Tag Archives: Social Media

Tech Industry Appeals Texas Social Media Law



Two Washington-based groups representing Google, Facebook, and other tech giants filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to block a Texas law that bars social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, the Texas law took effect Wednesday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans lifted a district court injunction that had barred it. The appeals court action shocked the industry, which has been largely successful in batting back Republican state leaders’ efforts to regulate social media companies’ content-moderation policies.

NetChoice posted information titled: “NetChoice Announces Request for Emergency Stay from the U.S. Supreme Court”. From the information:

…On May 13, 2022, NetChoice and CCIA filed an application for an emergency stay with Justice Alito of the Supreme Court. Under Court procedures, Justice Alito may rule unilaterally or refer the matter to the full Court for consideration…

“The divided panel’s shocking decision to greenlight an unconstitutional law – without explanation – demanded the extraordinary response of seeking emergency Supreme Court intervention,” said Chris Marchese, Counsel for NetChoice.

“Texas HB 20 strips private online businesses of their speech rights, forbids them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content,” continued Marchese. “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech, and spam.”…

…”We are hopeful the Supreme Court will quickly reverse the Fifth Circuit, and we remain confident that the law will ultimately be struck down as unconstitutional.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) posted news titled: “CIAA Files Emergency Brief Asking Supreme Court To Halt Texas Social Media Law”. From the news:

“The Computer & Communications Industry Association jointly filed an emergency brief Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court for immediate action to prevent an unconstitutional Texas social media law from going into affect. The joint filing, submitted with co-plaintiff NetChoice, asks the Court to reinstate a lower court’s decision blocking the enforcement of the Texas statute while it is being reviewed under the First Amendment…

…CCIA has advocated for free speech online for more than 25 years. This effort has included protecting the First Amendment right for citizens and businesses to exercise both the right to speak and not be compelled to speak online.

The Verge reported that NetChoice had previously won a similar case in Florida last year, making the constitutional issues in this case even more pressing to address.

According to The Verge, the three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit appeared to be confused about many of the basic terms being used – one judge seemed to think that Twitter was not a website, and another seemed to think there was no difference between a phone company like Verizon and a social media company like Twitter or Facebook.

It is not unheard of for a court to pick a side to support when presented with a case. Personally, I do not have any faith at all in the decision making process of the Supreme Court as it stands today.


Social Media Sites May Face Criminal Sanctions from UK Law



CNBC reported that the UK Government has announced that executives of social media companies (like Meta, Google, Twitter, and TikTok) could now face prosecution or jail time within two months of the new Online Safety Bill becoming law, instead of two years as it was previously drafted.

According to CNBC, The Online Safety Bill aims to make it mandatory for social media services, search engines and other platforms that allow people to share their own content to protect children, tackle illegal activity and uphold their stated terms and conditions.

Axios reported that the British Government said in a statement that the goal of the bill is to “protect children, public safety, and safeguard free speech.” It imposes new rules on tech companies and adds oversight powers to Ofcom, the British communications regulator, while exempting news content from any new restrictions.

What is in The Online Safety Bill?

BBC reported (in December of 2021) the there were three things the bill set out to do:

Prevent the spread of illegal content and activity such as images of child abuse, terrorist material and hate crimes, including racist abuse

Protect children from harmful material

Protect adults from legal – but harmful – content

According to the BBC, at that time, social media companies that fail to comply with the new rules could face fines of up to £18m, or 10% of their annual global turnover.

Axios reported that more changes had been added:

Ensuring websites that publish or host pornography, including commercial sites, require that users are 18 years old or older

Adding new measures that give people more control over who can contact them and what they see online, as part of an effort to limit the reach of anonymous trolls

Requiring tech companies to act more quickly against a wide range of illegal content

Making it a crime to flash someone online

The bill must go through a former process before it can become an act. CNBC noted that the process includes giving UK lawmakers the chance to debate aspects within the legislation.

To me, it sounds like a group of UK politicians have created a bill that could (potentially) make themselves the decision makers about what is allowed, and what is not allowed, on social media. My biggest fear is that The Online Safety Bill will be used by the meanest people to squash the posts from people who are minorities, LGBTQ+, or politicians who are on the opposing side of the aisle.


Texas Sued Over Law That Stops Social Media Sites from Banning Users



The State of Texas has been sued over its new law that prevents social media platforms from banning users over their political views, The Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas bill is called HB 20. Governor Greg Abbott signed it into law. According to The Texas Tribune, the law states that “social media platforms with over 50 million monthly users in the U.S. – a threshold that includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – must publicly report details about content removal and account suspensions biannually. The platforms are also required to establish an easily accessible complaint system, where users could flag violations of the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by NetChoice, LLC and Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represent Google and Twitter in the lawsuit. It was filed against Texas Governor Ken Paxton (in his official capacity as Attorney General of Texas). The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.

Here is a key point from the lawsuit:

…The Commerce Clause does not permit a single state to dictate the rules of content for the global Internet. H.B. 20 would regulate wholly-out-of-state conduct – balkanizing the Internet by imposing onerous extraterritorial regulation on the operation of covered social media platforms. This vastly exceeds Texas’s regulatory purview and will impede commerce across the Internet…

USA Today described this Texas law as a “social media censorship law”. According to USA Today, “Texas lawmakers were motivated in large part by the suspensions of former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol”.

Personally, I don’t think this Texas law stands much of a chance in court. USA Today reported that a federal judge blocked a similar Florida law in June, one day before it could take effect.


Trump Plans to Start his Own Social Media Platform



A spokesman for Donald Trump announced on Fox News “#MediaBuzz” that Trump will be returning to social media with his own platform. It appears that the platform will be released in two or three months. No further information has been released other than that the new platform “is going to be big”.

Personally, I’m not surprised that Trump wants to make his own social media platform. As you may remember, he was permanently suspended from Twitter on January 8, 2021, days after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. In a blog post, Twitter stated the reason for the permanent suspension was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Facebook also suspended Trump’s account for roughly the same reason.

It is possible that Trump (and whomever is helping to create his new social media platform) believe that he would be safe there to post whatever her wants to. I cannot imagine what his own platform would consider egregious enough for them to decide to suspend Trump’s account.

The trick is finding a web-hosting company that will accept Trump’s new social media platform. Gab, (another right-wing social media platform), has a history of having its web hosting company drop them. A quick look at Gab’s Wikipedia page lists that Apple declined Gab’s submission of its app to the App Store in 2016. Google removed Gab’s app from its Play Store for violating policy against hate speech.

In 2018, PayPal, GoDaddy, and Medium terminated their relationship with Gab one day after the the Pittsburg synagogue shooting (and after posts by the shooter were found on Gab). Later that day, Gab’s hosting provider, Joylent, gave them a limited time to move out before it terminated service. In 2018, Gab started using Epik as a domain registrar, and may potentially be using Cloudflare (a company that provides content delivery and DDoS mitigation). In 2019, Amazon Web Services ceased Gab’s fundraising site due to Amazon’s policy on hateful conduct.

Parler (another right-wing social media platform) has also faced difficulties. BuzzFeed News reported in January of 2021 that Amazon suspended Parler from Amazon Web Services. The reason for the suspension was because Amazon became unconvinced that Parler could effectively moderate calls for violence and hate speech.

NPR reported that Parler sued Amazon and asked a federal judge to force Amazon to restore Parler’s web-hosting service. The judge declined to do so. Engadget later reported that Parler found web-hosting with Epik – the same company that hosts Gab.

It might be possible for Trump to launch his own social media platform. If he does, I suspect it would pull like-minded users from Twitter, Facebook, Gab and Parler. However, unless Trump also creates his own web-hosting company – there will always be a chance that his social media platform could be taken offline.


Sri Lanka’s Government Blocked Social Media After Attacks



A wave of bombings happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Targets included churches, hotels, and an apartment complex. At least 290 people have been killed and 500 were injured. While this was happening, Sri Lanka’s government blocked access to social media sites.

Sri Lanka’s government moved to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook – on Sunday out of concern that “false news reports… spreading through social media” could lead to violence. The services will be suspended until investigations into the blasts that killed more than 200 people are concluded, the government said. Non-Facebook social media services, including YouTube and Viber have also been suspended, but Facebook and WhatsApp are dominant platforms in the country.

The Guardian reported that this was not the first time Sri Lanka’s government blocked social media in an effort to prevent misinformation from spreading and resulting in violence. In March of 2018, the government blocked several social media platforms amid hardline Buddhist violence against Muslims. Some of that violence was fulled by hate speech and false rumors that were spread on social media.

Social media websites need to vastly improve their ability to keep people safe. These companies need to wake up and realize that what what is said – and passed around – on the internet can have devastating real-world repercussions. They must do a better job of removing misinformation.

Personally, based on Sri Lanka’s history, I think their government did the right thing by blocking social media websites while police were investigating the cause of the bombings. I think this action likely prevented people, in a time of crisis, from being unfairly influenced to target other people with violence. The government may have saved some innocent people from being harmed or killed.

The big problem, of course, is that blocking social media was necessary. If Facebook (and other social media companies) were quicker to remove misinformation, Sri Lanka’s government would not have needed to block it. People could have used social media to let their families know that they were safe.

Another thing to consider is that many governments are not going to block social media platforms in their countries during a crisis. This could lead to misinformation spread online resulting in additional violence in “the real world”. Social media companies need to be more responsible about what they allow to spread on their platforms.


Google+ Offers Download of Data



Announced back in October, Google+ is coming to an untimely demise on 2nd April, leaving many of us somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of having to move house over to Facebook. Never mind Facebook’s total disregard for privacy, the user interface is complete rubbish…

While Google+ may be ending, Google is making it easy to retrieve information from the service and all users should have received an email giving the details of what needs to be done.

The download and save links to a support page which provides guidance on downloading all your Google+ information, including photos. It’s straightforward to do, but Google does take a few days to assemble the data and make it ready for download. Google then makes the data set available for around a week. I requested the download on 3rd February and received a notification that it was ready on 7th Feb.

Once downloaded, the archive can be unpacked. Google sorts the data into folders relating to your activity on Google+ and provides some additional html files to make browsing the data a little easier. Having said that, if you are only after your pictures, a quick search from a file manager for jpg will get quick results.

My online life with Google+ was quite small at 108 MB, but a friend who was an enthusiastic contributor to the server downloaded several gigs of data.

While it’s sad to see Google+ going away, it’s great to see Google making it easy to retain your Google+ data.


Ferrari Arrives On Instagram



Ferrari LogoWhen it comes to objects of desire, a Ferrari is close to the top of many a wish list. The gorgeous shapes, the fabulous sound and rich racing history are all part of the aura surrounding the Italian company and the famous prancing horse. It’s perhaps a little surprising then that it’s taken this long for Ferrari to join Instagram and show off the red supercars in all their glory.

Social media isn’t new to Ferrari, with active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is the obvious platform for pictures and now, sound. As well as the visual treats, Ferrari have recorded aural delights to get more senses involved. It’s all very current too with the first set of photos fresh from last weekend’s Mille Miglia.

Lined up. #Ferrari #RossoFerrari #MilleMiglia

A photo posted by Ferrari (@ferrari) on

Follow @Ferrari to keep those dreams alive!