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    YouTube under no obligation to host anti-vaccine advocate’s videos, court says / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 5 September - 20:08

YouTube under no obligation to host anti-vaccine advocate’s videos, court says

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto )

A prominent anti-vaccine activist, Joseph Mercola, yesterday lost a lawsuit attempting to force YouTube to provide access to videos that were removed from the platform after YouTube banned his channels.

Mercola had tried to argue that YouTube owed him more than $75,000 in damages for breaching its own user contract and denying him access to his videos. However, in an order dismissing Mercola's complaint, US magistrate judge Laurel Beeler wrote that according to the contract Mercola signed, YouTube was "under no obligation to host" Mercola's content after terminating his channel in 2021 "for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines by posting medical misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines."

"The court found no breach because 'there is no provision in the Terms of Service that requires YouTube to maintain particular content' or be a 'storage site for users’ content,'" Beeler wrote.

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    Proposed Sec. 230 rewrite could have wide-ranging consequences / ArsTechnica · Monday, 8 February, 2021 - 23:03 · 1 minute

Cartoon hands hold out a band-aid over the words Section 230.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images )

A trio of Democratic Senators has taken this administration's first stab at Section 230 reform with a new bill that would make platforms, including giants such as Facebook and Twitter, liable for certain limited categories of dangerous content. Unfortunately, although the bill's authors try to thread a tricky needle carefully, critics warn that bad-faith actors could nonetheless easily weaponize the bill as written against both platforms and other users.

The bill ( PDF ), dubbed the SAFE TECH Act, seeks not to repeal Section 230 (as some Republicans have proposed ) but instead to amend it with new definitions of speakers and new exceptions from the law's infamous liability shield.

"A law meant to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation has instead conferred sweeping immunity on online providers even when they do nothing to address foreseeable, obvious and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who introduced the bill. "This bill doesn’t interfere with free speech—it’s about allowing these platforms to finally be held accountable for harmful, often criminal behavior enabled by their platforms to which they have turned a blind eye for too long."

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    Ajit Pai abandons plan to help Trump punish Facebook and Twitter / ArsTechnica · Friday, 8 January, 2021 - 18:07 · 1 minute

Ajit Pai backs slowly away from President Trump.

Enlarge / Ajit Pai backs slowly away from President Trump. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Photo by Gage Skidmore )

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he is dropping his plan to help President Trump impose a crackdown on social-media platforms and offered mild criticism of Trump's incitement of a mob that stormed the US Capitol in a failed bid to overturn the election results.

In October, Pai backed Trump's proposal to limit the Section 230 legal protections for social-media websites that block or modify content posted by users. At the time, Pai said he would open an FCC rule-making process to declare that companies like Twitter and Facebook do not have "special immunity" for their content-moderation decisions. But Pai hasn't moved the proposal forward since Trump's election loss and has now stated in an interview that he won't finalize the plan.

"The status is that I do not intend to move forward with the notice of proposed rule-making [to reinterpret Section 230] at the FCC," Pai said in an interviewed published yesterday by Protocol. "The reason is, in part, because given the results of the election, there's simply not sufficient time to complete the administrative steps necessary in order to resolve the rule-making. Given that reality, I do not believe it's appropriate to move forward." Pai announced shortly after Trump's election loss that he will leave the FCC on January 20, President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration day.

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    Trump vetoes $740B defense bill, citing “failure to terminate” Section 230 / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 23 December, 2020 - 21:36

Marble, mostly Greek revival architecture against a deep blue sky.

Enlarge / The Washington, DC skyline, including the US Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial, as seen from the Arlington, VA, side of the Potomac at night. Which is the time of day Congress is apparently going to be working until. (credit: Melodie Yvonne | Getty Images )

As was threatened, so has it come to pass: President Donald Trump has vetoed funding for the US military because the massive defense spending bill did not include a provision to repeal Section 230.

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $740 billion in defense spending for the upcoming government fiscal year. The NDAA usually moves through Congress with broad bipartisan support, and this year's is no exception. Both chambers supported the bill by wide, veto-proof margins—the House approved by a vote of 335 to 78, and the Senate approved it 84 to 13.

Trump, however, said in early December he would veto the bill if it did not include an outright repeal of Section 230, and today, with the bill on his desk, he followed through on that threat.

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    Ajit Pai says he’ll help Trump impose crackdown on Twitter and Facebook / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 15 October, 2020 - 21:06 · 1 minute

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is backing President Donald Trump's proposal to limit legal protections for social media websites that block or modify content posted by users. Pai's views on the matter were unknown until today when he issued a statement saying that he will open a rule-making process to clarify that the First Amendment does not give social media companies "special immunity."

"Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech," Pai said. "But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters."

Trump's attempt to punish social media websites like Twitter and Facebook for alleged anti-conservative bias landed at the FCC because Trump had the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) petition the FCC to issue a new interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This US law says that providers and users of interactive computer services shall not be held liable for "any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected." The law also says that no provider or user of an interactive computer service "shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

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    Trump admin. sends Congress its blueprint for weakening Section 230 / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 23 September, 2020 - 20:30

Cartoon hands hold out a band-aid over the words Section 230.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images )

The Department of Justice today dropped a proposed "recalibration" of one of the most important laws governing the US Internet into Congress's lap and urged legislators to act to remove a liability protection on which nearly every website and app currently relies.

Attorney General Bill Barr sent the proposed legislation—an extension of his June wish list —to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence (in his role as President of the Senate) this morning.

"For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity," Barr said in a written statement. "Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open, and competitive environment is vitally important to America," he added. "We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online."

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