Sept. 23, 2022

Trump appears to endorse QAnon; 'Incel' movement grows online; Florida petitions Supreme Court on content moderation - Tech Law & Policy This Week

Hey everybody, I’m Joe Miller and here’s what’s going on in the world of tech law & policy.    References to Hitler, Pepe the Frog, Tucker Carlson talking about the “great replacement” anti-immigration theory — it looks like...

Hey everybody, I’m Joe Miller and here’s what’s going on in the world of tech law & policy. 


ADL Report: Spotify has a white supremacist problem

References to Hitler, Pepe the Frog, Tucker Carlson talking about the “great replacement” anti-immigration theory — it looks like songs that contain them are totally fine for Spotify, which the Anti Defamation League finds in a new report has verified at least 40 bands and musicians with hateful lyrics and imagery on their album covers. Also, it’s super-easy to get verified on Spotify, even though the company claims to have a handle on this stuff. The Washington Post has the full report.


Trump appears to nod to QAnon

The Washington Post’s Technology 202 newsletter reports that Donald Trump appears to be showing increased support for QAnon, the conspiracy theory movement that accuses high profile democrats are running some kind of a pedophilia ring in which they drink the blood of children. The Post notes that this conspiracy theory has moved from the fringes to the mainstream political discourse and underscores the inefficacy of social media platforms to catch subtle references to disinformation campaigns. At an Ohio rally on Saturday, Trump took the stage to music that sounded a lot like music associated with QAnon, which many see as a “wink and a nod” to QAnon supporters. Trump has subtly endorsed QAnon on social media, but took a more explicit approach on his own social media platform – Truth Social – by including an image of himself wearing a QAnon lapel pin.


Center for Countering Digital Hate: Incel movement is growing online

Another movement that appears to be becoming more mainstream is the so-called incel, or “involuntary celibate” movement is growing online according to a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate , which also names Google, YouTube and Cloudflare for facilitating the channel, which has 2.6 million monthly site visits and over a million posts. Lots of conversations going on there about mass murder and sexually assaulting pre-pubescent girls. 

And the Washington Post also reports that a cop was convicted in Indiana for texting with, what he thought, was a 14-year-old girl, and attempting to meet her at an Olive Garden for sex. It turns out it wasn’t a 14-year old girl at all – it was one of a growing number of vigilantes who bait guys like this and then record themselves shaming them, sharing it on the internet. According to the Post, the police had been reluctant to work with these citizen vigilantes to bring alleged pedophiles to trial. But the police are showing increased interest in working with these groups, according to the Post.


BSR: Facebook suppressed Palestian posts during last year’s Gaza war

Consulting firm Business for Social Responsibility published a report demonstrating how Facebook suppressed posts made by Palestinians during last year’s war between Israel and Hamas – it did so by unfairly removing posts in Arabic at a disproportionate rate – posts that had no apparent connection to Hamas at all – compared to those made in Hebrew. 


Florida takes anti-content moderation case to Supreme Court

The state of Florida wants the Supreme Court to decide whether states can pass laws that prevent social media companies from blocking or limiting certain types of speech – such as some of the speech I just mentioned - hate speech, disinformation – you know, things like that. Florida’s petition comes on the heels of the Fifth Circuit upholding a similar law in Texas last week. Florida wants to ban companies from doing this. We published a report in late 2020 on the pattern of conservatives, throughout history, seeking to ban liberal speech, starting almost as soon as European immigrants landed in the new world and wanted to control Native Americans, not to mention slaves. America’s entire history is one of suppressing the voices of people of color – not the other way around.


Meanwhile, Microsoft has decided it won’t flag disinformation and TikTok apparently enforces its content moderation policies more leniently in favor of users with millions of followers.


Senate confirms new OSTP director, Arati Prabhakar

In a 56-40 vote with 10 Republicans on board, the Senate has for the first time confirmed a woman, immigrant, and person of color to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Previously, Arati Prabhakar led the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Dr. Alondra Nelson, a prominent scholar who appeared on this podcast back on Episode 70, had been performing the duties of the OSTP Director role since previous diretor Eric Lander stepped down in February amid accusations that he mistreated subordinates. Dr. Nelson will continue in her role as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for Science and Society.

More News

Virginia’s Spanish-language election site is out-of-date


Mozilla report on potential anticompetitive behavior by leading browsers


Washington Post: Health Apps sharing data with advertisers


City of New York to provide free internet/cable for 300K public housing residents


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