It’s not clear that companies have to “earn” what are already protections provided under the First Amendment: to publish, and to allow their users to publish, with very few legal restrictions. But if the EARN IT Act were passed, tech companies could be held liable if their users posted illegal content. This would represent a significant and potentially devastating amendment to Section 230, a much-misunderstood law that many consider a pillar of the internet and the businesses that operate on top of it.
When internet companies become liable for what their users post, those companies aggressively moderate speech. This was the chief outcome of FOSTA-SESTA, the last bill Congress passed to amend Section 230. It was putatively written to eliminate sex trafficking, and was passed into law after Facebook endorsed it.
…One item on that checklist could be eliminating end-to-end encryption in messaging apps, depriving the world of a secure communications tool at a time when authoritarian governments are surging around the world.
…The bill’s backers have not said definitively that they will demand a backdoor for law enforcement (and whoever else can find it) as part of the EARN IT Act. (In fact, Blumenthal denies it.) But nor have they written the bill to say they won’t. And Graham, one of the bill’s cosponsors, left little doubt on where he stands:
“Facebook is talking about end-to-end encryption which means they go blind,” Sen Graham said, later adding, “We’re not going to go blind and let this abuse go forward in the name of any other freedom.”
Graham raises the prospect that the federal government will get what it has long wanted — greatly expanded power to surveil our communications — by burying it in a complex piece of legislation that is nominally about reducing the spread of child abuse imagery.
Russia’s Internet Research Agency operated a vast network of accounts on Instagram that sought to infiltrate American identity groups, harden ideological divides and sow distrust in the American political system.
Much of the group’s activity was concentrated among several dozen large accounts. …Many of the group’s accounts targeted specific identity groups, including African-Americans, gun-rights supporters and anti-immigration activists.
…In total, posts from Instagram accounts linked to the I.R.A. received [at least] 185 million likes during the two-year period reviewed.
…Many of the Russian posts focused on developing audiences among specific American identity groups, which could then be used to target them with content and advertising later on.
……These merchandise sales most likely were not lucrative for the I.R.A. Instead, researchers suggested, selling merchandise had two other benefits: first, it allowed Russians to collect names, addresses and other personal information from users; second, it allowed them to identify strong supporters of a cause, who could then be targeted with advertisements.
…Several of the I.R.A.’s most popular Instagram accounts focused on African-American themes and interests. One image, posted to the @blackstagram_ account in June 2017, showed a series of women’s legs, with skin tones ranging from light to dark. The caption read, “All the tones are nude! Get over it!” It received more than 250,000 likes and more than 6,000 comments.
…Another image, posted to an account called @army_of_jesus, encouraged users to “like if you believe,” and “keep scrolling if you don’t.” The account, which originally shared Kermit the Frog memes and jokes from “The Simpsons,” was later repurposed to target conservative Christians [after a following was built].
…In the days leading up to the 2016 election, some I.R.A.-linked Instagram accounts were used to seed doubts about the integrity of the election, and to accuse Democrats of trying to rig the vote in their favor.