Wednesday, February 28, 2018

House passes sex trafficking bill reducing downstream liability protections under Section 230 (Backpage case)



The House late Tuesday passed the “FOSTA” bill, HR 1865, based on the problems with sex-trafficking on the web.

The Wall Street Journal has the best account right now, by John D. McKinnon.  I have links to other accounts on my main blog, as well as on Wordpress where there are many more details. 

The bill seems to have been amended at the last minute to narrow the Section 230 exemptions of services (websites, social media sites, and possibly hosting companies – the last is not clear) when their users engage in promoting large scale prostitution or any sex trafficking.  What is unclear is what the legal standard would be how a service would know that this is going on because it cannot prescreen all content.  Congress obviously believes it is targeting “classified ads” sites known for selling sex ads.  There is some question as to what the “reckless disregard” language means. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reposting school threats sent to a student could be crime (WJLA-Sinclair warning)



WJLA7, Sinclair-owned station in Washington DC,  is warning parents that students who repost threats to schools they receive to others could face criminal charges or at least expulsion from school.  Reposting of such messages could be treated very much like reposting child pornography (for which there was a scare a week ago).
  
Some attention to this possibility comes from a story about a Spapchat at a different Florida school, reported here.  This is even more ironic because Snapchat posts are supposed to disappear. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Utah wants to pass a civil liability version of COPA



Matthew La Plante has a story in the Sunday Washington Post, by Matthew La Plante, p. A11, maintaining that politicians in Utah and several other states want to frame porn addiction as a public health crisis.  Utah, in particular, considers a law allowing “victims” to sue publishers for adult content viewed accidentally by children. 
  
Is this COPA all over again?  Remember the COPA trial a decade ago, and the debate on filters and adult-id? 



Update:  Feb. 22

Florida's legislature passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk, and not military style weapons in the hands of a deranged person. Holly Yan on CNN reports with a video interview. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hosting providers use security companies to scan for illegal content which could be placed by foreign hackers



In conjunction with a recent Cato Institute briefing on the unintended overreach of some state sex offender registry laws, it’s worth noting that hosting providers are now using software to scan customer sites for malware and this could include illegal content like child pornography (identifiable with digital watermarks) which could be placed particularly by foreign enemies as a kind of subtle terrorism or attack on American legal and democratic values.  Site Lock is one of the companies used to scan sites.  Older sites, those not updated or accessed as often, or with unused unneeded capacity (email accounts, for example) could start to develop  a risk. 

The topic came up at the end of the session in an audience question. There was a comment from the panel that “mens rea” is more likely to be useful in defense today when a person’s property is hacked (by an enemy) than it would have been fifteen years ago, when law enforcement and the court systems did not understand the Internet as well.
   
This problem could be related to issues reported before, when computers are infected with illegal content discovered by repair technicians.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Arrest of a substitute teacher in Maryland shows the practical risks of Internet abuse; sudden warning about a Facebook video


A substitute teacher in Charles County, Maryland, about 30 miles SE of Washington DC, was child with showing sexually explicit materials to a minor and child pornography possession, with state charges, after having worked only 34 days.  A student reported his texting of another student, WTOP story here
  
But the incident shows that, despite fingerprint background checks, it is very difficult for school systems to vet substitute teachers well before hire.  They can look at social media, but this may run into First Amendment concerns with public employees.  But with substitute teachers principals at individual schools can ban substitutes under any suspicion whatsoever, and most school systems have “three strike” rules.
  
 Just as I was typing this story, I learned of a c.p. video circulating on Facebook from station WJLA7 in Washington, link.  It may have originated in Alabama, but was reported to Sinclair news in Cincinnati first. Resharing it is illegal and could lead to prosecution by federal law. But Facebook is likely to have removed the video before it gets very far. The WJLA story notes that resending such a video for "journalistic" purposes would not prevent criminal prosecution. But that statement could, by analogy, raise serious questions about citizen journalism in other areas, like terrorism.  But possession of a c.p. image is itself a crime;  possession of bomb-making instructions is not, although possession of the actual materials might be.