Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts

Volume 15  | Fall 2019  | Number 1

Featurization and the Myth of Data Empowerment

Nur Lalji
15 Wash. J.L. Tech. & Arts  1

12/13/2019

Constitutional & Regulatory

Every day, we make a series of tradeoffs between privacy and convenience. We may check our email, post on social media, use the free Wi-Fi in public spaces, or take our cellphones with us wherever we go without a clear understanding of what information we are giving away when we do so. Increasingly, we are seeing products that claim to defy this opaqueness associated with big data and put users at the helm of their information. These “featurized” products wrap themselves in a data empowerment narrative, but ultimately erode individual privacy in new ways, sometimes even capitalizing on it. This article seeks to explore the concept of featurization further—where it came from, what it is, and how featurized products are currently being regulated. The article will end by proposing some recommendations for balancing the innovation that featurization can bring while ensuring individuals’ privacy rights are adequately protected.

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Censtorshp, Free Speech & Facebook: Applying the First Amendment to Social Media Platforms via the Public Function Exception

Matthew Hooker
15 Wash. J.L. Tech. & Arts  36

12/13/2019

Constitutional & Regulatory

Society has a love-hate relationship with social media. Thanks to social media platforms, the world is more connected than ever before. But with the ever-growing dominance of social media there have come a mass of challenges. What is okay to post? What isn’t? And who or what should be regulating those standards? Platforms are now constantly criticized for their content regulation policies, sometimes because they are viewed as too harsh and other times because they are characterized as too lax. And naturally, the First Amendment quickly enters the conversation. Should social media platforms be subject to the First Amendment? Can—or should—users be able to assert their First Amendment rights against these platforms? This Article dives into the legal and policy implications surrounding the application of the First Amendment to social media platforms. Because the state action doctrine generally serves as a bar to enforcing constitutional restrictions on private actors, this Article examines these First Amendment questions in light of the state action doctrine, and more particularly its public function exception. This Article considers whether social media platforms fit within the public function exception and whether such an application is tenable and proper as a matter of law and public policy.

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