Digital Content

Information that is published or distributed in a digital form, including text, data, sound recordings, photographs and images, motion pictures, and software.

Facebook undermines its own effort to fight fake news

Facebook promised to address the spread of misinformation on its platform, in part by working with outside fact-checking groups. But because the company has declined to share any internal data from the project, the fact-checkers say they have no way of determining whether the “disputed” tags they’re affixing to “fake news” articles slow — or perhaps even accelerate — the stories’ spread. They also say they’re lacking information that would allow them to prioritize the most important stories out of the hundreds possible to fact-check at any given moment. Some fact-checkers are growing frustrated, saying the lack of information is undermining Facebook’s efforts to combat false news reports.

Judge dismisses Shiva “I Invented EMAIL” Ayyadurai’s libel lawsuit against Techdirt

A federal judge in Massachusetts has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed earlier in 2017 against tech news website Techdirt. The claim was brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, who has controversially claimed that he invented e-mail in the late 1970s. Techdirt (and its founder and CEO, Mike Masnick) has been a longtime critic of Ayyadurai and institutions that have bought into his claims. "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email," reads one Techdirt headline from 2012. Numerous articles that dubbed Ayyadurai a "liar" and a "charlatan" followed. That, in turn, led to Ayyadurai's January 2017 libel lawsuit.

In the Sept 6 ruling, US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor found that because it is impossible to define precisely and specifically what e-mail is, Ayyadurai's "claim is incapable of being proved true or false." The judge continued: "One person may consider a claim to be 'fake' if any element of it is not true or if it involves a slight twisting of the facts, while another person may only consider a claim to be 'fake' only if no element of it is true."

The Anit-Monopoly Case Against Google

An interview with Barry Lynn, former New America staffer who was let go, reportedly at the request of Alphabet's executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Asked, "Why is it so important to talk about monopoly power, particularly regarding tech companies?" Lynn said, "It’s important to talk about monopoly power in general because monopolies are a threat to our democracy and to our basic liberties and to our communities. Monopolization, this concentration of wealth and power, is a threat to everything that is America — everything we established America to ensure. So Open Markets is built to fight the environment of law and regulation that currently promotes unrestrained monopoly. America today has a monopoly problem. We’re seeing basically a second wave of consolidation and monopolization because of the digital revolution. These companies are just as bad as Newscorp or Walmart or Citibank was in 2005. Google, Facebook, and Amazon: the danger they pose is on a vastly different level."

CCIA Warns About New Online Liability Law

Computer companies are worried that a new bill meant to crack down on human trafficking could instead take a big bite out of the user-generated web traffic that makes up the majority of interactions on the web, from blogs to social media posts to picture-sharing. The bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, is sponsored by a group of bipartisan Sens, including House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL). The bill, say its sponsors, is meant to ensure that web sites such as, which knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, can be held liable. It would do so by amending Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act to clarify that that section, which says internet services cannot be held liable for the actions of third parties, does not prevent enforcement against providers and users of federal and state laws against sex trafficking. Sec. 230 allows companies to moderate a network without being responsible for all the content posted on it, which, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) points out, prevents every post from being a potential lawsuit and has allowed for "literally every online platform that allows users to post information, content, and comments"—which covers everyone from Google and Facebook to Snapchat and Pinterest.

Verizon Wants to Build an Advertising Juggernaut. It Needs Your Data First

A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web.

The trade-off is part of Verizon’s effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Alphabet’s Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo.

Feds Promised to Protect Dreamer Data. Now What?

When the Obama administration was designing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), privacy was a chief concern for immigration advocates, who worried about having undocumented immigrants identify themselves to the government. So US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) vowed it would wall off that data, protecting it from other agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that wanted to use it for deportation purposes. But because DACA was merely a policy, not a law, even the framers of this process knew full well that that promise to Dreamers was not binding. Even if the Dreamer data remains confidential, however, immigration advocates fear that ICE already has all the information it needs to target Dreamers where they work.

One reason many Dreamers applied for the program, after all, is to receive a work permit. Many employers use a system called e-verify to keep tabs on their employees’ immigration statuses. If President Donald Trump reverses DACA protections and stops renewing those permits, there’s not much stopping ICE from showing up at an employer's office the day after an employee's DACA permit expires.

The Internet of Hate

After Charlottesville, Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right have become a lot less welcome on the web. So they’re building their own.

“Enough is enough,” read the Gab-makers’ Medium post from Aug. 10, two days before the Unite the Right rally. “The time is now for patriots and free thinkers inside and outside of Silicon Valley to organize, communicate in a safe way, and start building,” the post read, calling for the formation of a new group called the “Free Speech Tech Alliance,” which would build an alternative infrastructure where the alt-right wouldn’t be burdened by the social-justice priorities and liberal values of Silicon Valley—nor by the arguably monopolistic powers of the major nodes of the information economy, like Facebook, Google, Apple, and their peers. Gab, and a growing number of its compatriots in the “alt-tech” movement, want to build their own internet, one that can be a haven for hate.

Apple to FCC: Protect net neutrality and don’t allow online fast lanes

Apple is breaking its silence on network neutrality, urging the Trump administration to preserve strong rules that prevent the likes of AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon from blocking or interfering with web traffic. In its new comments to the Federal Communications Commission, the iPhone maker specifically urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai not to roll back an existing ban against so-called “fast lanes,” which might allow broadband providers someday to charge for faster delivery of tech companies’ movies, music or other content. Apple doesn’t take an explicit position on the Title II legal issue at hand. Instead, Apple only shares its more general views about the need for net neutrality safeguards.

“Broadband providers should not block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services,” Apple said . “Far from new, this has been a foundational principle of the FCC’s approach to net neutrality for over a decade. Providers of online goods and services need assurance that they will be able to reliably reach their customers without interference from the underlying broadband provider.”

Free speech in the fog of scientific uncertainty

[Commentary] President Donald Trump’s assault on journalistic integrity and shared verifiable facts has ignited a reaction among public intellectuals to demand fealty to scientific truth. Unfortunately, the reaction, like so many produced in the haste of political controversy, has oversimplified and overcorrected for the problem.

One common assumption within the resistance is that existing systems for regulating scientific claims are self-evidently wise. My new article, “Snake Oil“ (forthcoming in the Washington Law Review), is therefore coming out at a rather inconvenient time. I loathe the Trump administration’s disregard for and delegitimization of scientific institutions, including expert federal agencies. Nevertheless, the methods that some expert agencies use to constrain the information flow to consumers are highly flawed.

Trump nominee blames 'internet crimes' for inflammatory comments against Obama

William Bradford, the man President Donald Trump has appointed to head an office under the Department of Energy, has blamed "cyber attacks and Internet crimes" for derogatory comments made against former President Barack Obama by an online user appearing to be Bradford. "I cannot comment on an ongoing federal investigation into multiple cyber attacks and Internet crimes committed against me over the past several years, to include e-mail intrusions, hacking and impostors in social media,” Bradford said. His statement comes after CNN’s KFile unearthed various comments from a user appearing to be Bradford on the comment-hosting platform Disqus. CNN’s research connected the account to Bradford via Google cache.