In the summer of 2016, a meme began to circulate on the fringes of the right-wing internet: the notion that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was seriously ill. Clinton suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a brain tumor and seizures, among other things, argued Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson in a YouTube video. The meme (and allegations) were entirely unfounded.
Danielle Citron is the Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. She is the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014).
Subscribe to this Lawfare contributor via RSS.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, Twitter permanently banned the right-wing provocateur Alex Jones and his conspiracy theorist website Infowars from its platform. This was something of the final blow to Jones’s online presence: Facebook, Apple and Youtube, among others, blocked Jones from using their services in early August. Cut off from Twitter as well, he is now severely limited in his ability to spread his conspiracy theories to a mainstream audience.
Back in February, we joined forces in this post to draw attention to the wide array of dangers to individuals and to society posed by advances in “deep fake” technology (that is, the capacity to alter audio or video to make it appear, falsely, that a real person said or did something). The post generated a considerable amount of discussion, which was great, but we understood we had barely scratched the surface of the issue.
FOSTA: The New Anti-Sex-Trafficking Legislation May Not End the Internet, But It’s Not Good Law Either
Amid the chaos of the last week, one of the most significant pieces of internet legislation of the last two decades went relatively unnoticed.
“We are truly fucked.” That was Motherboard’s spot-on reaction to deep fake sex videos (realistic-looking videos that swap a person’s face into sex scenes actually involving other people). And that sleazy application is just the tip of the iceberg. As Julian Sanchez tweeted, “The prospect of any Internet rando being able to swap anyone’s face into porn is incredibly creepy.
The bombing of a mosque and community center in suburban Minneapolis 10 days ago and the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend are just the most recent examples of hateful violence that has become all too common in America.
Follow Buddies and Block Buddies: A Simple Proposal to Improve Civility, Control, and Privacy on Twitter
The 2016 election has put squarely on the public agenda a series of questions related to the norms of social media, everything from the proliferation of fake news on Facebook to the trolling culture of Twitter. These questions are not new. The culture of abuse online towards women, for example, is a matter about which one of us wrote a book. But over the last few months, the concerns—spurred in part by a president-elect and his followers who participate actively in Twitter abuse of opponents and critics—have vaulted into the mainstream.