'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 @ 2:57pm

    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.

    This is the same thinking style as, "You can't think or behave ethically without having a religious belief system / authoritarian laws." I don't know that this thinking can change readily without a literal conversion experience.

    I'm not convinced this campaign is necessarily a good idea

    It is certainly bullshit. It might have a good effect, maybe for a while, and possibly in both directions? But yeah. Hell, they should pull support from each other while they are at it, considering the awful behavior and outright crimes of each and every one of them.

    There are always non-legal incentives

    Including internal ethics, as long as they don't interfere with the psychopathic profit-seeking nature of corporations. They do have these. Like with the whole unnecessary bs CSAM fake laws show. Most of these companies show more interest and do a better job than law enforcement and society in general in addressing the problem.


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