Joe Lieberman Couldn't Understand Content Moderation When He Was A Senator, But Says If We Get Rid Of 230, It'll Be Fine

from the oh-shut-up dept

Former Senator Joe Lieberman was a ridiculous censorial problem when he was a Senator. Back in the early days of social media, when the first questions of content moderation were first gaining attention, Lieberman was perhaps the original moral panic Senator, demanding censorship of 1st Amendment protected content. It started back in 2008, when he sent an angry letter to YouTube, saying that they had to take down "terrorist content." YouTube reviewed a bunch of the links he sent, and removed only the ones that violated YouTube's policies. That made Lieberman mad and he sent a second letter demanding that the company take down "terrorist" videos. He also did the same thing to Twitter. Because of the political pressure, these companies became more aggressive, leading them to... take down a human rights watchdog that was documenting war crimes. Because sometimes "terrorist videos" are actually... "documenting war crimes."

A smarter person might step back and realize that there's a lot of nuance here, and what seems "easy" may be a bit more complex. But not old Joe Lieberman. Instead, he ramped up his desire to censor. He demanded Amazon stop hosting Wikileaks, and ordered Google to add a "this blog is run by a terrorist" button to all Blogger blogs. He also tried to expand the Espionage Act to cover journalists who publish leaked information.

So perhaps it's not surprising that when CBS News asked Lieberman to come on with Major Garrett and discuss Section 230 and content moderation, Lieberman immediately jumped to "they should get rid of 230" and censor more nonsense. Major Garrett kicks the conversation off with... a total misrepresentation of Section 230.

Garrett: You referred to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and it does give essentially a carte blanche... there is no liability for... platforms for dissemination and placing essentially a foundation beneath things that are disinformation. You said it should be changed.

First of all, that awkward statement is... not accurate. Disinformation is protected by the 1st Amendment. Platforms have no liability for disinformation because of the 1st Amendment not because of Section 230. You'd think that someone on CBS News, which relies heavily on the 1st Amendment, would know that.

I mean, if providing a platform for disinformation wasn't protected, why, we could all sue CBS News for the disinformation spewed in this interview by Major Garrett and Joe Lieberman... about Section 230. Anyway, Lieberman does his Lieberman thing:

Lieberman: So, the social media companies. The internet platforms have such impact in so many ways. Just think about it. A lot of the activity leading up to January 6th occurred on the internet.

Yeah. But it also occurred on TV. A lot of it occurred coming out of the President's mouth. A lot of it occurred on Fox News. So why are you blaming the internet?

The terrorists communicate. The Islamic terrorists on jihadist websites.

Um. So are you saying people shouldn't communicate? Do we take away phone service from people who might be terrorists? And, Joe, if they're communicating on Jihadist websites that means they're not communicating on social media. If you force them off social media, then they communicate elsewhere where it's harder for the intelligence community to track them.

Finally, Lieberman does recognize that maybe the solution isn't easy, but then he immediately jumps to a "nerd harder" kind of thinking:

You know, it's not easy, for the internet companies. But, to give them total immunity from liability encourages them to be irresponsible. Not responsible at all for what's on the internet.

Except that's wrong. Facebook has hired 30,000 content moderators and invested heavily in technology to help as well. If they were "not responsible at all" why would they do that? All of the big social media companies have a large policy and trust & safety teams that takes all of these issues very seriously. And just because you don't have legal liability, it doesn't mean there aren't tremendous other reasons and incentives for the companies to be responsible. Without good moderation practices, sites fill up with spam, abuse, and harassment and that drives away users. It also drives away advertisers. So these companies have a strong self-interest in doing the best job they can when it comes to moderation.

So, look. One simple answer, maybe not the best, but it would do it, would be to just repeal that exemption from liability, that Section 230 gives these companies. And what does that mean? It means that they could be SUUUUEED by victims of whatever is on their platform. They'll probably look for something less than that. But that is a simple clean answer, and it ultimately leaves it to our system of law and our courts.

Yes, he drags out the "sued." But... Joe... sued for what? Again, so far everything you've described is protected speech under the 1st Amendment. So what are they going to be sued for? For making you upset? That's not how any of this works.

The reason I said it's not easy for the companies is this: there's obviously some things that just shouldn't be on there, and they should just take them off. I once had a conversation with somebody at YouTube, and I was complaining about the incendiary, violent, stimulating, sermons by a particular Islamic cleric who was operating out of Yemen. Eventually we killed him with a drone. His name was Awlaki. And the woman I was speaking to at YouTube said, 'you know what, we understand what you're saying, but how can we tell the difference between just a regular sermon he's giving and when he's actually inciting violence?' And I said, it's not easy, but you can do it. [Laughs] I mean, I can tell the difference between whether, when a priest or a minister or a rabbi... of course, none of them that I know are incentivizing violence [Laughs]... But when they're over the line, or they're just talking to a religious base. And they can do it too.

This is so ignorant it's depressing. He totally missed the point of what the person from YouTube was trying to tell him. Determining which content is okay and which is not when you're dealing with 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, in a variety of languages around the world, and some of it using euphemisms or coded speech, is not the same as Lieberman himself sitting there deciding "oh this video is bad." What the person from YouTube was trying to tell him is the same thing that we've been saying here for years. It's not that it's not easy, it's that it's impossible to do it well, because humanity and society is messy. And we can see that in the way that Lieberman's earlier demands to censor "terrorism" resulted in the disappearance of war crimes documentation from human rights groups.

Lieberman may laugh that off, but it's only because he's a very foolish man. Repealing Section 230 fixes none of what he's talking about.

A good reporter might have pointed that out. But this is CBS News, which just recently did an entire misleading 60 Minutes episode that got almost everything about Section 230 wrong.

You really want to believe that major media companies -- who failed to embrace the internet -- aren't purposefully lying about Section 230 to help out their own corporations, but it happens so incredibly often that it really makes you wonder.

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Filed Under: content moderation, joe lieberman, section 230
Companies: youtube


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 9:48am

    Of course CBS would be on board with nuking 230. Their thinking likely goes like this: Get rid of social media and people would turn back to “classic” news outlets to get their information — one of which would be, of course, CBS News.

    It’s not about fighting “censorship” or taking down “bad speech”. It’s about taking back what they think was “stolen” from them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Yeah that has been obvious since at least the link tax debacles. Look at their main targets for salt - Google and Facebook. If it was really about privacy Equifax and the NSA would have far worse targets. Hell look just at Tesla coverage because ICE automakers buy ads from them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 9:50am

    You know what, let’s make a challenge for these senators...

    1. Try to make a social media company that isn’t upheld by section 230 but it’s main use is user-generated content.
    2. Watch your social media company burst into flames by a wave of liability claims and uncensorable far-right nonsense.
    3. ...Profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 10:59am

      Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these senators..

      1. Far left, far right, far OVER there Far out in the wild.
        The Most interesting part is Finding the truth or facts involved in ALL the garbage.
        There has been allot of Censorship in the USA since WWII. For a few good and bad reasons.

      And the Secrets act, is abit Stupid, as by the time it Comes out (20+ years)IF it was a crime its past the deadline of being a crime, Those involved are no longer in office, Many of those responsible will be DEAD.

      Once you start down the road of censorship, What do you NOT censor? LETS BE CHINA and censor everything. Lets be Russia, and NOT let the people know about our wars, and Military. Lets just piss off the world and Close down all Incoming data.

      WE ARE THE MUSHROOM, Hmmmmmmmmmmm!(meditating).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:42am

      Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these senators..

      The idiots and liars attacking 230 could easily put their money where their mouths are and create a government run social media platform for people to post on if they really care so much about 'protecting the public from the censorship of Big Tech'.

      As a platform run by the government 230 wouldn't even be an issue since they'd be prohibited from blocking non-illegal content or giving the boot to users for posting non-illegal content by the first amendment, so they'd have to leave any and all content up, showing very quickly just how stupid their idea is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 2:38pm

        Re: Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these senato

        "prohibited from blocking non-illegal content "

        But this is the concern, most of this is about. 2groups that Kinda want the opposite. but also the ability to FIND someone with money, to SUE. and deciding What is illegal.
        An Advert ISNT illegal, Spam isnt REALLY illegal if the FCC wont do anything, taking a subject Off topic isnt illegal, Fake sales isnt illegal(generally not from Inside the USA). OPINION isnt illegal.

        There are allot of things censored, because it is Garbage. but as with Newspapers, They are protected. And Opinion is protected, but this would remove the Stated Point that the internet is no better, no worse then those others. IF TV didnt have a small amount of protection, FOX probably wouldnt be on TV.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 5:54pm

        Re: Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these senato

        Or the government could just take over USENET.

        If they have a free-speech social media network run by the government, tie it to the IRS site and people filing their taxes. Call it "meet the taxpayers" or something literally give everyone their fifteen minutes.

        If it had to take all posts then a robust filter system could be used so that people can "censor" what they want, but USENET proves this isn't the problem, because most people aren't worried about what they see, but instead about what OTHERS are seeing and reading to the point of wanting to censor that.

        I like this idea because it would improve tax compliance, and all the "fringe" types would be leaving a digital paper trail. The only downside is people might be worried that government gets their user data, then realize that they already have it from the other social media networks.

        Because the government won't set this up, and because we won't elect representatives based on them having to do this, we've collectively waived our right to complain about censorship. Besides, the internet as a whole is not censored: USENET still works (no one wants it so are we really that concerned about censorship?), YouTube rarely censors content (even if they demonetize it but users can also demonetize), and few people are truly blacklisted (that's antitrust territory). There is also traditional media to get the word out about websites. My argument against private censorship is economic: I won't buy based on ads on a service that might be silencing the company's critics.

        Section 230 protection should be tied to sites removing content where a court has ruled it defamatory, or where they know it's false, but perhaps limit damages to $5,000 plus an injunction with no attorney fees so it doesn't become a niche for lawyers. Also get rid of the single-publication rules and require the companies to identify the original publisher, and if they can't, the publisher loses by default and the content is removed.

        In the case of Guy Babcock, if you're the employer, landlord, date, or whatever and have acted out on defamation you should be treated as if you defamed the person yourself (except in dating).

        There are ways to do this. Not everyone might agree with everything above, but it would keep 230 with only the modifications need to prevent collateral damage like Guy Babcock.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 6:51pm

          Section 230 protection should be tied to sites removing content where a court has ruled it defamatory, or where they know it's false

          How can a site know, with the absolute certainty of God and without a court ruling saying so, that any given content is false to the point of being defamatory? Sure, it might seem easy in some cases, but it isn’t always easy to figure out.

          get rid of the single-publication rules and require the companies to identify the original publisher, and if they can't, the publisher loses by default and the content is removed

          “If we can’t find the actual target, we’ll find the easiest target and hit them instead!” That’s you. That’s you right now.

          if you're the employer, landlord, date, or whatever and have acted out on defamation you should be treated as if you defamed the person yourself

          And people accuse me of being a censorship-supporting asshole because I support a site’s right to moderate speech. Goddamn, dude, you’re literally trying to criminalize hearsay and acting upon it.

          Not everyone might agree with everything above, but it would keep 230 with only the modifications need to prevent collateral damage like Guy Babcock.

          What would we do, then, about the collateral damage you’d cause by criminalizing hearsay, squeezing interactive web services dry for speech they neither published nor wrote, and basically fucking a hole right through the First Amendment with your hateboner for defamation?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2021 @ 1:37am

          Re: Re: Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these se

          most people aren't worried about what they see, but instead about what OTHERS are seeing and reading to the point of wanting to censor that

          Every once in a while, Jhon, you come to a moment of self-realization.

          The problem is that most functioning folks aren't as impotent and fucked in the head like you, who'd deep-throat Donald Trump in case he could use his last month in office to nuke Section 230. You got a serious history of picking out suckers, don't you sweet cheeks?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 4 Feb 2021 @ 3:56am

          Re: Re: Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for these se

          but USENET proves this isn't the problem

          Seems you never have run an usenet server then. Every server-admin had their own pet-peeves on what groups they wanted on their server or not, just like a site-owner choosing what they want on their site or not.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 4 Feb 2021 @ 4:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: You know what, let’s make a challenge for thes

            I'm tending to find that anyone who mentions USENET in these discussions not only has no practical experience with what it takes to run a server, but has a very spotty and rose-coloured recollection of what they looked like once mainstream consumers wandered outside of their AOL bubble.

            Massive amount of spam, piracy and abusive content aside, the fact that every server admin chooses which newsgroups to provide sort of torpedoes his arguments about user-side control straight away.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 10:44am

    Already Exists

    Try to make a social media company that isn’t upheld by section 230 but it’s main use is user-generated content.

    Better check out the Cubby v. Compuserve decision from 1991.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:01am

      Re: Already Exists

      Then Prodigy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 3 Feb 2021 @ 1:09pm

      Re: Already Exists

      If you mention Cubby vs Compuserve, why don't you also mention Prodigy vs Stratton Oakmont?

      Did you somehow think we would fail to see how disingenuous it is just mentioning one of the cases leading up to the creation of section 230?

      You talk about bias and "bad faith moderation", but you can't stop yourself from putting on display your own extreme bad faith and dishonesty. If you want others held to a higher standard, you better display the same or better, anything else makes you a hypocrite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re: Already Exists

        but you didnt give the silly part of those 2 cases.
        one got in trouble for censoring
        Other got in trouble for NOT censoring.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 3 Feb 2021 @ 3:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Already Exists

          You're right, the cases set up a catch-22 and section 230 resolved it. Perhaps I should have elaborated on why it is important to refer to the cases together for those who doesn't know the background of section 230. Koby certainly knows, he's just arguing in bad faith.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Already Exists

      Hi little Koby,

      Could you show us here on the doll, where did Section 230 touch you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 10:57am

    It would be an interesting experiment if, for example, Twitter ran for 1 week as though s230 did not exist.

    Unfortunately, they would lose a lot of customers and it would take months to clear up the chaos afterwards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 5:44pm

      Re:

      That "experiment" is ongoing in every country other than the US. Twitter is still up in Australia.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 6:11pm

        Re: Re:

        How many of those other countries have legal rulings on the books stating that engaging in moderation makes a platform liable for anything that you leave up?

        There's no need for a country to have a 230 equivalent if they don't have to deal with an idiotic law/ruling that makes it necessary.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Feb 2021 @ 1:25am

        Re: Re:

        "That "experiment" is ongoing in every country other than the US"

        Yes, as mentioned to you every time, it's because the US is unique in section 230 being required. Other countries don't let you sue innocent bystanders as a matter of course.

        It's interesting how you ignore when you're corrected with inconvenient facts. Tiresome, but your deliberate ignorance to further a false narrative is interesting.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:13pm

      Re:

      AC..
      Got a better idea.
      Lets ask Congress to HOST an important bill on the net, 1 DAY, and we advert it.
      Just 1 day.

      Anyone remember when the Gov. had a couple NEW sites go up?
      AND THEY GOT SMASHED?? 1 million hits. Worse then being on HOLD with only 2 operators.

      DARE them to do it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:07am

    I'm not sure we need to acknowledge Joe Lieberman's existence at all at this point, but listing off some of the many things he was wrong about during his political career is often an enjoyable exercise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:46am

    Sure you want to pull that trigger?

    Of all the people who should really not be on board with punishing liars you'd think politicians and former politicians would be at the top of the list.

    Ignoring(like they are) the massive first amendment concerns if platforms can be sued when people lie on them then the number of platforms that are likely to want a politician on their platform is going to be really low, and that number's just going to get lower as the lawsuits roll in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 12:58pm

      Re: Sure you want to pull that trigger?

      Of all the people who should really not be on board with punishing liars you'd think politicians and former politicians would be at the top of the list.

      I'd put Joe Lieberman on the top of the list because because he was an extremely censorious senator going back to the Video Game hearings that eventually gave way to the ESRB (which was a great thing, mind you). Luckily, thanks to Brown v. E.M.A. (and the fact that Lieberman stepped down rather than face an unpopular electorate), we no longer have to deal with people like him anymore.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2021 @ 10:14am

      Re: Sure you want to pull that trigger?

      They are used to being priveledged hypocritical assholes who would scream like a stuck pig if the laws they helped write were applied straightforwardly against them. "I never meant for leopards to eat my face!"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 3 Feb 2021 @ 11:48am

    Lieberman revels in his stupidity. During the video game hearings, he famously said that the goal of the game Night Trap was to "trap and kill young women". When someone asked him if he had even played the game, he replied that he didn't need to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 12:02pm

      In the absolute tiniest sub-microscopic iota of fairness that I can give to Lieberman, the player can trap and (assumedly) kill the female protagonist, Kelly, at the end of a perfect run of Night Trap. But it is literally the only point in the game where the player can do that. And I doubt he could’ve known that (or that he knows it now).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 4 Feb 2021 @ 10:36am

        Re:

        I've seen a video of that, but I could never get that far myself.

        What at first seems like a cool idea quickly turns into a memorization test as you frantically switch between cameras, completely ignoring the video of the girls, while trying to catch enough enemies to continue playing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Feb 2021 @ 11:13pm

          Watching someone speedrunning Night Trap blindfolded makes clear that yes, memorizing the game is what makes beating it a far easier task. Then again, speedrunning in general is 98% memorization, 1% praying to the RNG gods, and 1% praying the hardware holds up.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rekrul, 9 Feb 2021 @ 12:40pm

            Re:

            For me, the whole appeal of the game is that you get to watch the activities inside the house in what seems like real time. It's a fairly convincing illusion, at least until you've played it enough times to have it memorized. However, if you watch the people (the girls or the family most of the time), you'll quickly lose because you miss catching the enemies.

            If you spend all your time catching the enemies, you miss everything else that's going on in the house.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 7:15pm

    Another thing: No fycking way in hell Joe Lieberman knows what some Islamic cleric is saying. No. Fucking. Way.

    He is merely believing what someone else claims he was saying. So, Joe's cognitive malfunction regardimg moderation certainly has more extensive roots than merely as regards to internet policing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 4 Feb 2021 @ 8:15am

    Has Lieberman ever been right?

    About anything? He's nothing but a perennial spoiler, a GOP lickspittle doing service to the Likud. And is son in Georgia has taken up the mantle of paid-spoiler for the GOP. Why anyone would give a rat's *** what this toad thinks is beyond belief.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2021 @ 12:06pm

    Let's try this experiment in government first

    I propose we make Joe Lieberman responsible for the actions of any of his constituents from this point forward. After all, why does he get to enjoy absolute immunity for the actions of those in his state!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 5 Feb 2021 @ 4:51am

      Re: Let's try this experiment in government first

      Joe Lieberman hasn't been a Senator since 2012, so he technically hasn't had a constituency since then.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2021 @ 10:21am

    The postal guy

    Sign my petition

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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