Protecting Access to Information, Free Communication, and Anonymity Online

Birth and Growth of The Internet In 1958, the Internet was born.  It began as a defense mechanism – a collection of interconnected computer networks that the U.S. Department of Defense pioneered to safeguard against the interception of government communications in the event of a nuclear attack. 

These privacy networks have laid the foundation for a robust new avenue for expression.

In 1989, an information system accessible via the Internet, known as the World Wide Web, was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee while he was working at CERN. In its infancy the web browser was primarily used and regulated by CERN and other government entities. 

In 1991, the Internet was released to the general public. But only 1.2% of Americans accessed the internet in 1991. The invention of NCSA Mosaic (the first widely used web browser) in 1993 opened up the internet to new users and by the end of 1994 the web had over 10 million users. (Science Node). Today, over 4 billion people around the world use the internet. 

Access to online information, however, is still not free and equal for all.  Over the past three decades, legislators and the Courts have sought to regulate Internet access and use while balancing privacy rights against free expression interests.  The following is a timeline of important legislation, cases and events that helped define internet freedoms and how young people experience the Internet today.

1978The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed. This act authorized electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information. It has been updated more than 50 times since it was enacted (ACLU).
1993 – 1995Research to improve IP security began in 1993. Software IP Encryption and IPSec (IP Security) were developed, creating the earliest form of VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs allow users to send and receive encrypted information. Encryption is important because it only grants authorized parties access to the information, a crucial technology for anonymity and privacy protection on the internet. 
1995McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission was the first Supreme Court Case to rule on anonymous speech and set a precedent, protecting our right to remain anonymous online.

The Court stated: “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.” (EFF).

Trivia: Microsoft debuted Internet Explorer.
Trivia: In 1995 Chris Lamprecht became the first man banned from the internet. Lamprecht, a known hacker, was convicted for money laundering and as a part of his sentencing was banned from the internet until after the probationary period following his release (Boyer). 
1996Trivia: Google was invented. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, students at Stanford University, developed a search algorithm called “BackRub” which would later be known as Google
The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was passed. The act prohibited posting “indecent” or “patently offensive” materials in a public forum on the Internet, including web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, or online discussion lists. Section 230 states that Internet service and content providers are not liable for content posted by others on the Internet. This Act also made it a crime to distribute online material deemed indecent or patently offensive to minors.
The Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act was passed. The Act requires Internet Service providers to retain any “record” in their possession for 90 days “upon the request of a government entity” for the use in criminal investigations. 
The Child Pornography Prevention Act  extended existing federal criminal laws against child pornography to computer media, outlawing all depictions (including computer simulations) of those “appearing to be” minors engaging in sexual activities.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996, a rehaul of the original 1934 Telecommunications Act, was passed. Since most internet service was provided via dial-up, internet providers were considered common carriers, meaning they would be regulated according to Title II of the Act.
1997(Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union)

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of the CDA as an unconstitutional restriction on Internet speech. The Court holds that the Internet is not a scarce resource (such as broadcasting) and is therefore entitled to the same First Amendment protection as print. 

The Supreme Court held that the government can no more restrict a person’s access to words or images on the Internet than it can snatch a book out of someone’s hands or cover up a nude statue in a museum.

1998The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalized the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services that are used to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works, even when there is no infringement of copyright itself. This Act is criticized for providing the entertainment industry extraordinary latitude to undermine traditional limits to copyright such as fair use and the first sale doctrine.
The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) amended the Communications Act of 1934, criminalizing online commercial distribution of material deemed harmful to minors – material that by “contemporary community standards” was judged to appeal to the “prurient interest” and that showed sexual acts or nudity (including female breasts). The law immediately began to face First Amendment challenges, including a federal court injunction that prevented it from going into effect. The Supreme Court struck down the law in 2004 because it overly threatened adult speech, was overbroad, and would chill expression (Purdy). Since COPA there have been numerous attempts to amend other obscenity statutes to suppress information access, for instance The Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act strengthened existing laws and created a new provision forbidding transmission of information about minors for criminal sexual purposes
In the case of Beussink v. Woodland R-IV School District the Eight Circuit court held that school officials violated the First Amendment rights of a high school student when they suspended him for ten days due to content on his website, which used vulgar language to criticize the school. The court stated that “disliking or being upset by the content of a student’s speech is not an acceptable justification for limiting student speech under Tinker.” To fall under Tinker they would have had to prove significant disruption to school operations as a result of this off-campus speech.
1999Trivia: Blogspot was created
2000In Emmett v. Kent School District, a school student sued his school district because he was suspended for creating a website that contained the mock obituaries of two of his friends. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the student should not have been suspended and suggests that the case was beyond the power of school authorities to regulate at all. 
2001Trivia: Wikipedia was created
The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) was quickly enacted on October 26, 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. This legislation gave the government new powers to conduct electronic surveillance on terror suspects, with less oversight by a judicial body. Ultimately, this act impacted every citizen, turning all of us into suspects to be surveilled.  
Wyoming’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force formed to track child pornography for police agencies across the country. The group relied in part on software developed to read unique electronic codes, making it possible for law enforcement to monitor file-sharing networks.
In A&M Records v. Napster Napster, a peer-to-peer file sharing network created in 1999, was sued by A&M Records (and various other record labels) for contributory copyright infringement. The platform was enabling people to share music with other users who hadn’t paid for it. This was a landmark case for intellectual property, setting precedents on peer-to-peer file sharing. The court ultimately decided that Napster was liable regardless of whether or not they had knowledge about specific infringing files exchanged on their service. This case shaped the future of content sharing and consumption.
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was implemented in 2001. The Act forces libraries and schools that receive e-rate discounts or federal aid for Internet service to install content filtering software on their computers. While the Act was intended to block access to material such as pornography and bomb-making recipes, the filter software has regularly blocked other kinds of speech, such as comedy, personal care, short poems, and health sites. In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act.
2002Trivia: Friendster was created
Trivia:

Tor was created.

An acronym for its original name, “The Onion Router,” Tor became the first free anonymous browser service. It reroutes the user’s location to protect anonymity by averting “traffic analysis,” which tracks users’ behavior and interests, and preventing surveillance.

The FCC declared that internet is an “information service” rather than a “common carrier,” a service that transports things on behalf of the people. Calling it an information service freed internet service providers from many of the regulations common carriers are subject to.
Trivia:

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, coined the term Network Neutrality in the paper Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination. Network Neutrality is a regulatory principle that prevents the owners of the internet infrastructure (the actual cables through which the signal travels) from discriminating against different service providers or users.

Net Neutrality is a key principle for many free speech advocates because it can help to ensure that certain voices and points of view aren’t harder to access because of the decisions of internet service providers. 

In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition,  the U.S. Supreme Court found that the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act was overbroad and unconstitutional “because it bans materials that are neither obscene under Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, nor produced by the exploitation of real children as in New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747” (Oyez).
2003AOL announced the creation of Kids Online (KOL) pairing with MaMaMedia to create the first internet server by kids, for kids. Advancing upon the work of the Kids Only Online channel, which was created in 1999, KOL marked the first true server tailored towards children. 

The server included the first parental controls and filters to limit children’s access to inappropriate information.

Congress passed the PROTECT Act which was intended to override the 2002 Supreme Court decision to strike down the Child Pornography Prevention Act. The PROTECT Act prohibits child pornography when the depiction is a computer-generated image that is, or appears virtually indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. In 2006, part of the Act was struck down by an appeals court in the case of United States v. Williams, but the provisions prohibiting virtual child pornography remain standing.
In U.S. v. American Library Association, the Supreme Court upheld CIPA as a constitutional condition attached to government funds.
Trivia: MySpace was created
Trivia: 4chan was created
2004In Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union’s second visit to the Supreme Court (the case originally came up on the Supreme Court Docket in 2000 and they upheld the injunction placed on the case in the Third Circuit, but it was sent back to the Third Circuit to be reviewed) the Supreme Court ruled that certain provisions of Child Online Protection Act (COPA) were overbroad and unconstitutional and that private voluntary software is just as effective, especially in light of the fact that COPA could not have blocked minors’ access to foreign websites.
Trivia: Facebook was created and released privately
TMI Inc. v. Maxwell was a trademark and defamation lawsuit. Joseph Maxwell made a “gripe site” where he complained about TMI Inc. TMI Inc. sued. Judgement ultimately was rendered in favor of Maxwell. While courts have consistently ruled in favor of the customers’ rights to post their grievances online, these sorts of suits are considered to have a chilling effect on speech because of the expenses involved. Other notable cases include Bosley Medical Institute, Inc., et al. v. Michael Steven Kremer (2005), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Jeff Milchen (2005), and Taylor Building Corporation of America v. Eric Benfield (2007)
2005M-G-M v. Grokster was a lawsuit was brought against the makers of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs Morpheus and Grokster. This case was reminiscent of the case against Napster in 2001. In 2005, Grokster was essentially terminated and Morpheus was put on notice that there would be no toleration of technologies that are designed primarily to circumvent the payment of royalties to the copyright holders.
Trivia: Reddit was created
2006Trivia: Twitter was created and Facebook opened to the public
The Commerce Department and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defined the usTLD Nexus Requirements which prohibit website operators with a “.us” address from remaining anonymous, requiring them to provide personally identifiable information

“The federal agency that oversees the domain maintains that the decision, handed down in February, is not a change, but simply a clarification of its existing policies. “The U.S. Department of Commerce has never authorized or permitted the offering of proxy or anonymous domain-registration services in the .us addressing space,” National Telecommunications and Information Administration spokesman Clyde Ensslin said in a prepared statement.”

Opponents considered it one of the biggest threats to internet privacy. Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation at the time, said, “We’ve always believed that [proxies are] important in order to protect the privacy of free speech […] Being able to speak through a proxy, particularly if you’re a human-rights dissident in a third-world country, can mean the difference between life and death. For .us it may not be as important, but it sets a bad precedent for Internet speech all around.”

In the case of Nitke v. Gonzales Barbara Nitke, a New York photographer whose work includes explicit sexual images, argued that the Communications Decency Act’s (CDA) obscenity provision chills her freedom of expression, because it is defined in reference to “contemporary community standards,” which may vary between different states and are hard to apply to the Internet. A special panel of the Second Circuit of Appeals in New York unanimously disagreed. The panel stated that the plaintiffs failed to show that the Act was substantially overbroad.
The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) was introduced in Congress. The act was meant to expand on CIPA, limiting access to networking websites and chatrooms in addition to any site with obscene content (as determined by whatever filtering algorithm employed) by requiring both public schools and libraries receiving federal funds for Internet access to provide a “technology protection measure.” While the bill purports to protect children from online sexual predators, it would also block technologies that are often used as educational tools, such as blogs, and distance learning tools like class forums. Adult library patrons would have to request that a site be unblocked to see it. The act was never passed.
The Save the Internet campaign was launched in 2006. This campaign was launched by dozens of groups to push for changes to the new Telecommunications Act. They wanted a provision which would preserve Network Neutrality, a principle that prevents the owners of the internet infrastructure from disadvantaging certain data by slowing down Web content based on its source or destination.
After Europe unrolled the Data Retention Directive (Directive 2006/24/EC), Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asked Internet providers to retain records so as to aid investigations of criminals who abuse children and distribute images of the abuse through the Internet. Data retention legislation was introduced in Congress.
Trivia: WikiLeaks, a website known for publishing classified documents from anonymous sources, was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange.
2007Trivia: Tumblr was created
PRISM began in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration. PRISM is a code name for a program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects internet communications from various U.S. internet companies
In American Civil Liberties Union v. Gonzales The United States District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), finding that the statute facially violates the First Amendment because it, among other things, is impermissibly vague and overbroad.  
2008The Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act ​of 2008 (PROTECT Our Children Act) was passed. This act requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement a National Strategy Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs which will help track cyber threats.
Popular social networking website MySpace agreed to work with the attorney generals of 49 states plus the District of Columbia on the Internet Safety Technical Task Force (ISTTF) to come up with a plan to combat material considered harmful to minors, including pornography, harassment, bullying, and identity theft; to better educate parents and schools about potential threats online; to work with law enforcement officials; and to develop new technology for age and identity verification on social-networking sites.
The Third Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) on its face violates the First Amendment in American Civil Liberties Union v. Mukasey
Doninger v. Niehoff was about a high school junior, who, following a dispute with administrators at her high school over the scheduling of an event, posted from home a blog entry where she called the school administrators “douchebags”, and invited readers to email and phone the administrators to rally support for the event. The school punished the student by barring her from running for a position in student government for her senior year.  The federal district court in Connecticut denied the student’s motion for an injunction against the bar on the grounds that the student’s First Amendment rights had not been violated. The court found that the student’s blog postings were “lewd” under the standard established in Bethel School District v. Fraser, and thus not protected under the First Amendment.  The Appellate Court upheld this ruling on the grounds that the student’s speech has the potential to cause substantial disruption. 
2009In early 2009, the website, Juicy Campus, shut down. It was a website which invited people to anonymously post gossip about college students, which began operations in 2007 at select colleges.  The website features potentially libelous content, including claims that specific people are sexually promiscuous and drug addicted. The site garners criticism for abusive, degrading, and hateful speech. College students debated whether their schools’ servers should block access to the website.  Tennessee State University, Hampton University and High Point University blocked the site.  
2010Trivia: Instagram was created
WikiLeaks released the infamous “Collateral Murder” footage from the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrikes in the Iraq War, as well as hundreds of thousands of classified military documents from the War in Afghanistan and Iraq War.  “The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded” (WikiLeaks).

The footage was one of the many things that Chelsea Manning, an Army Soldier and intelligence analyst, sent to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in Iraq and held in solitary confinement in Kuwait and, later, Virginia (ACLU).

Craigslist began to censor its adult services section, succumbing to years of pressure from government officials who accuse the site of promoting sex crimes.
2011Trivia: Snapchat, Google+ and Pinterest were created
United States v. Collins et al, 2011. A group of men and women connected to the collective Anonymous signed a plea deal to charges of conspiring to disrupt access to the payment website PayPal in response to the payment shutdown to WikiLeaks over the Wau Holland Foundation which was part of a wider Anonymous campaign, Operation Payback. They later became known under the name PayPal 14
Twenty-one states had Internet filtering laws similar to CIPA in 2011. One state – Florida – has adopted legislation that encourages Internet safety education programs in public libraries.
On January 7, 2011, 18 USC § 2261A the Federal Cyberstalking Statute was made into law. The Department of Justice defines cyberstalking as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” 
2012Wikipedia began its initiative WikiProject: Freedom of Speech to improve all free speech related articles, in order to provide the public with access to high-quality information about all topics surrounding free expression.
In the case of PFLAG v Camdenton R-III School District LGBT+ supportive content was being filtered and blocked by the school districts’ custom built filtering software, while anti-LGBT+ sites remained up. PFLAG claimed that this amounted to viewpoint discrimination. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff lacked standing to assert viewpoint discrimination, as they didn’t intend to block these sites.  The court ultimately ruled in favor of PFLAG, insisting that the school district proactively monitor the list of blocked sites to ensure that they are not engaging in viewpoint discrimination. 
#FreeTheNipple In 2012: Filmmaker, Lina Esco, shared videos of herself running through New York City streets on social media using the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. In order to raise awareness of gender inequality, the campaign was meant to address the unfair social standards that consider it lewd or indecent for women to be topless in public. In 2013 Facebook removed the clips for violating its community standards, stirring up more controversy.  In retaliation, many celebrities including Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Chrissy Teigen posted photos on various social media networks. In 2015 Instagram finally changed its community standards to allow breastfeeding photos on the platform. Instagram and Facebook continue to censor photos that show the female nipple, and the campaign, and many inspired by it still run strong. The movement served as a catalyst for numerous later court cases, including Erie v. Pap’s A. M., Barnes v. Glen Theatre and Free the Nipple v. City of Fort Collins (New York Times).
2013Trivia: Vine was created
In 2013 a junior in the Governor Mifflin School District of Pennsylvania, Maison Fioravante, found out that the school district was blocking access to LGBT+ web content, like the websites for the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, The Equality Federation, and the Freedom to Marry campaign. Yet many sites with anti LGBT+ content were still accessible. The district used filtering software from Smoothwall, Ltd. This incident was reminiscent of the incident which sparked PFLAG v Camdenton R-III School District 2012. In this 2012 case the court ruled that the school district cease the use of any discriminatory filters. 
2014Gamergate, considered one of the largest online culture wars to date, happened in 2014. Female game developers, Brianna Wu and Zoë Quinn, became the primary targets of internet trolls and extreme cyber harassment. Within four months, Zoë Quinn was facing tens of thousands of graphic, violent threats of rape and murder. Many of her personal online accounts were hacked. She was also doxed, meaning her private, personally identifiable information, like her home address, was posted online. 

According to US Code 18 USC § 873 blackmail is unprotected speech. Examples of online blackmail include doxxing and revenge porn.

2015The Supreme Court Came Alarmingly Close to Allowing Video Game Censorship
In February of 2015 the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality, reclassifying broadband as a common carrier.
The Intimate Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 5896), authored by California Representative Jackie Speier, passed. Her bill was designed to target revenge pornography by amending Title 18 to make it illegal to “knowingly distribute a photograph, film, or video of a person engaging in sexually explicit conduct” without their consent.
In 2015 Louisiana enacted H.B. 153, a bill that required “anyone in Louisiana who publishes material harmful to minors on the internet to make every visitor to their website ‘electronically acknowledge and attest’ to being 18 years old or older prior to being allowed access to such material” (Media Coalition). Media Coalition, the ACLU, and various booksellers quickly filed suit. They argued that this law violated the first amendment. The law put the onus of identifying harmful material on anyone publishing information online. Categorizing material as harmful or not would be far too difficult a task for a bookseller with millions of books in their inventory. They argued that “the law also violates the rights of older minors by depriving them of access to material published on the internet because it may be inappropriate for younger minors” (Media Coalition). In 2016 a judge signed an order preventing this law from being enforced.  
Elonis v. United States was the first Supreme Court case to deal with internet crime. The defendant, Elonis, harassed and threatened multiple people online. He repeatedly posted “rap lyrics” that described violent desires in detail, usually accompanied by a disclaimer that they were not threats, instead he claimed they were just a way to blow off steam. The court ruled in favor of Elonis in a 7-2 decision. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, ruled that Elonis’ posts lacked mens rea and mens rea was required to prosecute under 18 USC § 875(c). Justice Alito both concurred and dissented. He claimed that recklessness should have been enough to prosecute Elonis because he “consciously [disregarded] the risk” that his words could be interpreted as “true threats.” The case was a victory for the First Amendment, but it left a potentially dangerous precedent for future cases.
2016Trivia: Gab.ai is created. The site calls itself “The Free Speech Social Network.” Primarily used by the alt-right, Gab emerges in response to Twitter’s banning of white supremacists and removal of many prominent white supremacists’ accounts.
In 2016 Apple and the FBI were engaged in conflict about unlocking an Apple phone. The FBI wanted Apple’s help to break into the work phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple declined to help break into the phone, citing their commitment to the security of their phones and the danger in creating a backdoor for the government (and anyone else) to use. This conflict played out over the course of a month, with the FBI and Apple going back and forth. The US Department of Justice filed an application to a federal judge in an attempt to force Apple to comply.  Ultimately the phone was broken into using alternative means, yielding no new information about the attack (New York Times). This incident incited nationwide conversations about the interplay between privacy and national security. 
In 2016 the Patriot act expired. In its place, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act which reauthorized many, but not all, parts of the Patriot Act. Noticeably absent were the provisions which allowed for “bulk data collection of Americans’ phone records and Internet metadata” (The Washington Post).
Opera implements its own free VPN service within the browser, making VPNs more user-friendly and accessible to the public.
2016 – presentGoogle Jigsaw

Google unrolls the beta versions of projects within their Jigsaw initiative, to make the internet a safer place, while maintaining our right to a free and open internet. Their mission is to tackle the greatest threats to the internet including thwarting online censorship, mitigating the threats from digital attacks, countering violent extremism, and protecting people from online harassment. The various projects include:

  • Perspective: An API that uses machine learning models to score the perceived impact a comment might have online. In real time, it scores comments on predicted, perceived “toxicity,” which can allow commenters to self-censor before they post, moderators to sift more easily through comments, and users to filter out content they don’t want to see.
  • Unfiltered.news: a news website that “maps what important news stories might not be covered in your country, using the Google News corpus to allow internet users to discover which stories are being covered in certain locations, how different countries cover stories differently, and how issue coverage changes over time.”
  • The Redirect Method: a program to combat terrorism. It uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.
  • Project Shield: a free service that uses Google technology to protect news sites and free expression from DDoS attacks on the web. DDoS attacks are when a source attempts to make a website unavailable by overwhelming it with with traffic from multiple sources, preventing people from accessing the information they seek.
  • Outline: a corporate VPN (virtual private network) that encrypts their use of the internet for research and communications, primarily to protect journalists and their identity when sharing news.
2017Packingham v. North Carolina established that the North Carolina law prohibiting sex offenders from having an account on social media where minors are known to be active is a violation of the first amendment.
The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality, or as their Chairman Ajit Pai described it they voted to “restore internet freedom” (FCC).
Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who released the Collateral Murder footage that was posted on WikiLeaks in 2010, had her sentence commuted, cutting her original 35 year sentence short. She was released May 17, 2017 after 7 years in custody (ACLU).
Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) have sponsored the Online Modernization Act of 2017. This bill also proposes to amend Title 18 to criminalize online coercion of sexual acts, false communications to emergency response teams (swatting), and the disclosure of personal information with the intent to cause harm (doxxing). It also proposes funding for training, and improved investigative and forensic resources for local law enforcement to better handle reports of cybercrime. The bill would allow for the federal government to collect annual cybercrime statistics in order to devise national strategies and gain a better understanding of this specific subcategory of crime.
In 2017 it was revealed that people’s Facebook data (and their friends’ data too) was being sold to third parties in what came to be known as the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Cambridge Analytica was a political data firm that worked with Trump during the 2016 elections. They gained access to 50 million people’s Facebook data, giving them the means to more accurately target ads and influence these people’s opinions. This data included information about people’s likes and their friend networks. While Facebook allows this sort of data to be used for research purposes, they do not allow it to be sold to ad networks. It was revealed Cambridge Analytica had harvested the data with the help of a professor. The people who agreed to give their data over were told it was being used for academic purposes, and they were unaware that they were also handing over the data of all of their friends. Only 270,000 people agreed to hand over their data, but Cambridge Analytica ultimately received the data of 50 million facebook users (NY Times). This event sparked a lot of conversations about data security
2018In 2018 the Clarifying Lawful Use of Overseas Data Act (CLOUD Act) was passed. This act changed the way that the US government could share data with other nations during criminal investigations, and expanded the US government’s reach over the data from private companies, giving them the ability to procure data from US companies whether their servers are in the US or abroad (JOLTdigest).
Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump was decided on May 23, 2018. The suit was fighting for people who were banned from following @realDonaldTrump on twitter because they offered criticisms of the president and his policies. The Knight First Amendment Institute argued that since Trump used his twitter to make policy statements, blocking people amounted to barring them both from a public forum and taking part in conversations about US policies – restricting their first amendment rights. The federal court agreed. Trump’s account is a presidential account, not a personal account, and therefore he cannot block people. The White House filed a notice of appeal shortly thereafter.
In August of 2018 Donald Trump sent out a flurry of tweets accusing social media platforms and google of suppressing conservative news. This allegation tied into many of his earlier rants about ‘fake news.’ The suppression in question, all the google results for the phrase ‘Trump News’ talked of Trump in a negative light, according to his tweets “Fake CNN is prominent” (New York Times). This is one of many incidents that displays the growing hostility toward the tech industry. Only a week later, tech companies were called before the senate intelligence committee (following up on the hearings after the 2016 elections) and questioned.
In 2018 the acts FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) were signed into law. These two acts poked a hole in section 230 of the CDA, making websites responsible for the content their users post. This measure forces sites to either carefully moderate the content that their users post or open themselves up to liabilities (Electronic Frontier Foundation, NCAC).
Tumblr, the popular blogging platform made a move to ban all adult content from the platform. They used algorithmic flagging to mark and remove adult content from everyone’s feeds. While Tumblr promised to keep artistic nudity and explicit images that were used for sex education, many users ended up having their content, even non-graphic content, flagged and removed. As a result of this policy change, and the ensuing chaos wreaked by the algorithms, many users fled the site in search of different, greener pastures. 
2019In February of 2019 Davison v Randall was decided in the Fourth Circuit. The case was about whether or not a public official had the right to block a citizen from posting on their facebook page (if they are using the page to communicate with constituents).  The court decided they did not. This case was the first of its kind to be heard at the appellate level.