CNN Shutting Down Its Facebook In Australia Shows How Removing 230 Will Silence Speech
from the liability-is-too-great dept
It remains perplexing to me that so many people — especially among the Trumpist world — seem to believe that removing Section 230 will somehow make websites more likely to host their incendiary speech. We’ve explained before why the opposite is true — adding more liability for user speech means a lot fewer sites will allow user speech. But now we have a real world example to show this.
Last month, in a truly bizarre ruling, the Australian High Court said that news publishers should be liable for comments on social media on their own posts to those social media platforms. In other words, if a news organization published a story about, say, a politician, and then linked to that story on Facebook, if a random user defamed the politician in the comments on Facebook… then the original publisher could face liability for those comments.
It didn’t take long for Rupert Murdoch (who has been pushing to end Section 230 in the US) to start screaming about how he and other media publishers now need special intermediary protections in Australia. And he’s not wrong (even if he is hypocritical). But, even more interesting is that CNN has announced that it will no longer publish news to Facebook in Australia in response to this law:
CNN says it will no longer publish content to Facebook in Australia. The decision comes after the country’s highest court ruled that media companies are liable for comments people post under articles on the platform.
Of course, this is also amusing, because CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting, which is owned by WarnerMedia which (for the time being) is owned by AT&T… which has also been a recent critic of 230 (despite being protected by 230). Of course, in the process CNN made sure to try to blame Facebook for this decision:
After that ruling, CNN approached Facebook and asked if the tech firm would “support CNN and other publishers by disabling the comment functionality on their platform in Australia,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Facebook “chose not to do so.”
“We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users,” the CNN spokesperson said, adding that the media outlet will continue to publish on its own platforms in Australia.
Of course, this now raises a separate question. Remember, earlier this year, Australia passed its ridiculous (Murdoch designed) link tax, forcing Facebook to pay news organizations if they post news to Facebook.
But if, under this recent court ruling, it forces news orgs to stop posting their news to Facebook… does that mean Facebook no longer needs to pay them?
Either way, CNN’s decision to withdraw its content from Facebook in Australia is a perfect example of how increasing intermediary liability means less speech overall. Removing Section 230 wouldn’t lead to more speech online, it would lead to a lot less.