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Elon Law scholar contributes to NPR report on Facebook

Associate Professor David S. Levine was interviewed on Halloween for a National Public Radio "Marketplace" segment on the difficulty of policing political content on Facebook and Twitter.

An Elon Law professor provided legal commentary for an NPR report that examined the reasons why Facebook and other social media platforms are not incentivized to filter content allegedly placed as part of the 2016 Russian political misinformation campaign, and similar foreign-sponsored advertising and commentary.

Associate Professor David S. Levine, an affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, spoke with "Marketplace" on Halloween about a bipartisan bill in Washington that would extend rules prohibiting foreign interference in U.S. elections to the digital realm.

As the segment points out, it's easy enough for Facebook to determine who paid for an online advertisment. But what about a "Vote for Donald" meme that someone was paid to create but shared organically through social channels?

"That dichotomy between paid advertising and organic content is at the heart of this challenge," Levine said. As long as political content drives activity and ad revenue, there's no market incentive remove it. Regulating it would also mean regulating free speech. "This is the tradeoff associated with having speech platforms in the first place."

Americans don't want to limit free speech online, Levine told "Marketplace." That's part of what makes Facebook and Twitter the perfect target for foreign interference in elections

Listen to the full report here (beginning around the 3:15 mark of the segment titled "Is the estate tax saving America from artistocracy?")

Levine was a 2016-2017 Visiting Research Collaborator at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy. He is also the founder and host of Hearsay Culture on KZSU-FM, an information policy, intellectual property law and technology talk show named as a top five podcast in the ABA's Blawg 100 of 2008.

His scholarship focuses on the operation of intellectual property law at the intersection of technology and public life, specifically information flows in the lawmaking and regulatory process and intellectual property law's impact on public and private secrecy, transparency and accountability.

Eric Townsend,
11/3/2017 8:15 AM