Cybersecurity & Tech

Is Silencing a Few Million Americans Protected Speech?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, October 3, 2023, 1:03 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to review two big state laws trying to impose limits on social media censorship (or “curation,” if you prefer) of platform content. Paul Stephan and I spar over the right outcome, and the likely vote count, in the two cases. One surprise: we both think that the platforms’ claim of a first amendment right to curate content  is in tension with their claim that they, uniquely among speakers, should have an immunity for their “speech.”

Maury weighs in to note that the EU is now gearing up to bring social media to heel on the “disinformation” front. That fight will be ugly for Big Tech, he points out, because Europe doesn’t mind if it puts social media out of business, since it’s an American industry. I point out that elites all across the globe have rallied to meet and defeat social media’s challenge to their agenda-setting and reality-defining authority. India is aggressively doing the same

Paul covers another big story in law and technology. The FTC has sued Amazon for antitrust violations—essentially price gouging and tying. Whether the conduct alleged in the complaint is even a bad thing will depend on the facts, so the case will be hard fought. And, given the FTC’s track record, no one should be betting against Amazon.

Nick Weaver explains the dynamic behind the massive MGM and Caesars hacks. As with so many globalized industries, ransomware now has Americans in marketing (or social engineering, if you prefer) and foreign technology suppliers. Nick thinks it’s time to OFAC ‘em all.

Maury explains the latest bulk intercept decision from the European Court of Human Rights. The UK has lost again, but it’s not clear how much difference that will make. The ruling says that non-Brits can sue the UK over bulk interception, but the court has already made clear that, with a few legislative tweaks, bulk interception is legal under the European human rights convention.

More bad news for 230 maximalists: it turns out that Facebook can be sued for allowing advertisers to target ads based on age and gender. The platform slipped from allowing speech to being liable for speech because it facilitated advertiser’s allegedly discriminatory targeting. 

The UK competition authorities are seeking greater access to AI’s inner workings to assess risks, but Maury Shenk is sure this is part of a light touch on AI regulation that is meant to make the UK a safe European harbor for AI companies.

In a few quick hits and updates:

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Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

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