While impeachment hearings occupy Washington DC, it’s hard to imagine a great deal of progress is being made in the Capitol on technology policy. But there is a great deal of news and developments of import that may influence policy whenever the government gets back to the business of governing such issues. Here are some key stories and content we’re watching this week:
Exporting Section 230? Not so fast, says Nancy Pelosi
While she may be prosecuting the case for impeachment with most of the hours in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi found time to make a push to reject efforts by technology companies to bake the broad protections afforded them by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into the USCMA trade deal proposed to replace the NAFTA Agreement with Mexico and Canada. The move “would be a blow for big technology companies,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “Internet firms lobbied hard to include the immunity language in the trade agreement, seeing it as a way to extend to Mexico and Canada the broad umbrella of legal protection they enjoy in the U.S.”
Court ruling on border searches impacts privacy rights
A ruling a Massachusetts court case, Alasaad v. Nielsen, imposed o restrictions on government agents doing border searches. Judge Denise Casper based her decision on a 2013 Supreme Court case that established special privacy protections for cell phones. “Her ruling highlights a growing rift among federal judges regarding the extent to which electronic devices should receive special protections under the Fourth Amendment,” writes Eric Greenwald for Protego Press. “As a result, Alasaad v. Nielsen carries significance not just for border search authority but also for privacy rights in electronic devices more broadly.”
Patchwork privacy legislation may punish startups
Some experts are concerned about how a patchwork for privacy legislation in the states may affect the ability of startup companies to enter the market. “Even the slight inconsistencies in shared consumer rights impose another financial burden on a company because the company may have to employ a different mechanism to comply with each ‘shared’ right,” writes Cathy Lee in a piece published on Protego Press.
Amazon is involved in all aspects of American cities
The New York Times’ Scott Shane contributed a significant feature on the role that Amazon plays in American cities. “As federal regulators and Congress assess whether Amazon’s market power should be curbed under antitrust laws — and whether, as some politicians argue, the company should be broken up — The New York Times has explored the company’s impact in one American community: greater Baltimore.” From groceries to libraries to shipping to jobs to the effect of the company on the economics of nearly every business, this is a must read.
The link between the far right and climate change denial
The New York City think tank Data & Society hosted Joe Mulhall, senior researcher at Hope Not Hate, for a public talk on how the international far right is leveraging the climate crisis, with a focus on networked disinformation and exclusive new polling research across 6 countries. Mulhall details “the threats between this linking between the far right and white supremacists on the issue of climate change and climate denial,” and his polling finds that “of the third of people who believe that climate change was being exaggerated, 45% believe some form of climate denial conspiracy, and this is the really interesting bit if we are looking at the links here and the crossovers with the radical right- climate change deniers believe all sorts of other conspiracies as well, some of which of course chime with wider far-right politics.”