Tag Archives: Communications Decency Act

A Light Touch When It Comes to Federal Regulation of Self-Driving Cars

Technology tends to explode out of the box at warp speed, with laws addressing new technology trying to catch up at a comparative glacial pace. There are various reasons for the slow pace of legal regulation. Often the impacts and ultimate consequences of new technology are not immediately known. In addition, it takes time for lawmakers to truly understand new technology before they can even contemplate how to go about regulation. And in certain instances, lawmakers want certain technologies to have the opportunity to grow and flourish unfettered by legal restrictions.

With respect to the last reason, in the mid-1990s, Congress wanted the emerging commercial internet to grow exponentially to the perceived benefit of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Congress provided immunity to internet service providers with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. This enabled social media companies like Facebook to become some of the most valuable companies in the world.

Fast-forward to now. Self-driving cars are a new and advancing technology. Are self-driving cars facing imminent federal regulation? While the concept of self-driving cars is relatively easy to understand and the impacts of self-driving cars are not impossible to imagine, tremendous legal regulation, at least at the federal level, appears not to be immediately forthcoming.

Elaine Chao, the U.S. Transportation secretary, was a keynote speaker at CES 2020. At CES, Secretary Chao outlined the AV 4.0 Plan of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The plan is quite light in terms of regulating self-driving cars.

The position of the federal government appears to be that rigorous regulation of the self-driving car industry would thwart development in an area where the U.S. wants to be a world leader. Therefore, self-driving car developers should be permitted a great degree of freedom.

But not so fast. This plan is in contravention of recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board. And, of course, the NTSB is the investigating body when it comes to self-driving test car crashes. The NTSB has condemned the Trump administration and various state governments for not investigating self-driving cars more thoroughly. Indeed, the NTSB reportedly said that the development of self-driving cars is being prioritized over human life. Yet, it is not evident yet whether there currently is a significant threat to human life.

Self-driving cars are being developed and tested in several states, including California, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania. Thus, to the extent the federal government does not act to regulate self-driving cars, it will be worth watching whether and to what extent these states and perhaps others jump in.

Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

In 1996, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to provide Internet service intermediaries with general immunity from liability with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. Congress wanted the commercial Internet to flourish, with great benefits to the U.S. economy, and therefore did not want Internet intermediaries to be burdened with the phenomenally costly task of having to monitor and referee third-party content.

Calls for Section 230 Reform

Of course, as we know, the commercial Internet has flourished since 1996 to the advantage of the U.S. economy, and some of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies are Internet intermediaries that host third-party content. But there have been some complaints about the immunity provided by virtue of Section 230. For example, there have been complaints that some Internet intermediaries should have been and should be more active in monitoring and removing false information posted on their sites that is designed to influence political elections. In the wake of these complaints, there have been suggestions that Section 230 is ripe for potential amendments.

Continue reading Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

What to Do About Social Media Bullying and Hate

Social media outlets now connect billions of people around the globe on a constant basis. Facebook, by headcount, has become the largest nation on the planet, with approximately two billion users. A tremendous number of these users communicate with others via their social media accounts many times a day. Of course, there are many positive aspects of social media communications; but, regrettably, there are palpable negatives as well. Continue reading What to Do About Social Media Bullying and Hate

Platforms Like Airbnb and VRBO to Thrive or Facing Legal Reckoning?

The short-term lodging landscape has changed radically in recent years. Rather than always book hotels when away from home, people now frequently book to stay in the homes or apartments of other people through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. The growth in this area is reflected by the $30 billion estimated worth of Airbnb. But does this mean that these short-term rental sites are completely free of legal concerns? No.

According to a recent Fortune.com article, regulations passed in various jurisdictions threaten the online, short-term rental model. For example, New York has passed regulations that Airbnb says could damage its business in New York City — its largest market in the United States. Hours after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill, Airbnb filed a federal lawsuit claiming the law will cause “irreparable harm.” Continue reading Platforms Like Airbnb and VRBO to Thrive or Facing Legal Reckoning?

Potential Federal Criminalization of Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Some federal lawmakers agree, and they now seek to push legislation aimed at criminalizing revenge porn.

So, what exactly is revenge porn? It often goes something like this:

A man and woman are in a committed, consensual relationship. As part of that relationship, they engage in sexual activity, and they agree, for their own enjoyment purposes, to take photos and videos of their activities. Later, the relationship, whether husband and wife, fiancees, or boyfriend and girlfriend, ends. But the sexually explicit photos and videos still exist. The man (it usually is the man) then posts the photos and videos on the internet to get back at the woman, to humiliate the woman, or to make demands on her. And there are websites that seek such photos and videos — the women who are the victims often must pay a fee to the sites to have the photos and videos taken down.  Continue reading Potential Federal Criminalization of Revenge Porn