Startup News Digest 3/22/19

The Big Story: More scrutiny on Internet platforms. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are renewing scrutiny of how Internet platforms moderate users’ content, adding to the criticism of a foundational law that protects Internet platforms of all sizes.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) criticized social media platforms for allowing video of last week’s deadly New Zealand mosque shooting to spread across their sites, saying that tech companies need to be vigilant against the spread of all forms of extremist content. Thompson requested that the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube brief the committee about the spread of violent content across their sites. Also this week, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter and three accounts for defamation, claiming that the social media platform allowed the users to smear him because of its alleged political bias.

Despite these kinds of criticisms of Internet platforms, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act remains a critical tool for Internet platforms and users alike. It keeps platforms from being held liable for content its users create, which protects platforms’ ability to host controversial speech, including speech by conservative voices. Section 230 also has protections for platforms to engage in good faith moderation of harmful content created by users. Both of these protections are especially important to startups, which don’t have the resources to build out extensive content moderation capabilities or to fend off lawsuits if they’re legally held responsible for users’ content.

Policy Roundup:

European platforms protest EU Copyright DirectiveInternet companies across Europe protested against the European Union’s proposed Copyright Directive this week, criticizing requirements that would unduly require startups to use expensive content moderation tools to police their platforms for copyright infringing content.

Startups and privacy rules. Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom will testify before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection on Tuesday, March 26th to discuss the impact privacy regulations have on startups.

Online sales tax. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Wayfair v. South Dakota decision hurts startups by allowing states’ internal revenue services to collect sales taxes on online businesses not located within their borders.

Net neutrality bill headed to vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House plans to vote on legislation to reinstate the net neutrality rules during the week of April 8th.

EU antitrust chief on tech giants. European Commissioner on Competition Margrethe Vestager said in an interview that she was encouraged by the debate around examining the impact of tech companies, but she added that calls to break up tech giants were “very far-reaching.”

Dems press FTC on privacy funding. Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Federal Trade Commission to explain in detail how it would use expanded funding and resources to enforce privacy legislation.

FCC public commenting woes. The Federal Communications Commission admitted in court to being unable to track whether comments submitted to their Electronic Filing Comment System were false.