United States: Media and Law Round Up – February 2020

16 02 2020

Facebook has entered a $550m settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlement comes following allegations that the social media giant’s photo-scanning technology violated Illinois privacy laws. The law, the Illinois Privacy Act 2008, was very strict in its adjudication of consumer privacy laws. The Guardian has coverage.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s defamation lawsuit against CBS, following the network airing Gayle King interviewing two women who accused him of sexual assault, has failed. Being found to be a public figure Fairfax had to prove that CBS acted with actual malice in airing the interview.

Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswomen, is seeking to sue Hilary Clinton for defamation claiming damages of $50m. The suit follows comments made by Clinton suggesting that Ms Gabbard was “the favourite of the Russians”. The Independent reports on claims by Ms Gabbard’s lawyers that Ms Clinton is refusing to be served with the claim.   Techdirt has a piece “As Tulsi Gabbard’s Silly Attention Seeking Lawsuit Against Google Falters, She Files Equally Silly Lawsuit Against Hillary Clinton”.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos has requested a California court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against him by his girlfriend’s brother, Michael Sanchez. US News reports. The suit focuses on comments allegedly made by Bezos and his security consultant to reports that Sanchez provided nude photos of Bezos to the National Enquirer.

Techdirt reports that the Virginia Legislature has passed an Anti-SLAPP law.

Mother Jones has an article by Madison Pauly, “She Said, He Sued: How libel law is being turned against MeToo accusers”.

TruthOut has an OpEd piece by Dean Baker, “Facebook Ads should  face the same libel laws as media outlets

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released its Privacy Framework, which the EU Observer has explored.

The New York Times has an article entitled “IBM, Marriott and Mickey Mouse Take On Tech’s Favorite Law”, reporting that a group of companies are seeking the amendment of section 230 of the CDA because, inter alia, it gives Big Tech an unfair advantage over competitors.  There is also a piece about the issue on the Time website entitled “The Growing Threat to Free Speech Online”.

The New York Times The Daily Podcast has covered the growing use of facial recognition software and its implications for individual privacy rights.

This month in the Courts

  • Gottwald (Dr Luke) v Kesha Rose Sebert, No 653119/2014, Supreme Court of State of New York. The Court ruled that Kesha had defamed Dr Luke when she texted Lady Gaga claiming he had raped Katy Perry. There were reports on NBC, the New York Times, the Guardian and the BBC,
  • Parents for Privacy v. Barr, No. 18-35708 (9th Cir. 2020) – a case considering that a policy allowing transgender students to use school bathroom and locker facilities that match their self-identified gender in the same manner that cisgender students did not infringe Fourteenth Amendment privacy or parental rights nor creates actionable sex harassment under Title IX.
  • Chatterjee v CBS, 6:19-CV-212-REW United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky – a motion to dismiss a libel claim by two cardiologists. The Judge held that claiming that privilege protects a report on a third party’s report resembles the doctrine of neutral reportage, which Kentucky courts have rejected.
  • Butowsky v Folkenflik, 4:18cv422, United States District Court, Eastern District of Texax – rejected a motion to dismissed a an action for defamation, business disparagement, and civil conspiracy based on republication of allegations in a legal claim. There is an article on Techdirt criticising the decision, “Federal Court Ignores Journalist Privilege For Reporting On Court Documents; Allows Bullshit Defamation Suit To Proceed”.

This Round up was complied by Suneet Sharma a junior legal professional with a particular interest and experience in media, information and privacy law.


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