German Social Media Law Creates Strong Incentives for Censorship

Social media companies and other hosts of third-party content will soon face potential fines of €50 million in Germany if they fail to promptly censor speech that may violate German law. Last week, the German parliament approved the NetzDG legislation, which goes into effect 1 October and will require social media sites and other hosts of user-generated content to remove “obviously illegal” speech within 24 hours of being notified of it. This is one of the most extreme online censorship bills that we have seen from a liberal democracy to date. CDT was critical of this bill when it was first introduced, and we’re deeply concerned that the German parliament has now adopted it.

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Finding a Path Forward When Law Enforcement Needs Digital Evidence Held in Other Nations

Last week in United States vs. Microsoft, the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to decide the reach of the U.S. government when compelling U.S. companies to turn over data stored outside the U.S. Courts are divided on the issue. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) cannot reach extraterritorially. Magistrates in other circuits have disagreed, interpreting the search as occurring where a company discloses data, not where the data is seized. However, what no one disputes is that as the number of requests skyrockets, the system for accessing data across borders is deeply in need of reform, and that courts are ill-suited to tackle the complicated equities at stake. CDT argues that progress can be made through reforms in following four areas: bilateral agreements, the MLAT system, domestic U.S. law, and the adoption of certain legal changes.

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Campaign Data Breaches: Political Toxic Waste

Calling last week’s news that security researchers found an abandoned political campaign database on the internet with detailed information on over 200 million voters from 2008, 2012, and 2016 troubling is a massive understatement akin to calling the Titanic a boating accident. It’s closer to a catastrophe. Moreover, it may represent only the tip of the iceberg; Gizmodo points out that, “Five voter-file leaks over the past 18 months exposed between 350,000 and 191 million files.” As data collection and usage play an ever-growing role in political campaigns, the iceberg below is starting to look ominous. In partnership with political campaigns, Political Action Committees, consulting firms, and other NGOs that work in and around elections, CDT will lead efforts to draft a “campaign data stewardship pledge,” including templates for privacy policies, data security playbooks, and other materials that will move the principles reflected in a stewardship pledge into action.

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Celebrating Twenty Years of Free Speech Online

Twenty years ago today, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Reno v ACLU, the first case in which the Court considered the relationship between the First Amendment and the untested medium of the Internet. This was a pivotal case that required the Court to grapple with the technical characteristics of this new communications medium and to consider how decades of First Amendment doctrine should apply to a technology beyond the Founders’ wildest dreams.

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A Look Back at the First Big Fight for Free Expression on the Internet

The Center for Democracy & Technology was part of a broad coalition fighting back against the CDA when it was a draft bill and challenging it in court. Today, we take a look back at the fiery public debate that went on as the case made its way to the Supreme Court, and how lawmakers and corporations alike had a stake in this landmark case declaring that speech on the internet was protected under the First Amendment.

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CDT Comments: FCC Cannot Rule That ISPs May Advertise False Broadband Speeds

Last week, CDT filed comments urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to gut its own authority or limit the authority of state governments to prohibit false advertising by internet service providers. A petition by NCTA and USTelecom asked the FCC to declare that broadband providers can advertise speeds well above the actual speeds customers would receive from their broadband service, as long as the providers disclose the actual speeds on their websites.

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Time to Permanently End NSA’s “About” Searches In Communications Content under FISA 702

Recently, the government released a significant FISA Court opinion discussing one of the NSA’s most controversial surveillance programs under FISA Section 702: the practice of searching the content of communications for references “about” a target instead of collecting communications that are just to or from a target. The court found egregious violations of the privacy rules designed…

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