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This week: Section 230 may get a last-minute makeover and the legals ins-and-outs of Parler’s deplatforming. Plus, the legal industry is holding up better than the economy at large.
It’s time to talk about Section 230 once again. Now that President Donald Trump has been banned from Facebook and Twitter, it’s possible the long-discussed law may get a quick overhaul.
Section 230 is the longtime law protecting internet speech: It basically gives companies wide range to moderate -- or not moderate -- speech without fear of lawsuits. Because of the recent bans, Trump’s fervor to revoke 230 has increased.
The Washington Post reports Trump has made it a priority: It said he’s already been asking lawmakers to fast-track the removal of the law.
There’s a lot of irony here: A repeal of Section 230 would likely lead to more moderation because companies would fear lawsuits over speech deemed to be violent or hateful. In other words, Trump may have been banned by Twitter even sooner.
Reform is more likely
The odds of Trump successfully pushing a last-minute repeal are low (he may not even last until the rapidly-approaching end of his term). But with Democrats in charge of Congress for the next two years change may still happen, albeit on a far lower scale than Trump has pushed for.
Experts suggest that various parties will begin hashing out reform details early in Biden’s term.
And a little more irony: Tech giants have largely opposed Section 230 reform, but people now hypothesize the biggest tech companies will be the beneficiaries because they’ll be most capable of dealing with the cost of any changes.
You may have heard about Parler for the first time this week. The social media app, used mostly by strident conservatives, was kicked off Google, Apple, and Amazon, effectively making it disappear.
Here’s a rundown of some of the legal nuances related to what’s known as deplatforming.
Parler responded to the Amazon ban by filing a lawsuit against Amazon, which hosted Parler’s website. It claims Amazon engaged in anticompetitive behavior; Amazon says it made the decision after Parler failed to police violent content.
What are the legal implications?
Legal analysts say Amazon has fairly wide legal power to end hosting deals with customers, especially those accused of violating terms of services. The ACLU has warned that Amazon’s move is troubling, however, because through its web hosting business, it “holds the keys to the internet” and can strictly police speech.
Is this unprecedented?
Not quite, although it is highly unusual. In the past, however, companies have severed ties with companies they have hosted, and some of those companies have failed to find new hosts. Prominent examples include other hate-ridden sites like The Daily Stormer and 8chan.
The year didn’t end well for the American economy. Job numbers declined in December for the first time since in eight months (women bore the brunt of the loss).
But legal jobs basically stayed even, according to Law.com.
It was technically a slight loss: Legal jobs were down by 200 in December, an almost inconsequential loss given the 1.2 million legal jobs in the US. “Given what the overall economy did in December and the jobs report for the rest of industry, I think legal is probably winning,” said consultant John Cashman.
Gains had been consistent before December: About 5,000 legal jobs had been added each month since April.
There may never be a full recovery
Despite more optimistic days compared to last spring, the legal industry still needs to rebound. Before the pandemic, there were about 1.6 million legal jobs in the US. Because many firms and companies have discovered remote work, it’s possible some of those jobs -- especially for support staff -- will never return.
While many legal jobs will continue to falter, other sectors are expected to boom, especially in-house legal departments. After dealing with the pandemic, companies have realized the versatility and importance of legal.
What else we’re forwarding
Trump is expected to pass a last-minute law to turn gig workers into contractors: Yes, another potential legal change. The White House is likely to formalize a law that makes gig workers contractors (a major blow for advocates who want Uber drivers and the likes to be FT employees). Biden could change it when he enters office.
Amy Klobuchar’s about to drop a new book on antitrust law: And it is expected to hint at how the Biden administration will govern on this important subject.
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