Facebook's Nick Clegg Makes It Clear: If You're Looking To Undermine Section 230, That's EXACTLY What Facebook Wants

from the look-at-that-briar-patch dept

Facebook policy dude/failed UK politician Nick Clegg has written an op-ed for USA Today confirming what has been obvious to everyone who understands Section 230, but (for reasons I don’t quite understand) seems obscured from basically every politician out there: >Facebook wants to destroy Section 230. And it’s practically giddy that politicians are so eager to grant it its wish, while pretending that doing so will somehow hurt Facebook.

It remains absolutely bizarre to me that many people still believe that getting rid of Section 230 (or even reforming it) is a way to “stop” or “hurt” Facebook. Section 230 is a protection for the users of the internet more than it is for the companies. By making it clear that companies are not liable for user speech, it makes more websites willing to host user speech, especially smaller ones which could easily be sued out of existence. Indeed, over the last couple of years, it’s become clear that Facebook desperately wants to kill Section 230 because it knows that it alone has enough money to handle the liability, and removing Section 230 will really only burden the startups that threaten to take users away from Facebook.

A year and a half ago, Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that he was cool with getting rid of Section 230. Earlier this year, he suggested a “reform proposal” that was effectively gutting 230 in extremely anti-competitive ways. And for months now, Facebook has blanketed DC (and elsewhere, but mostly DC) with commercials and ads that don’t say Section 230, but refer obliquely to “comprehensive internet regulations” passed in “1996.” That’s Section 230 that they’re talking about.

This is why it’s so ridiculous that the takeaway of some people to the Facebook whistleblower last week was that Section 230 needs to change. That’s exactly what Facebook wants, because it will cement Facebook’s dominant position and make it that much more difficult for competitors to emerge or succeed.

Here’s what Clegg had to say:

Much has been said about Facebook recently, but there’s one thing we agree on: Congress should pass new internet regulations.

We’ve been advocating for new rules for several years. For too long, many important issues have been left to private companies to decide.

Please regulate us! Facebook has stocked up on former politicians (like Clegg) and political operatives (like Joel Klein). It’s not at all worried about a new regulatory regime. It knows that it will run any new regulatory regime. Facebook is not scared of the government. What Facebook is so obviously afraid of is new competitors drawing away its user base. When looked through this lens, Facebook would love regulations. It knows it can control the process, while it would burden all the up and coming startups that are stripping away Facebook’s userbase.

We’ve argued for creating a new digital regulatory agency to navigate competing trade-offs in the digital space – much like the Federal Communications Commission oversees telecoms and media.

This is the key quote that proves that Facebook wants to do away with Section 230, though it may only be obvious to those who really know the history of Section 230. When Ron Wyden and Chris Cox wrote Section 230, it was explicitly done to prevent other politicians from creating a Federal Computer Commission to oversee internet companies. Here is what Chris Cox said during the floor debate over Section 230 as compared to alternative approaches, like that of Senator Exon (whose “Communications Decency Act” was later merged with Section 230, only to be thrown out as completely unconstitutional soon after):

Some have suggested, Mr. Chairman, that we take the Federal
Communications Commission and turn it into the Federal Computer
Commission, that we hire even more bureaucrats and more regulators who
will attempt, either civilly or criminally, to punish people by
catching them in the act of putting something into cyberspace.

Frankly, there is just too much going on on the Internet for that to
be effective. No matter how big the army of bureaucrats, it is not
going to protect my kids because I do not think the Federal Government
will get there in time. Certainly, criminal enforcement of our
obscenity laws as an adjunct is a useful way of punishing the truly
guilty.

Note that there was “just too much going on on the Internet” in 1995 when this was said. Section 230 was the alternative proposal so that the FCC or any new agency would not regulate the internet. And here’s Facebook saying that we need exactly that kind of agency? It’s asking for the effective repeal of Section 230.

The rest of Clegg’s article is just “please, sir, regulate us so we know what to do,” behind a smirk that is obviously knowing how that will lock in Facebook not just as the power behind the regulator, but as the only company who can still survive in the space.

It’s long past time for Congress to set clear and fair rules. That’s how we’ll make the internet safer, while also ensuring that creativity and competition continue to thrive online.

Translation: it’s long past time for Congress to make it so that Facebook is firmly established controlling the mechanisms of internet regulations, such that the competitors who are already eating away at our base of users cannot continue to compete.

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “Facebook's Nick Clegg Makes It Clear: If You're Looking To Undermine Section 230, That's EXACTLY What Facebook Wants”

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47 Comments
Samuel Abramsays:

Stupid or lying?

It’s difficult to tell if the politicians who don’t understand that repealing/"reforming" §230 are willfully ignorant or know what would happen but are lying through their teeth. I’m willing to bet that they’re so stubborn in their ideology that they don’t see the reality of what would happen around them. Such is the way of Washington, DC…

Kobysays:

Government Ally

Facebook, the tobacco product of the internet, may be looking back at history for guidance. Cigarette companies generally operated with a denial strategy, which prolonged the outcome, but ultimately ended up with the nicotine producers facing crippling regulations, massive fines, and a product in declining use.

Facebook may someday experience the same fate in court. But it might end differently if they could just tell the judge that they followed all the rules, and be able to say "we did everything the government asked".

R. E. Statedsays:

As always, MM mis-states opposing view.

It’s using the grant of immunity to extend arbitrary power that’s the problem with 230.

The claimed immunity and empowerment is "government-conferred" by mere statute. It does not over-arch and supplant all other law, especially not with a phrase UN-Constitutional on the surface: "whether or not such material is constitutionally protected".

N. Knocksays:

On your "First Amendment" line, Greenwald has fully rebutted:

(You don’t mention that here that I noticed, but it’s your fallback stating that corporations don’t need 230 to arbitrarily moderate, anyway, so I’ll bring up in case of unlikely new readers.)

https://theintercept.com/2020/10/15/facebook-and-twitter-cross-a-line-far-more-dangerous-than-what-they-censor/

That One Guysays:

Time to weaponize some spite

At this point I’m thinking that a good angle of attack would be to point out that anyone who hates Facebook should be vehemently against any 230 ‘reform’ since that’s exactly what the company wants, and that by continuing to push for it far from threatening Facebook they are instead dancing to it’s tune like good little puppets.

If you hate Facebook then you should love 230 and do everything you can to keep it in it’s current state because if you think Facebook is bad now wait until they have effectively zero competition thanks to 230’s removal.

Bloofsays:

While in coalition government in the UK, Nick Clegg’s political party, under his leadership, agreed to throw millions of the poor under the bus by rubberstamping cruel benefit sanctions (that were fortunately ruled illegal) in exchange for a 5p tax on carrier bags, then crowed about it for years like it was some great legislative achievement. The man is utterly tonedeaf, even for a centrist politician, and is more than happy to enable the worst of humanity if he thinks it will benefit him.

Nobody should have any faith in section 230 being reformed for the better in this system, there are too many people in too many pockets for that.

Anonymoussays:

With facebook having to admit 70% of its "users" are accounts that haven’t been logged into or updated in YEARS, I’m surprised anyone uses them at all.

Its just a huge graveyard of more dead accounts than live.

No-one under 20 wants to use "Grandma’s social media".

But facebook keeps lying and fudging its userbase numbers to delay the inevitable friendster/my space collapse.

Thadsays:

Re: Stupid or lying?

It’s difficult to tell if the politicians who don’t understand that repealing/"reforming" §230 are willfully ignorant or know what would happen but are lying through their teeth.

That may be because "politicians" is a plural. That means there is more than one of them.

Often, different people in a group have different knowledge, beliefs, and motivations. That can make it difficult to broadly ascribe a single reductive explanation to why every single person in a group is trying to do a particular thing.

sumgaisays:

Re: Stupid or lying?

It’s difficult to tell if the politicians who don’t understand that repealing/"reforming" §230 are willfully ignorant or know what would happen but are lying through their teeth.

Neither. It’s all about pwning the libs, end of story. The more upset we sound about it, the more they want to prod us with a sharp stick. Fun times for them, until the shit hits the fan.

First person to NOT be taken down – #45.
First person to realize that he’s not getting any response because there’s no one present in the room – #45
First person to threaten a lawsuit because "the platform doesn’t allow anyone else in here to listen to me – #45.
Last person to get a clue that maybe dumping S230 wasn’t such a good idea after all – you guessed, #45.

sumgaisays:

Re: Re: Government Ally

Facebook has armies of lawyers who can fend off liability.

Let’s look at this under light of MONEY.

Those "pesky" liability lawsuits will eventually gets to be rather expensive. Most likely they’ll start with confidential settlements, but someone will blab (perhaps anonymously), and the Gold Rush is on.

Sooner or later, advertisers are going to realize that some of their money isn’t going to pay for eyeballs, it’s instead going for settlements and direct lawsuit expenses. (After all, lawyers need that second yacht to store at their condo in the Bahamas, don’t you know.) Not long after that, there will be some back room meetings, well out of the public eye, and there’ll be a sea change of no small proportions.

That’s my bet anyways. Any takers?

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re:

Not plausible. In the beginning what he always came out swinging for was for a certain kind of people. The type who are miffed they can’t proudly show off the white sheets they wore and the banner they marched through Charlottesville under, because social media tends to ban blatantly open expression of bigotry and racism.

He certainly comes off as a classical shill – drops a few outrageously false premises then walks off. Rinse repeat on every thread thereafter. Do it for long enough and a less discerning crowd will have adopted the false premises as a natural part of the actual debate. A bit like the religious and the nazis have kept pushing the "both sides" argument despite the fact that in a democratic and/or fact-based debate they don’t have a side at all, just a condemnation of fact and democracy.

N. Knocksays:

Re: MM CANNOT even get in his mind that Facebook is TOO BIG.

MM NEVER argues in favor of individuals, only states that we’re best off by leaving corporations free to "serve" us. — Often, MM states that gov’t is actually to HELP corporations: his favored economic system is literally fascist.

So MM can NEVER see the obvious solution: BREAK UP FACEBOOK and any other corporations simply for being TOO BIG.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

You could argue that Facebook is too big and there’d be strong support for it. The funny thing is, that’s not what your team was boasting about a year ago – your argument was that people you agreed with weren’t being represented enough. Your demands would literally have done the opposite of making Facebook smaller.

It’s funny how you guys seriously don’t think your plans through.

Anonymoussays:

Re: On your "First Amendment" line, Greenwald has full

That actions by gigantic corporations are constitutional does not mean that they are benign.

Greenwald points out the DEAL aspects: that gov’t gives immensely valuable unprecedented immunity but We The People don’t get the expected Common Law / Brandenburg standards for our publishing, are subject to corporate self-interested politics.

James Burkhardtsays:

Re: Re: Re: Government Ally

Your argument is that Facebook is encouraging 230 repeal to avoid the expensive litigation big tobacco faced for knowingly selling toxic products and lying to the government about it. Its a position so tenuously connected to the subject at hand its hard to follow the logic.

Presumably, Sam figured you were suggesting that the legal liability wouldn’t be so significant, as it was not for big tobacco. Sam pointed out that the legal liability question is a concern for businesses that are small, not an industry referred to as "Big Tobacco". But this comparison proves the point.

The repeal of section 230 would invite massive litigation as new liability is introduced. Facebook is part of "big Tech". Like "Big Tobacco", even if found liable after 30 years of litigation, Facebook survives. The issue is that the competition won’t.

Anonymoussays:

Re: As always, MM mis-states opposing view.

It does not over-arch and supplant all other law, especially not with a phrase UN-Constitutional on the surface: "whether or not such material is constitutionally protected".

Interesting way you have, there, of saying "whether or not such material is constitutionally protected" is "un-Constitutional", implying that it is against the constitution. … yet leaving you room to argue ‘oh, I meant that "other laws can affect [that material]" ‘.

There are plenty of (federal) laws that oppose or supplant state laws. Thank you, though, for recognizing that 230 is one among those.

Thank you also for reading 230, and seeing that it explicitly states that it has no effect upon criminal law, upon intellectual property law, or (somewhat redundantly) upon sex trafficking law.

Instead, like a number of other laws, Section 230 extends free speech rights, by enshrining in law that services that extend the reach of one’s speech are not themselves liable for the content of said speech.

So… um… what problem is it you see with 230, again? That it is not part of the US constitution and you would like it to be?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: MM CANNOT even get in his mind that Facebook is TOO

WHAT is there, a new LENGTH LIMIT?

Nope. Just a bile and vitriol limit.

It’s too bad that you’ve so abused us that we could practically recite your screeds in unison with you. If you posted something novel every now and then, you might not get taken down so often or so fast.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

it remain the most effective means for both organizing Rocky horror casts (Via Groups) and promoting the show to locals (both through word of mouth and paid promotion of the event)

Insta is gaining in promotional effectiveness, but that’s more facebook. The only other space is tik tok and i don’t think we’ve seen great response from marketing there. Last i heard we think fewer locals see the key word of mouth posts.

In the end, we have to see less engagement on facebook platforms before promotion is out.

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