Posts Under: first amendment

On Vermont Data Broker Bill, Don’t Use a Shotgun When the Constitution Requires a Scalpel

When the Equifax data breach occurred, 240,000 Vermonters received notice that their information had been compromised.  Equifax’s initial response—which among other things required people to waive their legal rights—did not inspire great confidence in the public.  And legislators were justifiably angry. But people make mistakes when they’re angry, and when the First Amendment is involved, those mistakes can be expensive.  Not so long ago, the legislature was convinced that it could regulate information in the same way as “beef jerky.”  Both liberal and conservative justices of the Supreme Court told them they were wrong.  As a result, Vermont spent $4 million and was forced to pay approximately $2.22 million in attorneys’ fees.   History is about to repeat itself. The Vermont Senate is now considering legislation that requires provocatively named “data brokers” to register with the state and co ...


How’s the First Amendment Doing in the U.S.? Recent Court Decisions Are Good News

I’ve commented frequently about the tendency of foreign governments to interfere with speech rights in pursuit of legitimate public policy objectives. Is there hate speech or terrorist material online?  Let’s require websites and social media platforms to purge it from their systems.  Is there outdated or irrelevant material online?  Let’s require search engines to delete links to this material.  Is there fake news?  Let’s require online websites to block it.  In each case, the law would go too far.  It would restrict far more speech than is necessary to achieve legitimate policy goals.


What Internet Platforms are Doing About “Fake News” and Why it Matters

At last week’s RightsCon in Brussels, much of the talk was about “fake news” and what to do about it.  I was on one of several panels devoted to the topic and found the conversation enlightening.  Here’s what I said and some of my reactions from the panel. The panel’s title was “Resisting Content Regulation in the Post-Truth World: How to Fix Fake News and the Algorithmic Curation of Social Media.”  So, unsurprisingly, the panelists largely agreed that the government should stay out of the way. I met no resistance when I said that freedom of expression means that governments should not determine what is or and what is not fake news; that’s a path to censorship, and we don’t want to go there. I also got buy-in from my second big point, which was that Internet platforms are playing and ought to play a crucial role in controlling the spread of fake news. This role has two distinct components.  Platforms ha ...