Live Blog: House Discusses Section 230

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    <a name=“907” id=“907”></a>9:07 a.m.: The hearing ends on a positive note, with multiple members of the committee expressing a desire to address sex trafficking in a way that preserves the protections for online speech in Section 230.

    We hope that lawmakers are beginning to see through the shrewd motivations behind SESTA and ASVFOSTA. We hope that they’re willing to do the hard work of seeking out the right solutions to fight trafficking and support victims, not politically convenient ones that will damage the online communities we all depend on every day. A serious problem calls for serious solutions.

    We also hope that Congress is beginning to notice that current federal law already permits the Department of Justice to prosecute online platforms that are found to be directly contributing to unlawful online speech. If the DOJ is failing to act, the public should ask it why.

    Thank you for joining our live coverage. If you’re worried about lawmakers undermining free speech, community, and innovation online, please write to your members of Congress and urge them to reject SESTA and ASVFOSTA.

    Take Action

    Tell Congress: Stop SESTA and ASVFOSTA.

    <a name=“853” id=“853”></a>8:53 a.m.: Former Rep. Cox discusses Fair Housing Council v. in explaining how Section 230 doesn’t immunize a platform from civil litigation when that platform is directly involved with the creation of unlawful speech. Once again, If the current allegations against Backpage are accurate, then there is nothing shielding it from civil or criminal litigation.

    <a name=“838” id=“838”></a>8:38 a.m.: Rep. Martha Roby tells a harrowing story of sex trafficking. It’s specifically because of the horrors of trafficking that Congress must be wary of bills that would do more harm than good. A serious problem calls for serious solutions.

    Rep. Roby asks, “If not this, then what?” That’s a great question. And again, members of Congress must consult with harm reduction experts to find the right solutions. In her letter to the Senate Commerce Committee [PDF], anti-trafficking advocate (and herself a trafficking victim) Kristen DiAngelo outlines several proposals that Congress could take to fight trafficking: for example, enacting protective measures to make it easier for sex workers to report traffickers.

    There are currently a dozen bills in Congress addressing sex trafficking. Those bills should be receiving focus and debate in Congress—not a shrewd attempt to erode laws that protect all of us online.

    <a name=“820” id=“820”></a>8:20 a.m.: Rep. John Conyers asks Evan Engstrom whether SESTA and ASVFOSTA would do anything to address sex trafficking. It’s a great question: this far into the SESTA debate, there’s been no evidence that attaching increased liability to web platforms would do anything to reduce trafficking.

    But here’s a more important question: why is Congress asking tech experts what would reduce trafficking? Experts with experience working closely with trafficking victims have voiced major concerns that undermining 230 would do more harm than good for trafficking victims.

    In its letter on Section 230 [PDF], Freedom Network USA (a national network of frontline anti-trafficking organizations) expresses grave concerns about eroding the protections in Section 230: “Responsible website administrators can, and do, provide important data and information to support criminal investigations. Reforming the CDA to include the threat of civil litigation could deter responsible website administrators from trying to identify and report trafficking.”

    To quote anti-trafficking advocate (and herself a trafficking victim) Kristen DiAngelo [PDF], “SESTA would do nothing to decrease sex trafficking; in fact, it would have the opposite effect. […] When trafficking victims are pushed off of online platforms and onto the streets, we become invisible to the outside world as well as to law enforcement, thus putting us in more danger of violence.” And in its letter opposing SESTA, the Sex Workers Outreach Project warns of how under SESTA, inconsistent state criminal laws will be used against innocent, marginalized groups.

    If Congress wants to know how to fight trafficking, they should ask these experts, not technologists.

    <a name=“805” id=“805”></a>8:05 a.m.: Evan Engstrom says that platforms shouldn’t be liable if they actually don’t know that a piece of online content relates to sex trafficking. We agree. The amendments to the federal criminal statute in SESTA and ASVFOSTA would attach liability to platforms even when they weren’t aware that a given piece of content was related to trafficking.

    <a name=“758” id=“758”></a>7:58 a.m.: Prof. Mary Leary wrongly states that Section 230 stops victims in civil suits against platforms “at the courthouse door.” That’s not true: if plaintiffs can plead that a platform directly contributed to illegal third-party content, it can be held liable.

    <a name=“754” id=“754”></a>7:54 a.m.: Former Rep. Chris Cox explains that victims of sex trafficking in the recent Massachusetts case did not plead that Backpage had a hand in creating the illegal ads. If they believed that the platform itself was directly contributing to advertisements for trafficking, they certainly should have pled that it was, thus making it liable under current criminal law.

    Mr. Cox says, “The purpose of 230 is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.” We agree.

    <a name=“748” id=“748”></a>_7:48 a.m._Evan Engstrom of Engine says that we would not have the Internet startup community without Section 230. We agree: we’re not so much worried about what SESTA will do to Google; we’re much more worried about what will happen to the next Google.

    As he notes, Internet startups have been central to the work of finding and stopping online sex trafficking. The improvements that web platforms have made over the past 20 years in detecting criminal behavior online would not have happened without the strong protections in Section 230. Without them, the fear of litigation would lead platforms to use a hammer where a scalpel is necessary. When SESTA supporters overstate the effectiveness of automated filters, they ironically misunderstand why Section 230 exists in the first place.

    <a name=“736” id=“736”></a>7:36 a.m.: Prof. Jeff Kosseff notes:

    In its current form, Section 230 does not provide absolute immunity to online platforms. All federal criminal laws are explicitly exempt from Section 230. And platforms are not immune from civil actions or state criminal prosecutions that arise from content that the platforms created.

    He goes on to urge Congress not to pass laws undermining speech protections for all platforms because of the alleged actions of a few.

    Prof. Kosseff says that any liability for platforms for sex trafficking must be tied to a standard that requires knowledge of sex trafficking, and not a lower reckless disregard or negligence standard. We believe that the knowledge standard already set in federal criminal law is more than sufficient to prosecute true bad actors.

    <a name=“720” id=“720”></a>7:20 a.m.: In his introduction, Rep. Steve Chabot implies that web platforms that “materially contribute” to sex trafficking are protected from criminal prosecution by Section 230. This is simply not true. When a platform itself breaks federal criminal law, there is nothing to stop the Department of Justice from prosecuting them. As Rep. Jackson Lee mentions in her statement, a federal grand jury is currently investigating the controversial classified ads site Backpage, and may indict it under current law.

    In 2015, Congress passed the SAVE Act, which added a new crime—“advertising”—to the existing criminal statute on sex trafficking. To our knowledge, no web platform has been prosecuted under the SAVE Act. If Congress believes that platforms that “materially contribute” to trafficking aren’t being held accountable, it should be asking the DOJ why.

    <a name=“643” id=“643”></a>6:43 a.m.: This morning at 7:00 Pacific time (10:00 Eastern), the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee; Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations; will hold a hearing on Section 230 and online sex trafficking. We will be watching the hearing and sharing our thoughts both here and on the EFF Live Twitter account.

    We’ve been closely following two bills in Congress pertaining to sex trafficking, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act ([H.R. 1865](Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (<a href=)). While the authors of these bills say that they will fight sex trafficking, they wouldn’t do anything to punish traffickers. What they would do is undermine protections for free speech online that we all rely on.

    Online platforms are enabled Section 230. Section 230 protects online platforms from liability for some types of speech by their users. Without Section 230, social media would not exist in its current form, and neither would the plethora of nonprofit and community-based online groups that serve as crucial outlets for free expression and knowledge sharing.

    Sex trafficking is a serious problem, but these bills are not a serious solution. In fact, trafficking experts say that eroding Section 230 [PDF] would do more harm than good [PDF] in the fight against trafficking. In the words of trafficking expert Alexandra Levy:

    Section 230 doesn’t cause lawlessness. Rather, it creates a space in which many things—including lawless behavior—come to light. And it’s in that light that multitudes of organizations and people have taken proactive steps to usher victims to safety and apprehend their abusers.

    If you care about preserving laws protecting freedom of expression online, please take a moment to urge your members of Congress to reject SESTA and ASVFOSTA.

    Take Action

    Tell Congress: Stop SESTA and ASVFOSTA.

Tmux Commands

screen and tmux

A comparison of the features (or more-so just a table of notes for accessing some of those features) for GNU screen and BSD-licensed tmux.

The formatting here is simple enough to understand (I would hope). ^ means ctrl+, so ^x is ctrl+x. M- means meta (generally left-alt or escape)+, so M-x is left-alt+x

It should be noted that this is no where near a full feature-set of either group. This - being a cheat-sheet - is just to point out the most very basic features to get you on the road.

Trust the developers and manpage writers more than me. This document is originally from 2009 when tmux was still new - since then both of these programs have had many updates and features added (not all of which have been dutifully noted here).

Action tmux screen
start a new session tmux OR
tmux new OR
tmux new-session
re-attach a detached session tmux attach OR
tmux attach-session
re-attach an attached session (detaching it from elsewhere) tmux attach -d OR
tmux attach-session -d
screen -dr
re-attach an attached session (keeping it attached elsewhere) tmux attach OR
tmux attach-session
screen -x
detach from currently attached session ^b d OR
^b :detach
^a ^d OR
^a :detach
rename-window to newname ^b , <newname> OR
^b :rename-window <newn>
^a A <newname>
list windows ^b w ^a w
list windows in chooseable menu ^a "
go to window # ^b # ^a #
go to last-active window ^b l ^a ^a
go to next window ^b n ^a n
go to previous window ^b p ^a p
see keybindings ^b ? ^a ?
list sessions ^b s OR
tmux ls OR
tmux list-sessions
screen -ls
toggle visual bell ^a ^g
create another window ^b c ^a c
exit current shell/window ^d ^d
split window/pane horizontally ^b " ^a S
split window/pane vertically ^b % ^a |
switch to other pane ^b o ^a <tab>
kill the current pane ^b x OR (logout/^D)
collapse the current pane/split (but leave processes running) ^a X
cycle location of panes ^b ^o
swap current pane with previous ^b {
swap current pane with next ^b }
show time ^b t
show numeric values of panes ^b q
toggle zoom-state of current pane (maximize/return current pane) ^b z
break the current pane out of its window (to form new window) ^b !
re-arrange current panels within same window (different layouts) ^b [space]
Kill the current window (and all panes within) ^b killw [target-window]
  • Criteo is an ad company. You may not have heard of them, but they do retargeting, the type of ads that pursue users across the web, beseeching them to purchase a product they once viewed or have already bought. To identify users across websites, Criteo relies on cross-site tracking using cookies and other methods to follow users as they browse. This has led them to try and circumvent the privacy features in Apple’s Safari browser which protects its users from such tracking. Despite this apparently antagonistic attitude towards user privacy, Criteo has also been whitelisted by the Acceptable Ads initiative. This means that their ads are unblocked by popular adblockers such as Adblock and Adblock Plus. Criteo pays Eyeo, the operator of Acceptable Ads, for this whitelisting and must comply with their format requirements. But this also means they can track any user of these adblockers who has not disabled Acceptable Ads, even if they have installed privacy tools such as EasyPrivacy with the intention of protecting themselves. EFF is concerned about Criteo’s continued anti-privacy actions and their continued inclusion in Acceptable Ads.

    Safari Shuts out Third Party Cookies…

    All popular browsers give users control over who gets to set cookies, but Safari is the only one that blocks third-party cookies (those set by a domain other than the site you are visiting) by default. (Safari’s choice is important because only 5-10% of users ever change default settings in software.) Criteo relies on third-party cookies. Since users have little reason to visit Criteo’s own website, the company gets its cookies onto users’ machines through its integration on many online retail websites. Safari’s cookie blocking is a major problem for Criteo, especially given the large and lucrative nature of iPhone’s user base. Rather than accept this, Criteo has repeatedly implemented ways to defeat Safari’s privacy protections.

    One workaround researchers detected Criteo using was to redirect users from sites where their service was present to their own. For example, if you visited and clicked on a product category, you would be first diverted to and then redirected to Although imperceptible to the user, this detour was enough to persuade the browser that is a site you chose to visit, and therefore a first party entitled to set a cookie rather than a third party. Criteo applied for a patent on this method in August 2013.

    …And Closes the Backdoor

    Last summer, however, Apple unveiled a new version of Safari with more sophisticated cookie handling—called Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)—which killed off the redirect technique as a means to circumvent the cookie controls. The browser now analyzes if the user has engaged with a website in a meaningful way before allowing it to set a cookie. The announcement triggered panic among advertising companies, whose trade association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, denounced the feature and rushed out technical recommendations to work around it. Obviously the level of user “interaction” with Criteo during the redirect described above fails ITP’s test, which meant Criteo was locked out again.

    It appears that Criteo’s response was to abandon cookies for Safari users and to generate a persistent identifier by piggybacking on a key user safety technology called HSTS. When a browser connects to a site via HTTPS (i.e. a site that supports encryption), the site can respond with an HTTP Strict Transport Security policy (HSTS), instructing the browser to only contact it using HTTPS. Without a HSTS policy, your browser might try to connect to the site over regular old unencrypted HTTP in the future—and thus be vulnerable to a downgrade attack. Criteo used HSTS to sneak data into the browser cache to produce an identifier it could use to recognize the individual’s browser and profile them. This approach relied on the fact that it is difficult to clear HSTS data in Safari, requiring the user to purge the cache entirely to delete the identifier. For EFF, it is especially worrisome that Criteo used a technique that pits privacy protection against user security interests by targeting HSTS. Use of this mechanism was documented by Gotham City Research, an investment firm who have bet against Criteo’s stock.

    In early December, Apple released an update to iOS and Safari which disabled Criteo’s ability to exploit HSTS. This led to Criteo revising down their revenue forecasts and a sharp fall in their share price.

    How is Criteo Acceptable Advertising”****?

    "… w__e sort of seek the consent of users, just like we had done before_."__1_ - Erich Eichmann, CEO Criteo

    _"Only users who don’t already have a Criteo identifier will see the header or footer, and it is displayed only once per device. Thanks to [the?] Criteo advertisers network, most of your users would have already accepted our services on the website of another of our partner. On average, only 5% of your users will see the headers or footers, and for those who do, the typical opt-out rate is less than .2%._" - Criteo Support Center

    Criteo styles itself as a leader in privacy practices, yet they have dedicated significant engineering resources to circumventing privacy tools. They claim to have obtained user consent to tracking based on a minimal warning delivered in what we believe to be a highly confusing context. When a user first visits a site containing Criteo’s script, they received a small notice stating, _"_Click any link to use Criteo’s cross-site tracking technology." If the user continues to use the site, they are deemed to have consented. Little wonder that Criteo can boast of a low opt-out rate to their clients.

    Due to their observed behaviour prior to the ITP episode, Criteo’s incorporation into the Acceptable Ads in December 2015 aroused criticism among users of ad blockers. We have written elsewhere about how Acceptable Ads creates a clash of interests between adblocking companies and their users, especially those concerned with their privacy. But Criteo’s participation in Acceptable Ads brings into focus the substantive problem with the program itself. The criteria for Acceptable Ads are concerned chiefly with format and aesthetic aspects (e.g. How big is the ad? How visually intrusive? Does it blink?) and excludes privacy concerns. Retargeting is unpopular and mocked by users, in part because it wears its creepy tracking practices on its sleeve. Our view is that Criteo’s bad behavior should exclude its products from being deemed “acceptable” in any way.

    The fact that the Acceptable Ads Initiative has approved Criteo’s user-tracking-by-misusing-security-features ads is indicative of the privacy problems we believe to be at the heart of the Acceptable Ads program. In March this year, Eyeo announced an Acceptable Ads Committee that will control the criteria for Acceptable Ads in the future. The Committee should start by instituting a rule which excludes companies that circumvent explicit privacy tools or exploit user security technologies for the purpose of tracking.


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  • Have you ever sent a motivational text to a friend? If you have, perhaps you tailored your message to an activity or location by saying “Good luck in the race!” or “Have fun in New York!” Now, imagine doing this automatically with a compuuuter. What a great invention. Actually, no. That’s not a good invention, it’s our latest Stupid Patent of the Month.

    U.S. Patent No. 9,069,648 is titled “Systems and methods for delivering activity based suggestive (ABS) messages.” The patent describes sending “motivational messages,” based “on the current or anticipated activity of the user,” to a “personal electronic device.” The patent provides examples such as sending the message “don’t give up” when the user is running up a hill. The examples aren’t limited to health or exercise. For example, the patent suggests sending messages like “do not fear” and “God is with you” when a “user enters a dangerous neighborhood.”

    The patent’s description of its invention is filled with silly, non-standard acronyms like ABS for “activity based suggestive” messages or EBIF for “electronic based intelligence function.” These silly acronyms create an illusion of complexity where plain, descriptive language would reveal the mundane nature of the supposed invention. For example, what the patent grandly calls EBIF appears to be nothing more than standard computer processing.

    The ’648 patent is owned by Motivational Health Messaging LLC. While this may be a new company, at least one of the people behind it has been involved in massive patent trolling campaigns before. And the two named inventors have both been inventors on patents that trolls have asserted hundreds of times. One is also an inventor listed on patents asserted by infamous patent troll Shipping and Transit LLC. The other named inventor is the inventor on the patents asserted by Electronic Communication Technologies LLC. Those two entities (with their predecessors) brought over 700 lawsuits, many against very small businesses. In other words, the ’648 patent has been issued to Troll Co. at 1 Troll Street, Troll Town, Trollida USA.

    We believe that the claims of the ’648 patent are clearly invalid under the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank, which held abstract ideas do not become eligible for a patent merely because they are implemented in conventional computer technology. Indeed, the patent repeatedly emphasizes that the claimed methods are not tied to any particular hardware or software. For example, it states:

    The software and software logic described in this document … which comprises an ordered listing of executable instructions for implementing logical functions, can be embodied in any non-transitory computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions.

    The ’648 patent issued on June 30, 2015, a full year after the Supreme Court’s Alice ruling. Despite this, the patent examiner never even discussed the decision. If Alice is to mean anything at all, it has to be applied to an application like this one.

    In our view, if Motivational Health Messaging asserts its patent in court, any defendant that fought back should prevail under Alice. Indeed, we would hope that the court would strongly consider awarding attorney’s fees to the defendant in such a case. Shipping & Transit has now had two fee awards made against it for asserting patents that are clearly invalid under Alice. And the Federal Circuit recently held that fee awards can be appropriate when patent owners make objectively unreasonable argument concerning Alice.

    In addition to the problems under Alice, we believe the claims of the ’648 patent should have been rejected as obvious. When the application was filed in 2012, there was nothing new about sending motivational messages or automatically tailoring messages to things like location. In one proposed embodiment, the patent suggests that a “user walking to a hole may be delivered ABS messages, including reminders or instructions on how to play a particular hole.” But golf apps were already doing this. The Patent Office didn’t consider any real-world mobile phone applications when reviewing the application.

    If you want to look for prior art yourself, Unified Patents is running a crowdsourcing contest to find the best prior art to invalidate the ’648 patent. Aside from the warm feelings that come from fighting patent trolls, there is a $2000 prize pool.

    Despite the weakness of its patent, Motivational Health Messaging LLC might still send out demand letters. If you receive such a letter, you can contact EFF and we can help you find counsel.

    We have long complained that the Patent Office promotes patent trolling by granting obvious and/or abstract software patents. The history of the ’648 patent shows how the Patent Office’s failure to properly review applications leads to bad patents falling into the hands of trolls.

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