'But Without 230 Reform, Websites Have No Incentive To Change!' They Scream Into The Void As Every Large Company Pulls Ads From Facebook

from the oh,-look-at-that dept

One of the most frustrating lines that we hear from people criticizing internet website content moderation is the idea that thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites have no incentive to do any moderation. This is a myth that I consider to be the flip side of the claims by aggrieved conservatives insisting that Section 230 requires "no bias" in moderation decisions. The "no incentive" people are (often lawyers) complaining about too little moderation. For reasons I cannot comprehend, they seem to think that the only motivation for doing anything is if the law requires you to do it. We've tried to debunk this notion multiple times, and yet it comes up again and again. Just a couple weeks ago in a panel about Section 230, a former top Hollywood lobbyist trotted it out.

I've been thinking about that line a bunch over the past few days as a huge number of large companies began pulling ads from Facebook as part of a "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign put together by a bunch of non-profits.

Over 200 companies have said they've joined the campaign and pulled their Facebook ads, including some big names, like Unilever, Verizon, Hershey, The North Face, Clorox, Starbucks, Reebok, Pfizer, Microsoft, Levi's, HP, Honda, Ford, Coca Cola and many, many more. Now, the cynical take on this is that with the current economic conditions and a global pandemic, many were looking to pull back on advertising anyway, and joining this campaign was a way to do so and get a bit of an earned media boost at the same time.

But many of the companies are putting out statements demanding that Facebook change its practices before they'll bring back ads. Here's an open letter from Levi's:

As we near the U.S. election in November and double down on our own efforts to expand voter education and turnout, we are asking Facebook to commit to decisive change. Specifically, we want to see meaningful progress towards ending the amplification of misinformation and hate speech and better addressing of political advertisements and content that contributes to voter suppression. While we appreciate that Facebook announced some steps in this direction today – it’s simply not enough.

That’s why we are joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign, pausing all paid Facebook and Instagram advertising globally and across all our brands to “hit pause on hate.” We will suspend advertising at least through the end of July. When we re-engage will depend on Facebook’s response.

I'm not convinced this campaign is necessarily a good idea, but at the very least it should put an end to people -- especially prominent experts -- claiming that there is "no incentive" for sites to do a better job with their content moderation practices. There are always non-legal incentives, including keeping users happy -- and also keeping advertisers happy.

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Filed Under: advertising, incentives, section 230, stop hate for profit
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2020 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Seems like you're confusing the right to speak with the right to be heard.

    It sounds to me like he thinks it isn't free speech if a corporation doesn't pay for it.

    Demonetization is not at all, in any form or fashion, a threat to free speech. It is merely a threat to commercial paid speech, which is nobody's right. If you have trouble making the distinction, try to imagine John Hancock whining that the East India Tea Company wasn't willing to pay for a print run of the Declaration of Independence. That was paid for by the authors--paid for by their own lives and fortunes. And it was free.

    Anyone who isn't willing to speak freely in that way, isn't concerned about their free speech, they're just concerned about their business model.

    Which brings anothere issue into clearer focus for me. The OTHER SIDE in the Google and Comcast wars are deliberately exploiting this confusion. Somehow Comcast has BECOME a "speaker" by transmitting whatever Internet packets I request to be sent or not sent, and therefore they can decide whether to send or not send them (based on how much money they can charge), and THEY can break into MY conversation with some third party to insert paid-for advertising speech.

    But at the same time, Google has become a "publisher" and has to host whatever I want on their own servers, and make it visible to whomever I want, and make whomever I choose pay for it.

    It's like, in the real world, swapping the laws so that the Telecommunications Act applies to the New York Times, and the libel laws apply to the phone company.


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