Emma Llansó (@ellanso) is the Director of CDT’s Free Expression Project, which works to promote law and policy that support users’ free expression rights in the United States and around the world. Emma leads CDT’s work in advancing speech-protective policies, which include legislative advocacy and amicus activity in the U.S. aimed at ensuring that online expression receives the highest level of protection under the First Amendment. Recognizing the crucial role played by Internet intermediaries in facilitating individuals’ expression, she works to preserve strong intermediary liability protections in the U.S. and to advance these key policies abroad.
Emma also leads the Free Expression Project’s work in developing content policy best practices with Internet content platforms and advocating for user-empowerment tools and other alternatives to government regulation of online speech. The Project’s work spans many subjects, including online child safety and children’s privacy, human trafficking, privacy and online reputation issues, counter-terrorism and “radicalizing” content, and online harassment. Emma is also a member of the Freedom Online Coalition’s Working Group on Privacy and Transparency Online, which is developing best practices for transparency reporting by governments and companies regarding government demands to Internet companies for content removal and access to user data. Emma works with CDT’s Global Internet Policy & Human Rights Project on advancing policies that promote free expression in global fora; she also works with the Global project in advocating for decentralized, multistakeholder approaches to Internet governance.
Emma earned a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Delaware and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Emma joined CDT in 2009 as the Bruce J. Ennis First Amendment Fellow; her fellowship project focused on legal and policy advocacy in support of minors’ First Amendment rights in the US. She is a member of the New York State Bar.
SESTA Would Undermine Free Speech Online by Emma Llansó
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold (Microsoft Press, 2000)
Ajit Pai released a draft order to repeal the net neutrality rules last week, which the Commission will vote on at their December meeting. The order would overturn the 2015 net neutrality order by reclassifying internet service providers as "information service" providers rather than Title II "common carriers". Telecom companies applauded the new order while others, on the right and left, decried the draft order which will give telecom carriers broad discretion to throttle, block or require payment for services it doesn't favor. The order would also preempt the states from enacting their own net neutrality legislation. Cecilia Kang reports in the New York Times.
In an open letter published on his Medium page, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In it, he called on Pai to respond to repeated requests Schneider's office made to the FCC to release information on the individuals who were responsive for corrupting the FCC's notice and comment system. Schneiderman wrote that thousands of Americans' identities may have been used to submit fraudulent comments. Schneiderman wrote that his office has made 9 requests to the FCC since June, even offering to keep the information confidential, but to no avail.
The Justice Department has sued to block the $85 billion AT&T/Time Warner merger. Mekan Delrahim--Chief of the DOJ's antitrust devision, says the vertical merger would harm Americans with higher prices and fewer content options. Brent Kendall and Drew FitzGerald report in the Wall Street Journal.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments this week in Carpenter v. U.S. In Carpenter, the FBI surveilled a defendant whom they suspected of acting as a getaway driver for several armed robberies in Detroit. The FBI tracked Carpenter without a warrant, using his cellphone location data. In the lower court, the FBI argued that it had broad authority to track anyone's location at anytime. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the FBI. Now the Supreme Court will consider the applicability of the so-called "third party doctrine" which holds that once you communicate your private information to a third party--you lose your privacy interest in that information. The third party doctrine already applies to things like your banking records. So the question before the court--for the first time--is whether that doctrine applies when you communicate your location to a cell tower. Matthew Tokson summarizes this case in New York Mag.
Two weeks ago, the FCC relaxed its Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-ownership rule. Soon, the agency may also relax the ownership limit that prevents a single corporation from reaching more than 39% of the national audience.FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a proposal to his colleagues last week. If it is adopted at the December 14th Open meeting, the FCC will then commence to review the rule, which could take several months. The move is seen as being helpful to Sinclair Broadcasting, which is seeking to acquire Tribune Media. The combined company would reach 70% of U.S. households. Keach Hagey reports in the Wall Street Journal.
Microsoft announced that it is attempting to provide internet access to Puerto Rico and other U.S. Virgin Islands that were devastated by Hurricane Maria. The plan is to provide the service via TV "white spaces", which are the unused frequencies between tv stations.
Keith Collins at Quartz reported that Android devices collect location data and send it back to Google even when the location data option is switched off. Privacy advocates are concerned that if Google can access the information, hackers can too.
David Filipov and Hamza Filiban report for the Washington Post that Russia is preparing to retaliate against Google if Google de-ranks the Russia-based propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik. At the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google is working to restrict websites, like RT and Sputnik, that have been "weaponized". Russian telecom czar Alexander Zharov responded to the remarks saying that it would be investigating how Google ranks sites like RT and Sputnik and considering retaliatory measures.
A new ProPublica investigation found that Facebook still allows advertisers to target consumers based on race. ProPublica bought dozens of fake real estate ads on Facebook that allowed it to exclude audiences based on race. Julia Angwin reports in ProPublica.
Uber is under fire yet again. This time it's because the company apparently suffered a massive data breach last year and didn't report it to anyone: drivers, customers, regulators--no one. Uber said the breach affected some 57 million customers. In addition to inflaming the Federal Trade Commission investigation which was already in progress, the company has already been sued by one user for deceptive business practices, for not disclosing the breach.
Danielle Keats Citron (@daniellecitron) is the Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law where she teaches and writes about information privacy, free expression, and civil rights and was the recipient of the 2005 “Teacher of the Year” award.
Professor Citron is an internationally recognized information privacy expert. Her book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014) explored the phenomenon of cyber stalking and how law and companies can and should tackle online abuse consistent with our commitment to free speech. The editors of Cosmopolitan included her book in “20 Best Moments for Women in 2014.” Professor Citron has published more than 20 law review articles appearing in California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Harvard Law Review Forum, Boston University Law Review, Fordham Law Review, George Washington Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Texas Law Review, Washington University Law Review, Southern California Law Review, Washington & Lee Law Review, Wake Forest Law Review, Washington Law Review, UC Davis Law Review, among other journals. Her opinion pieces have appeared in media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Time, CNN, The Guardian, New Scientist, ars technica, and New York Daily News. In 2015, the United Kingdom’s Prospect Magazine named Professor Citron one of the “Top 50 World Thinkers;” the Daily Record named her one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marylanders.” Professor Citron is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society, Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project, and Senior Fellow at the Future of Privacy, a privacy think tank. She is a technology contributor for Forbes.
Professor Citron has advised federal and state legislators, law enforcement, and international lawmakers on privacy issues. She has testified at congressional briefings on the First Amendment implications of laws regulating cyber stalking, sexual violence, and nonconsensual pornography. From 2014 to December 2016, Professor Citron advised California Attorney General Kamala Harris (elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016) on privacy issues. She served as a member of AG Harris’s Task Force to Combat Cyber Exploitation and Violence Against Women. In 2011, Professor Citron testified about online hate speech before the Inter-Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism at the House of Commons.
Professor Citron works closely with tech companies on issues involving online safety and privacy. She serves on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and has presented her research at Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. In addition, Professor Citron is an advisor to civil liberties and privacy organizations. She is the Chair the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Board of Directors. Professor Citron is on the Advisory Board of Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Without My Consent, Future of Privacy, Teach Privacy, SurvJustice, and the International Association of Privacy Professionals Privacy Bar. She is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as an adviser to the American Law Institute’s Restatement Third Information Privacy Principles Project.
Professor Citron has presented her research at federal agencies, meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General, the National Holocaust Museum, Wikimedia Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, major universities, and think tanks. Professor Citron has been quoted in hundreds of news stories including in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired,USA Today, HBO’s John Oliver Show, HBO’s Vice News, Time, Newsweek, New Yorker, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Barron’s, Financial Times, The Guardian, Vice News, and BBC. She is a frequent guest on National Public Radio shows, including All Things Considered, WHYY’s Radio Times, WNYC’s Public Radio International, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks, WAMU’s The Diane Rehm Show, and Chicago Public Radio.
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keas Citron (Harvard University Press, 2014)
Constitutional Coup: Privatization's Threat to the American Republic by Jon D. Michaels (Harvard University Press, 2017)
The Department of Justice has sued to block AT&T's proposed $85 billion acquisition of Times Warner. The complaint states that the merger would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act. It refers to AT&T's objection to Comcast's previous acquisition of NBC/Universal, back in 2011, which was also a so-called vertical merger. AT&T argued that a "standard bargaining model" could have been used to show the harmful effect the merger would have had on pricing.
If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it will be the first time a vertical merger case has reached the Court since 1972, in the Ford-Autolite case. The Trump administration has been vocal about opposing the AT&T/Time Warner merger and the president himself has railed repeatedly on Twitter about CNN's coverage of his administration. AT&T says it would not rule out using the judicial process in order to obtain correspondence between the White House and the DOJ which would help illustrate that the DOJ's lawsuit is politically motivated. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post.
In its monthly meeting last week, the Federal Communications Commission killed long-standing media ownership rules, including the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule which, since 1975, had prevented the owner of a tv station from owning a newspaper in the same market. The Commission also eliminated the so-called eight-voices test, which required at least eight independently owned TV stations to remain in the market before any entity could own two stations in the market. Critics say the rules were cancelled simply to pave the way for Sinclair Broadcasting, which has proposed to acquire Tribune Media for $4 billion. Two high-ranking Democrats--Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings--are calling for an investigation into Ajit Pai's relationship with Sinclair.
The Commission also restricted Lifeline support--that's the $9.25 per month subsidy for qualified customers who use it to help pay their internet bill. It restricted that support on tribal lands. The Commission is also seeking comment on a proposed plan to cap Lifeline expenditures.
The Commission also voted unanimously to crack down on robocallers by giving phone companies more authority to block annoying phone calls from marketers who play a pre-recorded message when you answer the phone. Also at the November meeting, the Commission voted to expand broadcasters' ability to experiment with the Next Generation Broadcast Standard, which will enable closer targeting of viewers for advertising. The Commission also adopted several other rules and proposed rules ostensibly geared toward stimulating broadband infrastructure investment and deployment.
In December, FCC Chair Ajit Pai is expected to overturn the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama administration.
Comcast has joined a long list of companies, including Verizon, that are seeking to buy 21st Century Fox, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fox is looking to sell off everything except its news and sports assets. Verizon and Disney also also rumored to be potential suitors.
The Federal Elections Commission put out a rulemaking for public comment on revisions to the political ad disclosure rules to apply them to internet companies. The rulemaking follows allegations of Russian efforts to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump by placing ads and sponsored content on on Facebook and Twitter.
The U.S. has dropped to second place, behind China, in its total number of super computers. The U.S. has 144 compared to China's 202. The number of China's supercomputers rose by 43 over just the last 6 months, compared to a drop in the U.S. by 25.
Cheryl A. Leanza (@cleanza) is the President of her consulting firm, A Learned Hand, LLC, www.alearnedhand.com. In this capacity she serves as policy advisor to the United Church of Christ’s historic media advocacy arm and as the Co-Chair of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights Media & Telecommunications Task Force. Her other clients have included the Progressive States Network, Leadership Conference Education Fund, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Future of Music Coalition, Public Knowledge, and Native Public Media, among others.
Ms. Leanza helped to lead the victorious effort to pass the Local Community Radio Act, and has been a leader in public interest advocacy for more than 15 years, including advocacy for diversity in media ownership, protection for children in media, and other policies furthering First Amendment principles, including open Internet. She has represented non-profits before the Federal Communications Commission, in the U.S. Appellate courts and before Congress, and has been widely quoted in the trade and mainstream press on these issues.
Ms. Leanza’s prior positions include a stint as Principal Legislative Counsel for telecommunications at the National League of Cities where she was lead lobbyist for local elected officials during the period when Congress was debating changes to local cable television franchising laws. She also spent six and one-half years as Deputy Director of Media Access Project and began her career in the Federal Communications Commission’s honor attorney program.
Ms. Leanza is a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and the Ford School of Public Policy and teaches at Georgetown University’s Department of Communications, Culture and Technology. Ms. Leanza serves on the board of the Prometheus Radio Project and has served as Vice Chair of the Media and Democracy Coalition, as well as on the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Executive Committee and the Foundation Board. She is admitted in the District of Columbia and New York; and in the United States Supreme Court; U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Juilia Ioffee reports for the Atlantic that Donald Trump, Jr. exchanged direct messages via Twitter with Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. The exchange went on at least through July of this year. This is the first connection that Congressional investigators have established between the White House and the notorious leaking site which investigators believe Russia enlisted to interfere with last year's election. Wikileaks warned Trump, Jr. ahead of time about a new website that was to be released showing ties between Trump and Putin. Wikileaks requested favors of Trump, Jr. including access to Trump's tax returns.
Top House Democrats including House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone are seeking an investigation into FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's ties to Sinclair Broadcasting. Pai is accused of passing rules changes that clear the path for Sinclair's pending acquisition of Tribune Media, which would give the combined company access to some 70% of the U.S. TV market. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.
The Qualcomm Board of Directors has unanimously rejected Broadcom's $103 billion acquisition bid. Qualcomm said that the bid is too low. Harper Neidig reports in the Hill.
Prompted by a record, $2.8 billion fine against Google by the European Union, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has issued subpoenas to Google as part of a state investigation to determine whether the company prioritizes its own search results over that of its competitors. Harper Neidig reports on this as well in the Hill.
Uber has accepted an investment offer from Asian telecom conglomerate Softbank that is part of a total $1 billion investment being made into the ride-sharing company by a consortium of other companies. This investment will open up the possibility of Softbank acquiring up to $9 billion in equity from the company's shareholders. Softbank also owns a majority stake in Sprint. The deal with Uber is seen, in part, as an opportunity for Uber to expand into Asia as it struggles against stiff competition from Lyft in the U.S. for which Google parent Alphabet is leading a $1 billion investment effort. Ali Breland reports in The Hill.
The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Stop Online Sex Trafficking Act, or SESTA, which would limit the exception created by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which grants immunity to web sites for illegal posts made by their users. The current bill would crack down specifically on websites that facilitate sex trafficking. The current version of the bill is now supported by the Internet Association, as well as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. But Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has placed a public hold on the bill, which will now require it to meet a 60-vote threshold before moving on to the full Senate.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the Department of Justice's ability to obtain data from innocent, third party Facebook users who used a page dedicated to organizing a protest against Trump's inauguration. The court is seeking to institute what it terms as "procedural safeguards" to prevent innocent users' data from being sweept up with targeted suspects'. The Court will now be approving all of the DOJs search terms in connection with the investigation into criminal activity that occurred during inauguration protests.
Leading Silicon Valley figures are opposing the GOP tax plan to tax employee stock options once employees receive them. This is opposed to the current tax law providing that only the capital gains tax of stock options are taxable. Some five hundred Silicon Valley leaders from firms such as Facebook, Uber, Y Combinator and others criticized the plan in a letter to Orrin Hatch. Ali Breland reports in the Hill.
Tiffany C. Li (@tiffanycli) is an attorney and Resident Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. She is an expert on privacy, intellectual property, and law and policy at the forefront of new technological innovations.
Li leads the Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information, where she researches cutting-edge legal issues involving online speech, access to information, and Internet freedom. Additionally, Li is also an Affiliate Scholar at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.