice after hacking banks and cryptocurrency companies around the world and making away with more than $1.3 billion, as well as sensitive data from U.S. government contractors and agencies.

Free Expression and Censorship

Google Potentially Gave Online Advertisers The Option To Exclude Nonbinary Audiences: Despite its online advertising policies against gender discrimination, Google’s advertiser options allegedly allowed online advertisers, including employers and landlords, to keep their ads from being shown to users categorized as having “unknown gender”; Google stated that it will make updates to “restrict advertisers from targeting or excluding users” based on their “unknown gender” characterization. 

Practice Note

Federal Judge Rules Citibank Is Not Entitled To The Return Of $500M Mistakenly Transferred: Citibank blamed the erroneous loan repayment on financial software Flexcube’s confusing user interface, but a federal judge ruled that the recipient creditors were within their rights to assume the transfer was repayment, and noted that it would be reasonable for creditors to assume that a sophisticated bank like Citibank would not send out such a large sum by accident.  

On the Lighter Side

Start-Ups Aim To Simulate Real-Life Gatherings Virtually: Several virtual-meeting start-ups, inspired by consumer demand to recreate chance encounters in the workplace, allow users to explore and interact with one another on virtual maps.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

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

CLIP-ings: February 5, 2021


Internet Governance

China’s New Media Policy Requires Self-Publishers To Obtain Accreditation: China’s new media regulation, which requires that self-publishers obtain the Internet News Information Permit “and other relevant accreditation” before publishing news about politics, threatens to put an end to the careers of independent journalists who have recently gained popularity for publishing work that news organizations have rejected.

U.K. Launches Inquiry Into Uber’s Acquisition Of Autocab For Its Effect On Competition: U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is investigating Uber’s decision to acquire Autocab, U.K.-based software company that operates a ride-sharing platform that directly rivals Uber, over concerns that the acquisition will decrease competition in ride-sharing services.

Privacy

Amazon’s Transparency Report Reveals A Record High Number Of Government Demands For User Data In The Last Half Of 2020: Amazon processed 27,664 demands for user data from government authorities all over the world—an 800 percent increase from the first half of the year—and handed over data containing user content in 52 cases; more than 2,000 local law enforcement departments in the U.S. now participate in Amazon’s Ring network, and Amazon complied with more than 1,000 government efforts to obtain Ring video footage despite the device owners’ denial of access.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Apple iOS 14 Upgrade Features Changes That Address Zero-Click iMessage Attacks: Researchers discovered that Apple has updated the operating system to address vulnerabilities in the iMessage app that allow for “zero-click” attacks, which are “interactionless” attacks that could infect an iPhone without recipients clicking a link or downloading a file, by implementing structural changes, including establishing a “quarantine zone” where incoming messages are examined before being released into the iOS environment.

Free Expression and Censorship

India Warns Twitter To Comply With New Delhi’s Request To Block Accounts: After Twitter lifted its block of high-profile accounts in India, which was initially levied in compliance with New Delhi’s request in the wake of ongoing protests by farmers in the country, India warned the social media company not to “assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance.”  

Facebook Might Enable Advertisers To Choose What News Stories Appear Around Ads: Facebook is testing a new “topic exclusion controls” tool that allows advertisers on the platform to choose what news topics that they want to keep from appearing adjacent to their  advertisements; topic options include “news and politics,” “social issues,” and “crime and tragedy.”

Practice Note

Judge Rules Tim Cook To Sit For Seven-Hour Deposition: Despite Apple’s citation of the apex doctrine, which limits the extent to which high-level, corporate executives may be deposed, a judge ruled that the Apple CEO could be deposed for up to seven hours in the company’s litigation against Epic Games.  

On the Lighter Side

Texas Sends Out Amber Alert For Chucky, The Killer Doll: Blaming a test malfunction, the Texas Department of Public Safety accidentally sent out three Amber Alerts warning the public to be on the lookout for Chucky, the serial killer doll from the Child’s Play series.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan
Junyi Cui
Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: January 29, 2021

Internet Governance

Facebook Content Oversight Board Announces First Round Of Rulings: The board, which was established last year to review content moderation decisions for the social network, overruled four out of five of Facebook’s decisions to remove posts containing hate speech, the incitement of violence, misinformation, and adult nudity; the board is also set to soon rule on Facebook’s recent decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Privacy

WhatsApp Implements Biometric Authentication For Desktop Logins: The messaging service announced that users who employ biometric authentication to access the app on their phones will now be required to authenticate access to the phone app before logging into the web browser or desktop versions of the service; the move is intended to ensure that anyone who might obtain access to another’s phone cannot link the phone user’s account to their own web browser.

CCPA Inspires Global Privacy Opt-Out Standard: Provisions in the California Consumer Privacy Act that provide consumers a right to opt-out of having their personal information sold by websites they visit have given rise to a new privacy standard, known as Global Privacy Control, which is designed to function as a single-click, automated global opt-out mechanism that enables internet users to signify to sites that they don’t want their data collected and shared.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Data Breaches Down In 2020: A report from the Identity Theft Research Center indicates that there were fewer data breaches in 2020 than in previous years, but that cyber criminals were still able to run lucrative schemes by leveraging previously stolen data or engaging in ransomware attacks; according to the report, the approximately 1,100 data breaches in 2020 affected 300 million individuals—but those numbers do not account for yet-unknown incidents or recent attacks for which the full impact is still uncertain, such as the SolarWinds hack.

Free Expression and Censorship

Stock-Talk Channels Suspended, Reinstated, In Wake Of GameStop Stock Run: Instant messaging service Discord banned the WallStreetBets server for allegedly hosting “occasional content that violates [its] Community Guidelines,” but is now working with a WallStreetBets team to moderate a new server; similarly, the WallStreetBets subreddit went private for a period of time due to “technical difficulties based on the unprecedented scale as a result of the newfound interest in” the forum.

Facebook To Stop Recommending Political And Civic Groups: As part of an effort to prevent “fighting and politics” from taking over its platform and “to make sure the communities people connect with are healthy and positive,” Facebook announced that it would stop recommending “political and civic groups” among the types of pages for users to follow.

Practice Note

2016 Election Misinformation Spreader Charged With Voter Suppression: Federal authorities charged the alt-right figure who went by the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn with conspiracy to “disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote” during the 2016 election cycle by, among other things, designing meme-based misinformation campaigns that encouraged people to vote using illegitimate methods, such as by posting their votes on Facebook or Twitter or through text messages; the use of social media messages in this case could amount to a “tectonic shift in how the federal government tries to enforce laws against election interference.” 

On the Lighter Side

Spotify Wants To Know How You’re Feeling: A patent for speech-recognition technology granted to the music streaming service would enable it to detect listeners’ emotions and recommend appropriate music based on characteristics of listeners’ speech, including “intonation, stress, [and] rhythm.” 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: January 22, 2021

Internet Governance

Google Acquired Fitbit Despite Antitrust Investigation: Google closed its $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit as a step to improve its hardware business despite ongoing antitrust investigation of the acquisition, leaving open the possibility that the U.S. Department of Justice might sue to unwind the completed deal in the future; regulators and consumer groups around the world have voiced privacy and antitrust concerns about the deal since as early as when it was announced in 2019.

Facebook And Google Allegedly Engaged In “Sweetheart Deal” To Promote Digital Advertising: Documents from Texas’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook and Google reveal that the two tech giants might have reached an agreement in 2018 to reduce competition in the digital advertising space that gave Facebook preferential treatment in ad header bidding and also insight into its ad audiences.

Privacy

Facebook Settles Class Action Suit Alleging Violations Of Illinois Biometric Data Law: Facebook will pay a total of $650 million in settlement fees to 1.6 million users in Illinois for collecting their facial data without their informed consent to support its “tag suggestions” feature, in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act; if Facebook had proceeded to trial and lost, it could have been liable for up to $35 billion, given statutory penalties of $1,000 for each accidental violation, or $5,000 for each knowing violation of the Act.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Data Breach Of Parler Revealed Videos Filmed Near Law Enforcement Buildings And Military Bases In The U.S.: GPS data analysis of videos posted on the Parler app, which was one of the online forums used to plan the attack on the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month, revealed that more than a hundred of the videos were filmed within 50 to 1,000 feet of law enforcement buildings, military bases, and an immigrant detention center; although some videos captured benign activities of officers, experts warn against the threat of officers’ potential exposure to extremist ideologies.

Intellectual Property

Trump Pardons Former Google Engineer Who Pleaded Guilty To Stealing Trade Secrets: Hours before leaving office, President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski, the former engineer who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets related to Google’s self-driving car project.

Free Expression and Censorship

President Of The European Commission Calls For U.S. To Regulate Big Tech: After recounting the storming of the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month, President von der Leyen warned that hate speech and disinformation can undermine democratic institutions, and called for Europe and the U.S to impose “democratic limits on the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants.”

For Many Americans, Trust In Traditional Media Is Disappearing: According to Edelman’s annual trust barometer report, only 46% of Americans trust traditional media while 56% agree with the statement that “[j]ournalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

On the Lighter Side

Biden Administration Recruits IT Experts Through Easter Egg In White House Website’s Source Code: After Joe Biden was sworn in as President this past Wednesday, Twitter users found a comment tag in the source code of the updated whitehouse.gov website that linked viewers to the hiring page of the U.S. Digital Service, the federal unit created to “deliver better government services to the American people through technology and design.” 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan
Junyi Cui
Editorial Fellows