STLR Link Roundup – March 11, 2018

Washington Becomes the First State to Pass Net Neutrality Law

Washington’s new law, House Bill 2822, is the first state law passed to reinstate the protections dismantled when the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality this past December. The bill received bipartisan support and Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, announced at the bill signing ceremony that “Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet.”

Oregon passed a similar measure at the end of February, but unlike the Washington law, the Oregon law does not place any new requirements on internet service providers. Instead, this law would only stop state agencies from buying internet service from any companies that block or prioritize specific applications or content. The actions taken by both states are in anticipation of the new rule on net neutrality that the FCC will begin putting in place on April 23 of this year.

The law, which will go into effect on June 6, bars internet service providers from blocking website or charging more for faster delivery of certain websites. This law marks the progression of a pattern of state lawmakers working to counter the FCC’s decision. Governors of New York and Montana, for example, have signed executive actions to prohibit blocking or slowing of data by internet service providers with state contracts. Additionally, the Attorneys General of 22 states have filed suit to challenge the FCC repeal in federal court.

Violations of the new Washington law will be enforceable under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. This law and similar state efforts to combat the repeal of net neutrality may, however, prove fruitless. If challenged, state laws regulating broadband service, which has been recognized as a form of interstate commerce, may be held unconstitutional. Regardless of their success, state actions to preserve net neutrality mark the unrest people continue to feel with the impending change in the way we interact with the internet this spring.

Google Under Fire for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

This February, a former employee of Google from 2008 to 2016 named Loretta Lee filed a suit in California state court against the company seeking $25,000 in damages for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination. Lee’s complaint documents male coworkers spiking her drinks with alcohol, shooting nerf guns at her regularly, asking her for a “horizontal hug,” and slapping her across the face.

One day Lee returned to her desk after a short break and found a male coworker on all fours under her desk who refused to explain what he was doing there. Lee suspects he installed a camera or similar device and the next day the same coworker grabbed her breasts. After getting into a serious car accident, her managers also refused to give her time off to attend physical therapy.

When Lee took her concerns to HR they urged her to file a formal complaint and noted her “failure to cooperate” when she hesitated for fear of retaliation. As her male colleagues’ behavior escalated, Lee heeded HR’s instruction and filed a formal complaint. Google found her claims to be “unsubstantial” and failed to investigate and Lee, who had an excellent performance record, faced her coworkers’ refusal to approve her code and subsequent termination for poor performance.

Judge Suggests Trump Mute, Not Block, Twitter Followers

In a lawsuit initiated by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump, District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald has weighed in on the proper way to balance the POTUS’ Twitter activity with the protection of first amendment rights. Attorneys have analogized Trump’s Twitter page to a public event in which the President has the right to walk away from anyone whose ideas he’s not interested in hearing, but should not have the power to silence those people.

Per the judge, a block on a Twitter page is akin to being silenced at such a public event while muting, an option that prevents Trump from seeing their posts but allows them to continue to see and comment on his. Accordingly, Judge Buchwald suggested that allowing the President to mute, rather than block, users whose ideas he disagrees with would be a good settlement comprise. This option would still allow users to engage freely with Trump’s posts and still participate in important online conversations that impact the country’s ongoing political dialogue.

Could this be the proper solution to the viewpoint discrimination Twitter users have alleged violates free speech? The blocked users have expressed mixed reviews on the judge’s idea, with some speaking out to say that they don’t know if “muting is really the solution” and others saying “I think it would be a great solution for me.”

Comments are closed.