- The EU’s highest court has ruled that if one EU-member country decides content posted on Facebook is illegal, Facebook can be forced to remove specific content worldwide.
- Facebook and other critics argued the rule will violate freedom of expression laws in other countries because removing content that one country deems illegal might be protected as free speech in another country.
- Some critics also claimed the rule will allow authoritarian leaders to justify censorship and stifling political dissent.
European Court of Justice Ruling
The European Union’s highest court ruled Thursday that Facebook can be ordered to remove specific content worldwide if one EU-member country finds it illegal.
In a statement, the European Court of Justice said that if the national court of one EU country decides a post on Facebook is illegal, Facebook will be required to remove all duplicates of that post: not just in that EU country, but everywhere in the world.
The ruling also says that in some cases, even posts that are similar to the post deemed illegal will also have to be removed.
The ECJ made the decision after Austrian politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek sued Facebook in Austrian courts demanding that the company remove a defamatory comment someone posted about her, as well as any “equivalent” comments disparaging her.
Reportedly, the post in question was made by a Facebook user why shared a link to a news article that called Glawischnig-Piesczek a “lousy traitor of the people,” a “corrupt oaf” and member of a “fascist party.”
Facebook at first had refused to remove the post, which in many countries would still be considered acceptable political speech. However, Austrian courts ruled that the post was intended to hurt her reputation, and the Austrian Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.
In the ECJ statement, the highest court did clarify that Facebook and other social media companies are not liable for illegal content posted on their platforms as long as they did not know it was illegal or removed it quickly.
Regardless, the ruling still comes as a massive blow and a huge change for Facebook and places much more responsibility on the tech giant to control its content.
It should not come as a surprise that Facebook is not happy with the decision.
Before the high court’s decision, Facebook and others critical of the rule argued that allowing one country to force a platform to remove material globally limits free speech. Facebook also argued that the decision would most likely force them to use automated content filters.
Some activists have claimed automated filters could cause legitimate posts to be taken down because the filters can not necessarily tell if a post is ironic or satirical or a meme—a problem most grandparents also seem to have on Facebook.
Facebook condemned the ECJ ruling in a statement, where it argued that internet companies should not be responsible for monitoring and removing speech that might be illegal in one specific country.
“It undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country,” the statement said. “It also opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal.”
“In order to get this right national courts will have to set out very clear definitions on what ‘identical’ and ‘equivalent’ means in practice,” Facebook continued. “We hope the courts take a proportionate and measured approach, to avoid having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.”
Free Speech Debate
Facebook’s statement has also been echoed by some experts in the field, like Thomas Hughes, the executive director of the UK rights group Article 19, who told Reuters that the decision of one country to remove content illegal in its borders could lead to the removal of content that should be protected as free speech in another country.
“Compelling social media platforms like Facebook to automatically remove posts regardless of their context will infringe our right to free speech and restrict the information we see online,” Hughes said.
“This would set a dangerous precedent where the courts of one country can control what internet users in another country can see. This could be open to abuse, particularly by regimes with weak human rights records.”
Touching on that point, Eline Chivot, an analyst at the Center for Data Innovation told the Financial Times that the ruling could open a “Pandora’s box” whereby the global removal of content deemed illegal in one country could give authoritarian governments and dictators more tools for censorship.
“Expanding content bans worldwide will undermine internet users’ right to access information and freedom of expression in other countries,” she said. “This precedent will embolden other countries, including those with little respect for free speech, to make similar demands.”
EU’s Role in Tech Company Regulation
Ben Wagner, the director of the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab at Vienna University, also argued that decision brings up concerns about restricting political speech.
“We’re talking about a politician who is being insulted in a political context, that’s very different than a normal citizen,” he told The New York Times. “There needs to be a greater scope for freedom of opinion and expression.”
The possibility of stifling political speech is a common debate regarding the regulation of content on social media.
On Wednesday, Singapore enacted a “fake news” law that will basically let the government decide what is and is not fake news on social media, leading many to believe the law is simply a tool to limit free speech and suppress political dissent.
Discussions about the regulation of political speech are especially pertinent right now.
Just last week, Facebook announced that posts by politicians will be exempt from the platform’s rules and that they will not remove or label posts by politicians, even if they are disparaging or contains false information.
Now it seems like that will change.
It is also interesting because it speaks to a broader issue of global enforcement for these kinds of rules. As many have pointed out, the EU has increasingly set the standard for tougher regulation of social media and tech companies.
But creating consistent standards for enforcement and oversight has been challenging, especially when attempting to enforce a rule globally.
At the end of September, the ECJ decided to limit the reach of a privacy law called “the right to be forgotten,” which lets European citizens request that personal data be removed from Google’s search results.
The ECJ decided that Google could not be required to remove the links globally, but just in EU-member states.
Before that decision, Google also claimed the law could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses.
Facebook, however, should not expect the court’s rule to change, as the ECJ court’s decision cannot be appealed.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Forbes)
Chick-fil-A Stops Donations Long-Criticized by LGBTQ Activists
- Chick-fil-A announced a new donation policy, listing a smaller number of groups it plans on giving to in 2020, which notably does not include Christian groups with anti-LGBTQ ties like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Salvation Army.
- Some applauded the move, while others were upset and saw it as Chick-fil-A abandoning their Christian morals.
- Their new donation plan, however, only accounts for 2020. They will reassess charities annually and said they could still donate to religiously affiliated groups in the future.
Chick-Fil-A Announces New Donations Policy
Chick-fil-A announced its 2020 charity donations on Monday, prompting widespread reactions and backlash online.
The fast-food giant said that going into the new year, it will start giving to a “smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.” In order to do so, it will partner with Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House International, and local food banks in 120 communities.
Notably missing from the list, however, were Christian organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. Chick-fil-A has come under fire for donating to these groups in the past due to their anti-LGBTQ views.
On their website, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes states that “sexual intimacy is to be expressed only within the context of marriage” and then defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” On their student leader application form, they require applicants to sign a sexual purity statement, which states that “homosexual acts” are a sin.
In 2012, the Salvation Army came under fire when a spokesperson implied that gay people deserved to die in a radio interview with Australian reporters. Today, the Salvation Army has a page on its website devoted to helping the LGBTQ homeless population.
“The Salvation Army is committed to serving the LGBTQ community through,” their site says.
The company used to donate to more groups with similar ideologies but stopped giving to several throughout the years. Still, since Chick-fil-A continued to give regularly and generously to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, many boycotted them for supporting charities with anti-LGBTQ stances.
In the last year alone, the company has canceled the opening of a location in Buffalo, New York after backlash, announced the closure of its first UK location just days after it opened, and saw massive protests when it opened a Toronto location.
Reactions to Announcement
Some applauded Chick-fil-A for making this decision, seeing it as them stepping back from anti-LGBTQ groups. Many who had previously boycotted the location said they were excited to finally eat there.
Baby steps but this is a good thing. Everyone has the ability to change their opinions even when it’s a big restaurant chain Chick-fil-A. I’m happy to see they are taking steps to change their image when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.— James Morgenroth (@AtheistsRise) November 18, 2019
Some, however, were a bit more cautious. One person said that just because they have made this one move “doesn’t mean they have suddenly changed.”
The Salvation Army released a statement that did not mention Chick-Fil-A by name, but expressed disappointment with the choice.
“We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed,” the statement said. “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”
“In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population,” the Salvation Army continued. “When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk.”
They were not the only ones upset with Chick-Fil-A about this. Some customers, including Mike Huckabee, saw it as the company abandoning their Christian values and betraying its core clientele.
Some found this backlash to not add up, noting that the causes Chick-fil-A still plans to donate to do connect to Christian morals.
Many online also tied this to the other major reason Chick-fil-A has made headlines recently: its ongoing sandwich war with Popeyes. They noted that the timing of this announcement comes right as Popeyes brought their popular chicken sandwich back into stores.
A report from Business Insider, however, says that this is not the case. A representative from Chick-fil-A told them their donations have nothing to do with Popeyes and have been in the works prior to the sandwich wars.
Potential Future Donations
As far as Chick-fil-A’s donation policy, it still does open the door for the company to donate to groups like the Salvation Army or Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the future. Their latest announcement only applies to 2020 donations.
Their statement said that going forward, Chick-fil-A will “reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact. These partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Associated Press) (The Washington Post)
Pet Shop Employee Fired After Streamer Catches Disturbing Dog Throwing on Video
- A Twitch user streaming inside an LA pet shop caught an employee violently throwing a dog whose head can be heard hitting the ground in a now-viral clip.
- The store owner quickly apologized for the incident on social media, saying that the dog is doing fine and was taken to a veterinarian.
- The owner added that the worker in question is no longer employed at the business.
Dog Throwing Caught on Live Stream
An employee at a Los Angeles, California pet shop and rehoming center is no longer working at the store after they were caught on a live stream violently throwing a dog onto a concrete floor.
The incident happened Wednesday at Bark n’ Bitches Dog Boutique, a business that describes itself on its website as “L.A.’s first HUMANE Pet Shop.”
Twitch user RIPRoyce, whose real name is Royce Thomas, happened to be live streaming at the shop and caught the disturbing incident on camera.
In a clip from the stream, which has since shocked many across social media, it appears that one dog begins to bite at a smaller puppy. Then, the employee in question separates them by aggressively grabbing the dog by the back of its neck and throwing it onto the ground.
A hard thud can be heard as the dog hits the floor offscreen. Witnesses gasp and are stunned by what they’ve just seen.
The dog is visibly shaken by the throw and hides under a nearby bench to recover. When witnesses go over to console the animal, they can be heard saying that it landed on its head.
Thomas told ABC7 that she never saw the employee again after the incident. She added that another employee came to hold the dog and tried to calm customers.
According to Thomas, some people in the store and some of her followers have contacted police about the incident.
Shop Owner Responds
The clip sparked outrage on social media, with many calling for the employee to be fired or charged over the incident.
The pet shop posted a public apology later that night on its social media pages, with its owner Shannon von Roemer writing, “My deepest apologies for this incident. The dog was playing and acting normal after this horrific incident. She was taken to the vet and was cleared 100%. We are grateful. #rescuedogs #inexcusable #rescuedogsrule”
A text image included with the apology also called the incident “inexcusable” and added, “We will not tolerate this or any actions that put our rescues in harms way. The appropriate actions are being taken. This is NOT what we stand for.”
A few hours later, the owner followed up with a video where she thanked everyone who has reached out to them with their concerns. “We’ve been in business for almost 14 years, and this is a first,” she said.
“I just want you to be rest assured that all actions will be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I do want you to know that the employee is no longer with us and that the dog is actually doing dine and did go to the vet.”
Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch
- After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
- Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
- Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.
With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle.
On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation.
When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message.
Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”
Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”
The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen.
The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.
Apple TV+ Executive Leaves
Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+.
Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.
Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable.
Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place.
Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons.
Future of Streaming
These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming.
Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight.
With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?
Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.