This Week in Technology + Press Freedom: Dec. 1, 2019 – Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Posted By on December 2, 2019

We hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday! This newsletter will be slightly shorter than usual.

Heres what the staff of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is tracking this week.

Remember when we told you that Amazonplanned to challenge the Pentagons decisionto award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Amazon for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, project? Well, on Nov. 23, the Washington Postreportedthat Amazon for the first time directly linked President Trumps comments about Amazon and Amazons founder, Jeff Bezos, to the failed bid for the contract. Bezos owns the Post, and both he and the paper have been frequent targets of presidential criticism.

The company notified the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that it plans to use four videos as exhibits, which Amazon claims show improper bias.

The introduction of the presidents statements as evidence of bias in a regulatory proceeding is notable. In the governments appeal of a district courts decision to permit the AT&T/Time Warner merger to proceed, lawyers for the Reporters Committee filed afriend-of-the-court briefin support of neither party. That brief challenged the district courts reasoning in denying a limited discovery request by AT&T to determine the viability of a selective enforcement defense (because Time Warner owns CNN, also a frequent target of the president).

Reporters Committee attorneys argued in the brief that when there is manifest evidence of discriminatory intent such as public statements by the president (as both president and a candidate for office) suggesting a desire to retaliate against a news organization for perceived negative coverage the First Amendment counsels in favor of employing a more permissive standard with respect to limited discovery.

Our brief also noted historical examples of administrations under both parties using regulatory tools, such as antitrust, in efforts to influence the tenor of news coverage about the president.

Lyndsey Wajert

Speaking of selective enforcement, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdenhas formally accusedthe U.S. government of selectively enforcing its pre-publication rules against him by filing a lawsuit to block him from profiting off of his memoir. The Permanent Record author argues in court documents that the government has a history of approving books it considers favorable, whereas, given his role as a whistleblower, his book would not have been treated fairly in the process. The TPFP team discussed the legal implications of the governments pre-publication review process in aprevious newsletter.

A spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministrysays the country rejectsa lawsuit against Iran filed by former Washington Post Tehran correspondent (and current Global Opinions writer) Jason Rezaian. Rezaian was jailed in Iran for 544 days on espionage charges, and a U.S. district courtrecently awardedthe journalist and his family $180 million in damages.

The New York Times recently took a deep dive into deepfakes,highlightinghow technology companies are planning to tackle digitally manipulated and computer-generated videos. We havepreviously discussedhow some states have passed laws to combat deepfakes, and howsome groupsare raising concerns about the First Amendment implications of such laws.

For all of you tweeps out there, the Twitter Safety teamannouncedthat users are now able to enable two-factor authentication without relying on phone numbers. The move comes after the CEOs account wasreportedly hackedby individuals who likely used his phone number.

Actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is receiving mixed reviews on a keynotespeechhe recently delivered at an Anti-Defamation League conference. The actor, who followed the speech with anop-ed in the Washington Post, warned about the dangers of social networks and advocated for amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. While some arepraisingCohen for his powerful and entertaining criticism of noxious speech, both online and off, others arepointing outthat Section 230 actually provides platforms with theability to remove bad contentwithout being legally liable as the publisher of other content they leave up. That protection forms the foundation of the modern internet and is particularly important for the viability of smaller or start-up companies.

Gif of the Week: The top story about project JEDI had us wishing we could use the ways of the force to get a second helping of pie this week.

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The Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press uses integrated advocacy combining the law, policy analysis, and public education to defend and promote press rights on issues at the intersection of technology and press freedom, such as reporter-source confidentiality protections, electronic surveillance law and policy, and content regulation online and in other media. TPFP is directed by Reporters Committee Attorney Gabe Rottman. He works with Stanton Foundation National Security/Free Press Fellow Linda Moon and Legal Fellows Jordan Murov-Goodman and Lyndsey Wajert.

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This Week in Technology + Press Freedom: Dec. 1, 2019 - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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