Computer Ethics, Summer 2022

Online, Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00-7:30ish

Class 2 Readings

Before class 2, finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

Shivan Kaul Sahib, who works on privacy engineering for the Brave browser

Twitter post: This is shocking. DuckDuckGo has a search deal with Microsoft which prevents them from blocking MS trackers. And they can't talk about it! This is why privacy products that are beholden to giant corporations can never deliver true privacy; the business model just doesn't work.

But maybe this is a bit overstated, as it appears to be mostly related to the DuckDuckGo browser rather than the search engine.

Texas HB 20 comments

The law applies to social-networking providers with 50 million users or more. That means Facebook and Twitter (and maybe YouTube).

From the preamble:

    (3)  social media platforms function as common carriers, ....

No. Common carriers, like the phone company, provide one-to-one communications. Social media is one-to-many, with the "many" possibly at the discretion of the provider. (Also, one of Trump's early actions was to remove common-carrier status from ISPs (who arguably are common carriers).)

There is an argument to be made that Twitter, with its speaker-follower mechanism, could be considered a common carrier. But Twitter also has a very real commercial interest in being allowed to moderate content.

Section 120.051:

Sec. 120.051.  PUBLIC DISCLOSURES. (a)  A social media platform shall, in accordance with this subchapter, publicly disclose accurate information regarding its content management, data management, and business practices, including specific information regarding the manner in which the social media platform:
                   (1)  curates and targets content to users;
                   (2)  places and promotes content, services, and products, including its own content, services, and products;
                   (3)  moderates content;
                   (n) a whole bunch more

This requires that social media companies explain their decisions. This is not particularly onerous, and they all do that now to an extent, though requiring publication of the internal ranking algorithms is controversial.

Social-media platforms will have to create "biannual transparency reports".

Sec 120.101: Social-media companies must create a complaint system, so users can complain about content taken down. The law also requires an appeals procedure. All this is quite expensive.

Chapter 143A:

A social media
      platform may not censor a user, a user's expression, or a user's ability to receive the expression of another person based on:
                   (1)  the viewpoint of the user or another person;
                   (2)  the viewpoint represented in the user's expression or another person's expression; or
                   (3)  a user's geographic location in this state or any part of this state.

I think (3) here means that Facebook cannot just cut Texas off entirely.

This chapter would apply most clearly to Twitter, where to "censor" would be to disallow all of someone's followers from receiving a tweet from the user. Facebook also has leader-follower roles, but much of the time the extent to which someone's post is circulated depends on mysterious algorithms.

There are rules permitting some censorship: anything illegal, for example. But things that do appear to be covered "viewpoints" include:

Note that social-media companies would be prohibited from engaging in viewpoint censorship even if the speech in question violated the site's terms of service.

All this would be a huge problem for social-media companies. First, the kind of speech they have been "censoring" is known to drive many users away. Second, it is even more effective at driving advertisers away; advertisers are extremely reluctant to have their ads appear alongside "hate speech".

During class 1 we completed up to Ethical Theories, which is on video.

Bottom line: big parts of copyright (fair use, expiration) are all about compromises between users and content owners, and Utilitarian theories fit ethical compromise better than Deontological ones.

For-profit infringement

Rio MP3 player litigation

Ethical arguments about copying

Copyright laws and lawsuits

Brief discussion of RIAA lawsuits, current-day ISP issues

Fair Use, Sony, Napster, Music Sampling

Transformative use

Perfect 10, Cariou v Prince, Google v Oracle

Viacom v YouTube

Server-based filesharing

Authors Guild v Google

The video (not created yet!) will cover the various court decisions on copyright.