Feb. 18, 2023

The online child abuse epidemic; Chinese tech billionaire vanishes -- Tech Law & Policy This Week

Folks, kids are having a really hard time, and a lot of it has to do with what’s happening on the internet. Some lawmakers appear to be trying to do the right thing, but it seems like all they’re really capable of doing is introducing legislation...

Folks, kids are having a really hard time, and a lot of it has to do with what’s happening on the internet. Some lawmakers appear to be trying to do the right thing, but it seems like all they’re really capable of doing is introducing legislation – legislation that doesn’t get anywhere.


The CDC released a report Monday finding teens, especially girls, are in a bad place right now with some 57% of the 17,000 high school girls surveyed persistently feeling bad or hopeless. Some twenty percent of these girls report experiencing sexual violence. And a third of boys also report feeling persistently sad or depressed.


One young person in Washington State is working to get a bill passed to protect images their parents shared on parenting blogs that went viral. And here in DC, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard brutal testimony from victims of addiction, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and suicides spurred by social media and the internet.


 Committee Chair Dick Durbin notes that we often warn kids about strangers in public, but obv iously aren’t doing enough to protect kids. So Senate Democrats introduced legislation on Monday, the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act,  that would give kids the ability to have content removed that depicts them before they turned 13.


Another bill, the EARN IT Act, which would establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention, has been floundering in Congress since 2020.


On the House side, the Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan subpoenaed Google, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft for documents regarding their content moderation practices. The House is currently investigating the platforms for harboring anti-conservative bias.


Down in Florida, Polk County arrested 200, charging 89 of them with soliciting a prostitute, after a week-long investigation. 111 of the suspects were arrested for prostitution, of which 24 actually turned out to be human trafficking victims.


Separately, the U.S. denied a tourist visa to a UK-based VRChat user who goes by the name of “Hex.” She does sex shows on the platform. The reason for the passport denial? Prostitution.



Don’t be surprised if the healthcare platforms you rely on are selling your information to marketers. The only privacy bill specifically for healthcare is the Health Insurance Privacy & Portability Act (HIPPA), which contains no provisions regarding your health data in the U.S. 


An anonymous plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit in Loa Angeles this week alleging Microsoft Bing, Google, and Meta rec  eived data from Cedars-Sinai Health System and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center via a tracking code. And a new Duke study found data brokers can sell lists containing personally-identifiable information on thousands of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD patients.



Bao Fan has disappeared in China. The American-educated and outspoken billionaire investment banker has stakes in massive Chinese companies like Alibaba & Tencent. Chinese president Xi Jinping, as Daisuke Wakabayashi of the New York Times reports, has been cracking down on business titans there. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma disappeared from public view as well back in 2020 for being too vocal about China’s fiscal policies. As were several other prominent Chinese billionaires, one of which, Xiao Jianhua, who was born in China, was arrested at the Hong Kong Four Seasons and got 13 years in the slammer for embezzlement and bribery. 




Elon Musk says he’ll eventually step down as Twitter CEO once he gets the company financially stable – he’s aiming for the end of this year. Earlier this week, Casey Newton reported on Platformer that Musk was forcing engineers – firing one of them – for not getting Musk’s content to the top of the feed. Musk responded with a meme of a woman force-feeding another woman from a bottle of milk. Then he claimed that Newton’s source was a disgruntled former employee.


Also, Twitter is allowing weed advertisers on the platform now. Musk was high last year when he announced plans to acquire the company.




Podcaster Joe Rogan got deepaked by someone – they made him look like he was endorsing a testosterone supplement.


Voice Actors are calling folks out for using their voices to create AI models without their consent


Microsoft’s Chatbot has gone haywire, telling one reporter to leave his wife.


And the EU is investigating Amazon for acquiring iRobot

To go deeper, you can find links to all of these stories in the show notes. Stay safe, stay informed, have a great week. Ciao. 


Addiction, Suicide, Cyberbullies: Senate Confronts Kids’ Online Horror
Teen Girls Are Sadder Than Ever, But Schools Can Make
How one teen is urging legislators in Washington state to help protect kids from being exploited on vlogs
House Republicans subpoena Apple, Facebook and Google over content moderation
Undercover human trafficking bust in Florida leads to over 200 arrests, rescue of 24 suspected victims
VRChat Sex Worker Denied Entry To US Over ‘Prostitution’
Lawsuit accuses Cedars-Sinai hospital's website of sharing data with Meta, Google
Data Brokers Are Selling Long Lists of People With Depression
Star Banker Vanishes in China, Stoking Fears of Renewed Beijing Crackdown
Elon Says He’ll Finally Step Down as Twitter CEO, Just Give Him a Year
From 404 to 420: Twitter Now Allows Weed Advertising
Elon Musk's Tweets Are All Over Twitter's 'For You' Feeds
AI Joe Rogan promotes libido booster for men in deepfake video
Your Favorite Voice Actors Call Out AI Sites Copying Voices Without Consent
Creepy Microsoft Bing Chatbot Urges Tech Columnist To Leave His Wife
Amazon Subject of Investigation Over iRobot Acquisition