Senators Propose Bill Targeting Websites That Facilitate Sex Trafficking ( 187

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that aims to make it easier to sue and criminally prosecute operators of online classified sites like that have been used to advertise sex workers. The proposed bill would amend the Communications Decency Act to eliminate a provision that shields operators of websites from being liable for content posted by third-party users. In addition to removing liability protections for websites that facilitate "unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims," lawmakers are seeking to amend the CDA to allow state prosecutors -- not just federal law enforcement -- to take action against individuals and businesses that use websites to violate federal sex trafficking laws. "For too long, courts around the country have ruled that Backpage can continue to facilitate illegal sex trafficking online with no repercussions," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "The Communications Decency Act is a well-intentioned law, but it was never intended to help protect sex traffickers who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable among us. This bipartisan, narrowly crafted bill will help protect vulnerable women and young girls from these horrific crimes."
The Courts

Are Tech Firms Liable For What Their Users Post? ( 98

Thursday Texas police officers arrested the CEO of, a web site allowing escorts to post classified ads, on a felony charge accusing him of pimping. Slashdot reader whoever57 writes: It is likely that the charges will not stick because of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, under which publishers are protected from liability for the postings of their users. However, this could just be the first shot in the battle to weaken section 230. This could endanger other sites, such as Craigslist, and ultimately, any site with user-written content.
Backpage calls the prosecution "frivolous," arguing that the site's classified ads for escorts are protected by the First Amendment. But a law professor at the University of Santa Clara suggests prosecutors may argue that the site had been "optimized to facilitate online prostitution ads," establishing some level of complicity.
The Courts

Judges Rule Raped Woman Can Sue 'Enabling' Web Site ( 383

Web sites that matched models to photographers also led dozens of women to a pair of rapists in 2011, according to Vice. "Civil court documents show that the owners of Model Mayhem knew about the first wave of rapes but failed to issue a warning to users," Vice reported last summer. Facebook, Craigslist, and Tumblr filed briefs in support of the "Model Mayhem" site, arguing that allowing women to sue them could create a new "failure to warn" liability for other web sites. But now AmiMoJo writes:In a decision that one day could have reverberations across the internet, a three-judge panel in California decided she can sue the Model Mayhem site that the pair used to lure their victims. "Congress has not provided an all purpose get-out-of-jail-free card for businesses that publish user content on the Internet," Judge Richard Clifton wrote in the panel's decision. The CDA traditionally exempts web sites from liability for anything their users post. Do Slashdot readers think there should ever be any exceptions?
The Courts

Appeals Court Clears Yelp of Extortion Claims 63

jfruh writes A U.S. appeals court cleared Yelp of charges of extortion related to its interaction with several small businesses who claim Yelp demanded that they pay for advertising or face negative reviews. While Yelp says it never altered a business rating for money, the court's finding was instead based on a strict reading of the U.S. extortion law, classifying Yelp's behavior as, at most, "hard bargaining." Interestingly, the EFF supported Yelp here, arguing that "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects online service providers from liability and lawsuits over user-generated content, except in very narrow circumstances where the providers created or developed content themselves. In its amicus brief, EFF argued that mere conjecture about contributing content – like there was in this case – is not enough to allow a lawsuit to go forward."

Book Review: Navigating Social Media Legal Risks Screenshot-sm 40

benrothke writes "In the documentary Scared Straight! a group of inmates terrify young offenders in an attempt to 'scare them straight'" (hence the show's title) so that those teenagers will avoid prison life. A 2002 meta-analysis of the results of a number of scared straight and similar intervention programs found that they actively increased crime rates, leading to higher re-offense rates than in control groups that did not receive the intervention. For those considering the use of social media in their business, it is quite easy to read Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business as a scared straight type of reference. Author Robert McHale provides so many legal horror stories, that most people would simply be too afraid of the legal and regulatory risks to every consider using social media." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.

Yahoo Unfriends Facebook With Aggressive Patent Demands 59

theodp writes "'Hate to see something happen to that multi-billion IPO of yours,' is essentially the IPO-threatening message Yahoo sent to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook investors on the eve of the social networking giant's IPO. Yahoo, unlike the Sopranos, is using IP as its muscle to collect its IPO-protection money: 'We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement [for 10-20 Yahoo-owned patents] or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights,' Yahoo explained in a statement alerting the NY Times to its demand. Yahoo issued a similar last-minute threat to Google on the eve of its 2004 IPO, prompting Google to pony up 2.7 million shares to settle Yahoo's patent lawsuit. BTW, should Facebook also be concerned that Amazon has been beefing up its PlanetAll social networking patents from the '90s, including the one issued Tuesday covering a Social Networking System Capable of Notifying Users of Profile Updates Made by Their Contacts?"

California DNA Collection Law Struck Down 192

wiedzmin writes with an article in Wired about DNA collection from criminals in California. From the article: "A California appeals court is striking down a voter-approved measure requiring every adult arrested on a felony charge to submit a DNA sample. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said Proposition 69 amounted to unconstitutional, warrantless searches of arrestees. More than 1.6 million samples have been taken following the law's 2009 implementation. Only about a half of those arrested in California are convicted." Note that the State can still appeal the ruling; according to the article, the Attorney General's office has made no comment as to whether they will do so.

A System For Handling 'Impostor' Complaints 165

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A woman sued Yahoo because they wouldn't remove a page created by her ex-boyfriend pretending to be her and soliciting strangers for sex. What would be an effective system for large companies like Yahoo to handle 'impostor' complaints, without getting bogged down by phony complaints and unrelated disputes? This is a harder problem than it seems because of the several possible cases that have to be considered. One possible solution is given here." Read on for Bennett's analysis.

Let Big Brother Hawk Anti-Virus Software 405

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes with his idea for mass adoption of anti-virus software: "If the US government did more to encourage people to keep their computers secure — by buying TV ads to publicize free private-sector anti-virus programs, or subsidizing the purchase of anti-virus software — we'd all be better off, on average. That's not just idealistic nanny-statism, but something you can argue mathematically, to the point where even some libertarians would agree." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

The CDA Is Dead, But States Are Trying To Revive It 205

oliphaunt writes "This week at The Legality, Tracy Frazier has an article discussing the damage that can be done by anonymous online comments. While regulars here are familiar with infamous bits of Net censorship like the Fishman Affidavit fiasco, and everyone has been an anonymous coward at least once or twice, some of you may not know about the conflict between Heide Iravani and Heide eventually filed a lawsuit because the first result for a Google search on her name brought up anonymous comments on AutoAdmit that accused her of carrying an STD and sleeping her way to the top of her class. The Communications Decency Act was supposed to prevent this kind of thing, but an injunction prevented it from ever being enforced and eventually the Supreme Court killed it. Should the law be changed?" The article links to a proposal from last summer in the New Jersey legislature that would institute a DMCA-like takedown regime for allegedly defamatory content posted on a Web site, and would allow aggrieved parties to demand the identity of anonymous posters without a subpoena. No indication of how that proposal fared. Also linked is a recent North Carolina proposal that would criminalize the act of defaming someone using an electronic medium. This proposal shields Web sites from liability and explicitly does not apply to anonymous speech.

Wikimedia Censors Wikinews 180

An anonymous reader writes "Wikileaks has revealed that the Wikimedia Foundation Board (which controls Wikipedia and Wikinews) has killed off a Wikinews report into the Barbara Bauer vs. Wikimedia Foundation lawsuit. Wikinews is a collaborative news site and is meant to be editorially independent from the WMF. The WMF office also suppressed a Wikinews investigation into child and other pornography on Wikipedia, which was independently covered by ValleyWag and other outlets this week. The US Communications Deceny Act section 230 grants providers of internet services (such as the Wikipedia and Wikinews) immunity from legal action related to their user-generated content provided they do not exercise pre-publication control. In deleting articles critical of the WMF prior to publication, Wikileaks says the Wikimedia Foundation may have set a dangerous precedent that could remove all of its CDA section 230 immunity (at least for Wikinews, where the control was exercised)."

Cassini Geyser-Tasting a Bust 95

Maggie McKee writes "The Cassini spacecraft flew into the icy geysers erupting from Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wednesday in an attempt to figure out what they were made of, but a glitch prevented the probe from actually 'tasting' the plumes. An 'unexplained software hiccup' put the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) out of commission. Ironically, new software designed to improve the ability of the CDA to count particle hits may be to blame. Mission managers may try to re-attempt the plume fly-through later this year."
The Internet

Politicians and the Cyber-Bully Pulpit 392

Regular Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton has cyber-bullying on his mind; that and the laws proposed to deal with it. His article begins: "The authors of most of the recently proposed anti-cyberbullying laws have been invoking the tragic case of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2006 after being harassed online by an adult neighbor posing as a cute 16-year-old boy. Unlike the bluster of politicians grandstanding to outlaw swearing on the Internet, the outrage and frustration of lawmakers in this case is at least understandable, especially after the FBI announced that the family that created the phony profile and caused Megan's suicide could not be charged with any crime. But the focus on Megan's case raises two questions: (a) whether it is fair to invoke Megan in the name of passing the laws, and (b) whether the laws are a good idea in general." Read more below.

Canada May Tax Legal Music Downloads 246

FuriousBalancing writes "MacNN is reporting that Canadians may soon pay a small tax on every legal music store download. This fee is the work of a measure proposed by the Copyright Board of Canada. About two cents would be added to every song downloaded, with 1.5 cents being added to album downloads. Streaming services and subscriptions would also be taxed, to the tune of about 6% of the monthly fee. Most interesting - the tax would be retroactively applied to every transaction processed since 1996. 'The surcharge would help compensate artists for piracy, according to SOCAN's reasoning. The publishing group draws similarities between this and a 21-cent fee already applied to blank CDs in the country; the right to copy a song from an online store demands the same sort of levy applied to copying a retail CD, SOCAN argues. The tax may have a significant impact for online stores such as iTunes and Canada-based Puretracks, which will have to factor the amount both into future and past sales.' The full text of the measure is available in PDF format."

US Register of Copyrights Says DMCA Is 'Working Fine' 224

Linnen writes "CNET writer Anne Broache reports that the head of the US Copyright Office considers the DCMA to be an important tool for copyright owners. '"I'm not ready to dump the anticircumvention," [Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters] said in response to a question from an audience member who suggested as much. "I think that's a really important part of our copyright owners' quiver of arrows to defend themselves." The law also requires that the Copyright Office meets periodically to decide whether it's necessary to specify narrow exemptions to the so-called anticircumvention rules. (Last year, the government decided it's lawful to unlock a cell phone's firmware for the purpose of switching carriers and to crack copy protection on audiovisual works to test for security flaws or vulnerabilities.)'"
The Courts

Appeals Court Denies Safe Harbor for 253

Mariner writes "The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Safe Harbor status under the Communications Decency Act in a lawsuit brought by the Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego. was accused of helping landlords discriminate against certain kinds of tenants due to a couple of questions on the registration form: gender and sexual orientation. 'Though it refused to rule on whether actually violated the Fair Housing Act, the Court did find that it lost Section 230 immunity because it required users to enter that information in order to proceed. As Judge Alex Kozinski put it in his opinion, "if it is responsible, in whole or in part, for creating or developing the information, it becomes a content provider and is not entitled to CDA immunity."'"

Canadians Overpay Millions on Copyright Tax 144

An anonymous reader writes "Michael Geist has up a post on his site about the Copyright Board of Canada's decision last week on the controversial private copying levy, which functions like a tax on blank media. The good news? The Board reduced the levy on certain media such as CD-R Audio, CD-RW Audio, and MiniDiscs. The bad news? The millions of dollars in overpayment from these media will go into the pockets of manufacturers, importers, and retailers, not back to the consumers who paid in the first place. 'In addition to the overpayment issue, the decision contains several interesting revelations ... the decision sheds some light on the CPCC's enforcement program. The collective has aggressively targeted those parties that do not pay the levy, with 21 claims over the past three years. In fact, the enforcement program has been so effective that the Board found that concerns about the emergence of a gray or black market for blank CDs has not materialized.'"

New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source? 264

New Jersites writes "New Jersey, home of the eponymous Jersey barrier, is considering wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. The wind turbines won't be built on the side of the highway. They will be built inside — what else? — the Jersey barriers. By replacing sections of solid concrete with Darius turbines, they might be able to harvest enough energy to power a light-rail line."

Craigslist Fair Housing Act Suit Dismissed 162

tigersaw writes, "A federal judge in Chicago has dismissed the suit against Craigslist brought by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which accused the site of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by not actively filtering out housing advertisements that include discriminatory language. Craigslist cited their community-based flagging system as an already effective means of limiting such posts. However, the court held that the site was nonetheless protected by the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), which shields Web forums from liability for ads and opinions posted by their users."

Report Blasts "Peak Oil" Theory 640

Rei writes "Today, the Cambridge Energy Research Associates released a report dismissing the Peak Oil theory, suggesting that world oil production will continue to increase for the next 24 years, and then only level into a plateau. The report, which suggests that world reserves are enough to last 122 years at our current rate of consumption, also blasts Peak Oil theorists for repeatedly making unscientific predictions and then shifting them whenever their predictions fail to materialize."

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