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Arbiters of Truth

From Russian election interference, to scandals over privacy and invasive ad targeting, to presidential tweets: it’s all happening in online spaces governed by private social media companies. These conflicts are only goi
6/23/2022

Rebroadcast: The Most Intense Online Disinformation Event in American History

If you’ve been watching the hearings convened by the House select committee on Jan. 6, you’ve seen a great deal about how the Trump campaign generated and spread falsehoods about supposed election fraud in 2020. As the committee has argued, those falsehoods were crucial in generating the political energy that culminated in the explosion of the January 6 insurrection.What shape did those lies take, and how did social media platforms attempt to deal with them at the time? Today, we’re bringing you an episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on the online information ecosystem. In fact, we’re rebroadcasting an episode we recorded in November 2020 about disinformation and the 2020 election. In late November 2020, after Joe Biden cemented his victory as the next president but while the Trump campaign was still pushing its claims of election fraud online and in court, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Their conversation then was a great overview of the state of election security and the difficulty of countering false claims around the integrity of the vote. It’s worth a listen today as the Jan. 6 committee reminds us what the political and media environment was like in the aftermath of the election and how the Trump campaign committed to election lies that still echo all too loudly. And though it’s a year and a half later, the problems we’re discussing here certainly haven’t gone away.
5/19/2022

The Platforms versus Texas in the Supreme Court

On May 12,the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an aggressive new Texas law regulating social media to go into effect. The law, known as HB20, seeks to restrict large social media platforms from taking down content on the basis of viewpoint—effectively restricting companies from engaging in a great deal of the content moderation that they currently perform. It also imposes a range of transparency and due process requirements on platforms with respect to their content moderation. A group of technology companies challenging the law have filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court seeking to put HB20 back on hold while they continue to litigate the law’s constitutionality under the First Amendment.This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Abdo, litigation director at the Knight First Amendment Institute, and Scott Wilkens, senior staff attorney at Knight. The Institute, where Evelyn is a senior research fellow, filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit, taking a middle ground between Texas—which argues that the First Amendment poses no bar to HB20—and the plaintiffs—who argue that the First Amendment prohibits this regulation and many other types of social media regulation besides. So what does the Texas law actually do? Where does the litigation stand—and what will the impact of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling be? And how does the Knight First Amendment Institute interpret, well, the First Amendment?