Our working definition of a digital platform (with a hat tip to Harold Feld of Public Knowledge) is an online service that operates as a two-sided or multi-sided market with at least one side that is “open” to the mass market
It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet. Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)). 47 U.S.C.
Google and its subsidiary YouTube will pay a record $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General that the YouTube video sharing service illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent.
Earlier this month we examined how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission impedes progress towards closing the digital divide. Now, we review another big telecom policy story from 2018: the democratic harms of “Big Tech”. In 2018, we got a better, but more disturbing, understanding of the size and influence of large technology companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft), and particularly how social media platforms affect our democratic discourse and elections.
On Nov 27, the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection held an oversight hearing on the Federal Trade Commission. The hearing examined the FTC’s “priorities in promoting competition and consumer protection, the ongoing innovation hearings and how changes in technology impact the agency, and whether the FTC should have expanded authority with respect to privacy and data security.” In other words -- is the FTC doing a good enough job? And if not, what needs change?
On Nov 14, the New York Times detailed Facebook’s multi-pronged campaign to “delay, deny and deflect” efforts to hold the company accountable. This is far from the first time we’ve read disturbing accounts of Facebook’s unethical behavior, but this week the Times peeled back the curtain on the company’s crisis management techniques, public relations tactics, efforts to influence lawmakers, and aggressive lobbying. The peak at these practices helps explain why the social media giant has been so successful at avoiding meaningful regulation.
The power of communication and the exchange of ideas were starkly brought home recently as news of bombs being delivered to Americans’ homes and businesses, and the murder of worshipers in Pittsburgh dominated headlines everywhere. President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies appear to be actively engaged in a feedback loop with extremists who participate in the darkest online forums.
A mass murderer shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh (PA) on Oct 27, in what is believed to be the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the United States, ever. The mass shooting followed a week of reporting on a series of bombs sent by a FL terrorist to prominent Democrats, George Soros, and CNN. Both men posted violent, hateful content online, including politically extremist views on immigration. The events tragically bring into focus, again, the very-real danger of hateful political rhetoric.
The Benton Foundation is joining 40 civil and human rights organizations that believe that online companies need to do more to combat hateful conduct on their platforms. We are asking that these companies adopt corporate policies to prohibit hateful activities on their platforms. They should make it clear what type of conduct is and is not permitted on their platform and remove any U.S. clients that violate those corporate policies. Although Benton has always championed free speech, today we draw a line.
The Federal Trade Commission this week held another set of hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century. The hearings and public comment process this Fall and Winter will provide opportunities for FTC staff and leadership to listen to experts and the public on key privacy and antitrust issues facing the modern economy. The hearings are intended to stimulate thoughtful internal and external evaluation of the FTC’s near- and long-term law enforcement and policy agenda.
Sohn set out recommendations to ensure that the Internet is accessible and affordable and that broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers and online platforms are transparent about how they conduct their businesses. Affordable access to the Internet is rarely discussed in conversations about Internet openness. An open network is of limited value, however, if significant numbers of people cannot access it for cost or other reasons. In the United States, fully twenty percent of Americans are not connected to BIAS.