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Speech

On today’s internet, the boundaries of acceptable speech are set by a few massive platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and a handful of others. If those companies find something unacceptable, it can’t travel far — a restriction that’s had a massive impact for everyone from copyright violators to sex workers. At the same time, vile content that doesn’t violate platform rules can find shockingly broad audiences, leading to a chilling rise in white nationalism and violent misogyny online. After years of outcry, platforms have grown more willing to ban the worst actors online, but each ban comes with a new political fight, and companies are slow to respond in the best of circumstances. As gleeful disinformation figures like Alex Jones gain power — and the sheer scale of these platforms begins to overwhelm moderation efforts — the problems have only gotten uglier and harder to ignore. At the same time, the hard questions of moderation are only getting harder.

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Russell BrandomSep 22
The latest Alex Jones defamation hearing is not going well for Alex Jones.

The Infowars host has already been hit with millions of dollars in damages for spreading lies about Sandy Hook — but today’s hearing suggests he could be on the hook for even more.


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Adi RobertsonSep 22
Congress is trying to make Google pay news outlets for links again.

The controversial Journalism Competition and Preservation Act — which would let news publishers negotiate payments for being linked by sites like Google — suffered a setback earlier this month thanks to a surprise Ted Cruz amendment trying to limit the platforms’ moderation options. After some negotiations between Cruz and sponsor Amy Klobuchar, it’s back for markup today, and it’s got critics even more worried than before.


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Nilay PatelSep 17
The Fifth Circuit really blew up the First Amendment by upholding the Texas social media law.

The law still isn’t in effect, but the court’s opinion sets up a Supreme Court battle over the future of content moderation and the First Amendment. Mike Masnick has a good (if wonky) breakdown up already. It’s… well, it’s one of the dumbest First Amendment opinions in a long time.

The fact that Oldham claims, that “the Platforms are no different than Verizon or AT&T” makes me question how anyone could take anything in this ruling seriously.


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Adi RobertsonSep 16
New terrible First Amendment ruling dropped.

Remember when a Texas appeals court decided to blow up internet moderation with no explanation? Well, it finally explained itself, and so far I don’t feel any better. We’re still working our way through the decision, but you can read it below. For now, though, the Supreme Court already temporarily blocked the law while its court battle continues.


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Adi RobertsonSep 13
Alex Jones is on trial yet again.

The InfoWars host lost a defamation case over the Sandy Hook shooting by default, and now, a Connecticut jury will decide what he should pay. It’s a near-repeat of a similar case in Texas — but without that state’s limits on financial damages. Jones’ company has filed for bankruptcy, though, setting up a fight over the money.