The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Nick Weaver and I debate Sens. Graham and Blumenthal's EARN IT Act, a proposal to require that social media firms follow best practices on preventing child abuse. If they don't, they won't get full Section 230 immunity from liability for recklessly allowing the abuse. Nick thinks the idea is ill-conceived and doomed to fail. I think there's a core of sense to the proposal, which simply asks that Silicon Valley firms who are reckless about child abuse on their networks pay for the costs they're imposing on society. Since the bill gives the attorney general authority to modify the best practices submitted by a commission of industry, academic, and civic representatives, though, critics are sure that an evil bogeyman by the name of Bill Barr will effectively prohibit end-to-end encryption.
But before we get to that that debate, Gus Hurwitz and I unpack the law and tactics behind Facebook's decision to pay $550 million to settle a facial recognition class action. And Klon Kitchen and Nick ponder the shocking corruption and coverup alleged in the case of a Harvard chemistry chairman being prosecuted for hiding the large sums he was getting from the Chinese government to boost its research into nanomaterials.
Klon also gives us a feel for just how hard it can be to enforce Iranian sanctions, and the creativity that went into one Iranian app developer's evasion scheme.
Gus and Nick offer real hope that robocalling will start to get harder, and soon: DOJ has requested restraining orders to stop telcos from facilitating fraudulent robocalls; the FTC has put 19 VoIP providers on notice for facilitating robocalls; and SHAKEN/STIR is slowly making it harder to spoof a phone number.
Gus asks a question that had never occurred to me, and certainly not to millions of homeowners who may have committed inadvertent felonies by installing Ring doorbell cameras. It turns out that Ring recordings may be illegal intercepts in states with all-party consent laws. At least that's what one enterprising New Hampshire defense lawyer is arguing.
First it cocks a snook at Brussels, and now this: The UK government is really on a roll. It's proposing an IoT security law that Nick endorses with enthusiasm. Maryland, not so much: Klon critiques a proposed state law that would make ransomware illegal – and maybe ransomware research, too.
In dog-bites-man news, the United Nations has suffered a breach – probably by a semi-competent government. Which doesn't narrow things down much, since as Nick observes, everyone but the Germans has probably pwned the UN. And the Germans are just being polite.
A lot of old stories have come back for one more turn on stage: The Russian hacker that the Russian government was afraid would sing if extradited to the US has pleaded guilty and is probably singing already. Avast has killed Jumpshot, its much-criticized data collection operation. The Bezosphone Saga continues, as Sen. Chris Murphy calls on the DNI and FBI to investigate the hacking allegations, and Bezos's girlfriend's brother is suing for defamation. Charges against the Iowa courthouse pentesters have finally been dropped. LabMD's Mike Daugherty should probably hang up his cleats. He won a great victory over the FTC, but his racketeering suit against Tiversa and lawyers is officially time-barred. Finally, it turns out that the FBI has been investigating NSO Group since 2017, though without bringing charges, so far.
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