First Five Newsletter: October 17, 2019

First Five
Facebook’s political advertisement policies, assaulting journalists a federal crime and more

First Five Column

Gene Policinski talks about how free speech works and compares the protections the First Amendment gives to those in the United States, to the lack there of in other countries such as China. Read the column. A plain text version is available here.


Google, Reddit and the Electronic Frontier Foundation appeared before Congress this week to answer questions about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which critics say shields tech companies from dealing with threatening, violent, dangerous or bullying content. Supporters of Section 230, such as Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, argue that it has incentivized “good faith attempts to mitigate the unavoidable downsides of free expression.”


Facebook’s political advertisement policies have come under scrutiny after last week’s announcement that it would allow politicians to lie in ads. Buzzfeed News reports that the company’s enforcement of other advertising has led to the removal of paid content from at least five U.S. presidential candidates.


Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on Congress to make assaulting journalists a federal crime. If passed, the Journalist Protection Act would make causing bodily harm to a journalist punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison – and up to six years in prison for serious bodily harm. The bill was first introduced last year, but was not enacted.


Two new papers by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers show that machine learning models are not yet up to the task of distinguishing false news reports from true ones, despite the fact that earlier research shows they’re adept at generating fake news stories without much human oversight.


Writing for Poynter, policies that Frank LoMonte discusses why stop government employees from talking to the press may be vulnerable to legal challenges.

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