The Law and Business of Social Media
August 04, 2020 - Privacy, Defamation, Section 230 Safe Harbor

FTC questions protections afforded tech platforms; LinkedIn was platform of choice for sellers of COVID-19 PPE; Appeals court passes on “retweet” propriety question

Expressing concern about the spread of disinformation related to COVID-19, Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra said Congress may need “to reassess the special privileges afforded to tech platforms, especially given their vast power to curate and present content in ways that may manipulate users.” His words implicate one of our favorite topics here at Socially Aware: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects websites from liability for content posted by third parties.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation requiring Florida state agencies, local governments and firms that contract with them to use the E-Verify system, an online database operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that can confirm a person’s eligibility to work in the United States.

In the wake of a series of tweets insulting the family of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president submitted legislation to parliament that would require social media companies with more than 1 million daily users in Turkey to appoint someone responsible for, among other things, responding to the company’s alleged violations of privacy laws.

China’s recently imposed security law—which outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces—had many Hong Kongers “scrubbing their social media accounts.”

Pop-up brokers tried to capitalize on the scarcity of personal protective equipment—especially masks—meant to safeguard people against COVID-19 by connecting with suppliers on LinkedIn. Learn what makes that social media platform convenient for sellers and scammers interested in sourcing goods.

In a suit that Socially Aware covered last year, a federal district court in New York was able to avoid addressing whether a defamation claim against television show host Joy Reid should be dismissed based on the safe harbor in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The reason: The plaintiff in the suit failed to prove actual malice, which is required to succeed on a defamation claim against a public figure. On remand, the U.S. Court of Appeals in July 2020 once again passed on the opportunity to answer the re-tweet question, holding, “[The plaintiff’s] initial complaint included Reid’s retweet of the Vargas tweet; but since [the plaintiff] later dropped that claim, we need not decide whether a retweet qualifies for Section 230 immunity. Nor are we called to decide whether Section 230 protects a social media user who copies verbatim (and without attribution) another user’s post, a question that may be complicated by issues as to malice and status as a public figure.

This opinion piece argues that, because facial recognition technology can be inaccurate and biased, and “privacy-encroaching facial recognition companies rely on social media platforms to scrape and collect user facial data,” social media platforms should add a “do-not-track” option for users’ faces.