Once Again, Section 230's Authors Feel The Need To Tell Everyone That Section 230 Is Not The Evil You Think It Is

from the listen-to-them-please dept

For not the first time this year, Section 230's authors -- Ron Wyden and Chris Cox -- have felt the need to speak up and debunk some of the many, many myths around Section 230. Their team-up in a filing to the FCC remains one of the most thorough and comprehensive debunkings of 230 myths out there that it should be required reading for anyone criticizing the law. But apparently no one actually reads FCC filings, so they've now taken to the pages of USA Today (which recently ran a nearly fact free attack on 230) to explain once again why Section 230 is so important to the open internet.

The op-ed starts by talking about the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, about the sketchy fraudulent practices of Jordan Belfort and his company Stratton Oakmont. As 230 fanatics know, that company, Stratton Oakmont, is a huge part of the reason why Section 230 exists. People on stock discussion forums on early internet service Prodigy had criticized the Belfort's company, and rather than go after whoever posted the criticism, Stratton Oakmont sued Prodigy itself. And, incredibly, a judge had initially sided with Stratton Oakmont because Prodigy moderated its forums and pitched itself as a "family friendly" internet service.

Prodigy argued it should not be responsible for the content its users create. It had no way of knowing whether Stratton Oakmont was a fraud or not and had never expressed an opinion on the subject. But a New York court held in favor of the real-life Wolf of Wall Street, exposing Prodigy to enormous liability.

The court specifically cited Prodigy’s efforts at content moderation, aimed at prohibiting online harassment, as the reason for treating it differently than online platforms where “anything goes.” If Prodigy had not attempted to stifle swearing, bullying and “grossly repugnant” content, the court stated, it would not have been liable for damages. 

That ruling is what drew the attention of Cox and Wyden, who realized that if the law worked that way, we'd never have an open internet at all. Sites would be afraid to do any moderation at all -- and then you'd just have garbage, spam, abuse, harassment, porn across the internet.

The alarming message of this case was clear: in the future, online platforms shouldn’t attempt to moderate even the most awful content. Doing so would make them legally responsible for everything their users post.

And that's when Cox and Wyden went to work:

The result of that collective, year-long effort was Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law overturned the result in the Wolf of Wall Street case, by protecting “good Samaritans” who attempt to keep cyberspace safe for all.

So now, Wyden and Cox are not at all happy with the way people continually portray Section 230 in a manner that is completely disconnected from reality. And their number one target... is the President of the United States:

Fast forward to 2020. President Trump has promised to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, even though it passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, in order to draw attention to his concerns with social media platforms that have flagged his content. As a condition for signing the bill, he has called for the complete repeal of Section 230.

But repealing the law entirely would return us to the legal no-man’s land that necessitated Section 230 in the first place. It can’t be that every one of the over 200 million websites available to Americans — all of them governed by Section 230 — will have to either stop publishing their user’s contributions, or let “anything go” — no matter how gross or illegal. The whistleblowers of today would be shut out from sites like Yelp, Glassdoor, TripAdvisor, or any investment message board, all of whom depend on Section 230 to host user reviews and content.

Cox and Wyden point out that Congress has been looking at a bunch of different proposals to reform Section 230, but as they dig into each reform proposal, they notice that there are significant challenges, and each reform that aims to fix one problem, likely creates other problems. But repealing the law entirely, would be a total and complete disaster.

For months, Congress has been sifting through proposals to fine-tune Section 230 for today’s internet and today’s unique challenges. This is by far the wiser course. But it is a difficult business, because for every problem solved there is a new one created.

Example: if platforms are made responsible for everything millions of users post on their sites, they will have to read it all first. This would mark the end of the internet as a forum for real time communication.

It would also force every website hosting user content to create round-the-clock legal and editorial review teams staffed with hundreds or thousands of people to continually monitor every message, video, photo, and blog. Alternatively, websites would face exorbitant legal damages at every turn. That is not realistic.

More realistic is that the many online avenues that ordinary citizens currently use to express themselves would be closed. Hosting user-created content will be too costly and risky. It is difficult to imagine a scenario more chilling of individual speech and the public's right to know.

As they conclude their piece, people agitating for the reform or repeal of Section 230 should "be careful what we wish for" because... "sometimes, those complaining about online speech are doing worse than crying wolf."

This won't stop the disingenuous lying about Section 230, but hopefully it helps to better inform the few people who are first being introduced to the debate by those disingenuous arguments.

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Filed Under: chris cox, free speech, ron wyden, section 230, speech


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 9:38am

    '... why was that a bad thing?'

    The alarming message of this case was clear: in the future, online platforms shouldn’t attempt to moderate even the most awful content. Doing so would make them legally responsible for everything their users post.

    Unfortunately there seems to be a whole slew of people for whom this is considered a problem given it results in them and/or their buddies being moderated right off platforms, hence the push to kill or otherwise cripple the law.

    'Kill 230 and sites will be flooded with crap, assuming they allow posting at all' may sound like a warning for some but for others that's the entire point and desired end goal, and for those who mistakenly believe that it's 230 that allows crap to be posted because sites are free to moderate as they see fit they are really not going to be happy should moderation suddenly result in liability and even flawed moderation goes out the window.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 9:49am

      Re: '... why was that a bad thing?'

      They also don't realize that without §230, Parler, 4Chan, 8kun, and Gab wouldn't be able to moderate their sites either. Devin Nunes' Cow was kicked off Parler for not doing something illegal, but had the Cow (or rather, the human pretending to be the Cow) been as petty as Devin Nunes himself and sued Parler, §230 would have protected Parler.

      I wish conservatives who are anti-230 would see that.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 9:55am

        Or both, both might be the right answer

        I'm not sure if it's shortsightedness or petty spite that blinds them to that, whether they simply don't realize that 230 protects their platforms as well of if they've thought of it and consider it a worthwhile trade to deal with a comparatively small amount of lawsuits if the sites that keep giving them the boot are faced with no longer being able to or being constantly sued for doing so.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:33am

          Re: Or both, both might be the right answer

          Sadly, i doubt they'll see it.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:04am

            Re: Re: Or both, both might be the right answer

            Not until it's too late anyway and the lawsuits are already flying, though even then I'm sure they'll clutch their persecution complex even tighter and without even seeing the hypocrisy whine about how the snowflakes can't handle their moderation efforts and are trying to punish them for merely trying to keep their platforms clear of trolls and assholes.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 12:47pm

              Re: Re: Re: Or both, both might be the right answer

              And continue until they destroy the internet.
              Then they'll wonder what went wrong.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:34am

    chilling of individual speech and the public's right to know.

    That's the real goal, right there.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:41am

    WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

    The bulk and main focus of CDA was CLEARLY just cover for corporation-enabling unprecedented immunity.

    At best, Wyden and Cox are politicians! They were bought -- probably very cheaply, perhaps by only the fine-sounding lies that they repeat -- and are still despite evidence casting S230 good for The Public.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:41am

      Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTIONAL

      MOST of what Wyden and Cox wrote was UNCONSTITUTIONAL! WHY trust their intentions on the rest? -- Or even their competence, as clearly corporations are going for total control of The Public's speech.

      WHY indeed do they renew claims if obviously good resulted?

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

      • icon
        Cdaragorn (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTI

        I know feeding trolls is bad, but this is just hilarious.
        Wyden and Cox had nothing to do with the rest of the CDA. You either know that or you just don't care to look and are jumping into a fun assumption because it plays well to your liking. Neither of those choices look good for you.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 12:56pm

          Brainy Smurf there will never admit to being wrong because he’s the smartest, the cleverest, the wittiest…

          …and if you know how the rest of that gag goes, you now know why I call him “Brainy”.

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTI

        MOST of what Wyden and Cox wrote was UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

        §230 was the only part of the CDA that Wyden and Cox wrote, and none of what they wrote was deemed unconstitutional.

        clearly corporations are going for total control of The Public's speech.

        No, only basic control of their own platforms. You’ve been told this multiple times and have yet to offer evidence to the contrary.

        WHY indeed do they renew claims if obviously good resulted?

        No one said it was obvious to everyone. Some people don’t understand the law, some people don’t understand the technology, some people don’t know the history, and some people lie to those who don’t understand.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:11pm

      Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTIONAL

      The rest of the CDA was completely separate from §230. That which made most of the CDA unconstitutional is not present at all in §230. Furthermore, the two were made completely severable and unconnected.

      The bulk and main focus of CDA was CLEARLY just cover for corporation-enabling unprecedented immunity.

      No, it was not unprecedented. It’s the same immunity found for bookstores, libraries, and physical publishers. It also helps Individuals as much if not more than it helps corporations. If anything, removing that immunity would prevent smaller websites run by individuals completely incapable of hosting user content, while large corporations could just absorb the cost.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:16pm

        Re: Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTI

        while large corporations could just absorb the cost.

        For a while until the trolls reduced their users and income below sustainable levels.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 8:31pm

      Re: WHERE'S rest of Communications Decency Act? UNCONSTITUTIONAL

      The bulk and main focus of CDA was CLEARLY just cover for corporation-enabling unprecedented immunity.

      [Asserts facts not in evidence]

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:42am

    Corporation have a fallback "freedom of association",

    or as Maz puts it more directly, "First Amendment rights", by which are empowered (in his view) to "deny service to anyone"...

    SO if corporations intend to censor -- as anyone reasonable must admit is an alarming possibility -- then censor they will.

    WHAT protection do we have to ensure are ANY Neutral Public Forums? -- Maz says to hell with "Neutral", mere hosts can enforce their bias for even political ends.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:38pm

      Re: Corporation have a fallback "freedom of association",

      SO if corporations intend to censor -- as anyone reasonable must admit is an alarming possibility -- then censor they will.

      No, they don’t have the power to censor. Censor means that you can’t say it anywhere at all or the government punishes you for saying it. Just because Twitter stops you from saying it on their platform doesn’t keep you from saying it anywhere else. They have the power to moderate their own platforms, and that’s it.

      WHAT protection do we have to ensure are ANY Neutral Public Forums?

      There is none, and it’d be unconstitutional to force a corporation to do such a thing.

      Keep in mind that “neutrality” cannot be enforced by the government on private individuals or private organizations/corporations, and neither Facebook nor Twitter are or claim to be public fora at all nor neutral. “Neutral” is so subjective that it’d be impractical for any website to be considered neutral by everyone, anyways.

      What is true is that neutral fora open to the public could not exist without §230.

      mere hosts can enforce their bias for even political ends.

      Because that’s what common law says, and it’d be impractical to allow any hosts to host a variety of speech without that. Also, you can just set up your own website that hosts the stuff that Facebook and Twitter won’t. Again, that you don’t like this reality doesn’t change it.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:44am

    IF Section 230 is intended to enable everyone to Publish...

    ...as wish -- and bear the liability for it themselves -- then WHY allow corporations to control all speech on "platforms" AND give them immunity too?

    What does The Public get from mere web-site hosting corporation immunized for what The Public publishes? -- Maz says we get NOTHING.

    Don't trust that corporations are acting "in good faith"! They've been granted unprecedented POWER and are gathering MORE! -- With NO obvious way for gov't to limit it!

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

    • identicon
      Reviewer 2, 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:05am

      Re: IF Section 230 is intended to enable everyone to Publish...

      Are you OK?

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:58pm

      Re: IF Section 230 is intended to enable everyone to Publish...

      ...as wish -- and bear the liability for it themselves -- then WHY allow corporations to control all speech on "platforms" AND give them immunity too?

      Because they’re their platforms. Moderating speech on their platform shouldn’t make them liable for what they fail to remove. We don’t do that for bookstores, so why do it for websites? Again, that’s basic 1A rights and private property rights.

      What does The Public get from mere web-site hosting corporation immunized for what The Public publishes? -- Maz says we get NOTHING.

      Now you’re straight up lying. Masnick has never said that; on the contrary. The immunization frees corporations and individuals from legal disincentives to host the public’s speech, thus allowing sites that host even controversial speech to exist without worrying about legal costs and such, which is good for the public because it gives them the ability to speak online.

      It also gives hosts/moderators the ability to moderate freely to remove objectionable content, thus allowing people to choose sites that moderate the way they want. For example, removing spam, bad language, lies, innuendo, porn, and/or commercial speech. Again, since not all people agree on what is too objectionable for them, it’s best to let the public decide by allowing them options. Some people might want a family-friendly forum. Some might want a safe space to discuss racial, sexual, or gender-related issues. Some might prefer a platform that removes what they consider to be false or misleading information. Some might prefer a more open platform. §230 allows those options to exist. This is beneficial to the public by opening the internet to more people without forcing them to see things that they consider offensive.

      Whether or not you consider them to be beneficial to you or too empowering to corporations doesn’t change the facts.

      They've been granted unprecedented POWER and are gathering MORE! -- With NO obvious way for gov't to limit it!

      There never have been ways for the government to limit such things. The Constitution prevents that. Plus, there’s nothing unprecedented about a host and moderator having full control over their own platforms or not being liable for hosting content that they had no part in creating or developing. Again, look at bookstores and libraries. They are not liable for the content of the books they sell/lend, but they can still moderate their shelves freely (except public libraries, which have more limits on what they can refuse to lend out).

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:47am

    Msnick denies it's "evil" even before accused!

    That's a Freudian slip. Period.

    So what's in Masnick's mind that could be regared as "evil"? -- IF gov't did as Masnick wishes corporations to do, it's PRIOR RESTRAINT.

    The Public had better consider whether corporatists -- including these leftist politicians -- lie about their true purposes for Section 23O and the "freedom of association".

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Death Spiral Of Public Life, 23 Dec 2020 @ 10:49am

      Re: Msnick denies it's "evil" even before accused!

      Had to remove the "a" from name in subject line! So that's still in place. -- Small instance of the hidden control possible even on this putatively "free speech" site.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 3:09pm

      Re: Msnick denies it's "evil" even before accused!

      Actually, you’ve been calling it evil for quite some time. So has the President and a number of politicians. They’re denying something that’s been said quite a bit. Nothing Freudian about this denial.

      IF gov't did as Masnick wishes corporations to do, it's PRIOR RESTRAINT.

      Yes, because the government is restricted by this little thing called the 1A. Corporations, like any private individuals, are not.

      The Public had better consider whether corporatists -- including these leftist politicians -- lie about their true purposes for Section 23O and the "freedom of association".

      Well, the freedom of association is a constitutional right we’ve had for a long time, and it’s pretty fundamental. What purpose so-called “corporatists” have for it is immaterial and doesn’t change that law at all.

      As for §230, you have not proven that the stated purpose of that law is a lie, nor have you given anyone any reason to believe it might be. Furthermore, the stated purpose is sufficient to justify the law and is both sufficiently well-reasoned and based on true facts that any ulterior motive(s) you believe might exist are outweighed by the benefits the law provides. Basically, even if they are lying about their true motives, the stated motives are still accurate as justifications. But really, you haven’t given any reason to question it in the first place.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 3:35pm

      Re: Msnick denies it's "evil" even before accused!

      corporatists -- including these leftist politicians

      A few things:

      1. "Corporatists" and "leftists" are usually at odds with each other. Leftists are usually Marxists, Socialists, Anarchists, and Communists, a.k.a. the opposite of Corporatists. It's like saying "Liberal Fascism" (which Jonah Goldberg did, to be fair); it's only used by people who know nothing of what they are talking.

      2. If by "leftist politicians" you include Chris Cox, to be fair, he did step up law enforcement on Wall street in 2008, even before the Crash. But I thought Law and Order and pro-Capitalism was a right-wing thing…

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

  • icon
    tom a sparks (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:13am

    get lost troll, setup your own website where you can post and wine about Masnick and/or Techdirt

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Dara Licked, 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:26am

    So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

    ALL that you and these politicians have is assertions.

    You should have a list of bullet points.

    Because you really to buttress the reasons for UNPRECEDENTED immunity that's been granted to corporations, not least to show WHY and HOW it's good for The Public.

    In practice, corporations are simply using that and every other -- granted, they're entirely artificial, mere legal fictions -- power against The Public. They're already stifling opponents, and will not stop, only gain more power as go. Maz views that stifling as good, he does not want Neutral Public Forums.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Dara Licked, 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:30am

      Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

      Screen name because you're derelict in your duty, Maz, get it?

      Just show me where you state that The Public, hundreds of millions people at least, has ANY right to be on the new "platforms". -- You only hold the alleged -- at best granted -- "rights" of a few large corporations.

      You're not for The Public more than veneer cover. EVERY one of your pieces gets down to bottom line of absolute corporate power to control all speech on the new "platforms".

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 12:53pm

        Section 230 makes it possible for the owners of Mastodon instances, small niche forums, and other “non-corporate” spaces for speech (e.g., 8kun) to moderate those sites as they see fit. Yes or now: Should they lose that right because you want to take it away from corporations?

        Also, how do you feel about corporations using copyright to censor legally protected speech?

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 3:36pm

        Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

        Just show me where you state that The Public, hundreds of millions people at least, has ANY right to be on the new "platforms".

        They don’t. That has never been claimed. Same goes for the old platforms. There is no legal right to a specific platform, and there never has been.

        Well, the government can’t force you off a platform, but the point is that they can’t force a platform to allow you, either. That said, §230 makes it easier for platforms to allow people on without prior vetting or anything by removing disincentives.

        So what?

        You only hold the alleged -- at best granted -- "rights" of a few large corporations.

        Every right is “granted”. That doesn’t change anything. The fact is that corporations have those rights, and to remove them would require massive changes in the law that would have undesired side-effects. Furthermore, with only a few exceptions inapplicable here, “rights” only restrict the government, not private individuals or corporations. Also, the rights in question here are not just for a few large corporations; they apply to small corporations, NGOs, and private individuals, too. That we hold that they also apply equally to large corporations is just being consistent. The law simply doesn’t distinguish between them when it comes to legal rights.

        EVERY one of your pieces gets down to bottom line of absolute corporate power to control all speech on the new "platforms".

        Nope. Each corporation only controls the platform(s) that they themself owns. New or old platform, it’s all the same. The same goes for private individuals who host platforms. Again, there is no distinction here between new and old platforms or private corporations and private individuals. Plus, it’s a constitutional right. Being for or against it doesn’t really matter unless you want to amend the Constitution.

        Furthermore, you clearly only read the §230 pieces. Try reading the stuff on telecom and copyright. They take a far more anti-corporatist stance there.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 12:03pm

      Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

      If you turn the whole Internet into 8kun, then only 8kun users will be left using the Internet, and other social media platforms will shut up shop when the user base shrinks below the level they need to remain in business.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 3:16pm

      Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

      You should have a list of bullet points.
      Because you really to buttress the reasons for UNPRECEDENTED immunity that's been granted to corporations, not least to show WHY and HOW it's good for The Public.

      We’ve already told you time and again. We’ve explained repeatedly why and how it’s good for the public, we’ve explained over and over that there’s nothing unprecedented about the immunity, and we’ve explained that the immunity is not just for corporations but also private individuals.

      In practice, corporations are simply using that and every other -- granted, they're entirely artificial, mere legal fictions -- power against The Public. They're already stifling opponents, and will not stop, only gain more power as go.

      [citation needed]

      Maz views that stifling as good, he does not want Neutral Public Forums.

      No, neutral public fora are impossible and not always desirable, and it’s unconstitutional for the government to force a private company to host one. Recognizing these facts is not the same as being against neutral public fora.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 4:42pm

        Re: Re:

        They're already stifling opponents, and will not stop, only gain more power as go.

        He's not wrong about this, mind you.

        blue will simply never point it out when it's the RIAA and MPAA doing the stifling.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Dec 2020 @ 6:58pm

        Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

        Repealing Section 230 is not unconstitutional at all. Most countries don't have it.

        You can "explain" your point of view a million times, no one elected you arbiter of truth.

        Take the example of a judgment-proof or terminally ill person with an axe to grind who accused Masnick of being an arsonist (not that anyone should do this, it's just an example), or accused someone he cared about of doing something horrible (not that they should do that either). You can bet his position on Section 230 would change overnight, as he'd know that the poison would spread globally, and his protests would only cause those uninformed masses he's always writing about to believe the lies even more.

        Search engines spread libel which is why every country BUT the US has no Section 230 and does fine with it. A few reputations of innocent people is not acceptable loss for the greater good of the internet. Without Section 230 there never would have been revenge porn.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Dec 2020 @ 12:57pm

          not that anyone should do this

          Well aren’t you just the nicest stochastic terrorist.

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

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 26 Dec 2020 @ 1:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifyi

          Repealing Section 230 is not unconstitutional at all. Most countries don't have it.

          Most countries also don’t place such a heavy emphasis on free speech. I’m not saying that repealing §230 is unconstitutional, per se. I’m saying that it’d be unconstitutional to regulate platforms based on their moderation decisions. It’s also unconstitutional to hold platforms responsible for speech they had no role in creating or developing.

          Seriously, pointing out that other countries don’t have this or that law, or anything else about countries other than the US, has literally nothing to do with what is or isn’t constitutional in the US. Other countries don’t enter into it. Only the US Constitution, as interpreted by the US Supreme Court, has the final say over what is or isn’t constitutional in the US. Plus, it’s long been established that freedom of speech in the US is much broader than in other countries. Whether that’s good or bad or neutral is irrelevant.

          Also, while repealing §230 entirely may not be unconstitutional, making its protections conditioned upon being a neutral platform is. Which is what we were discussing. (More on that later.)

          Take the example of a judgment-proof or terminally ill person with an axe to grind who accused Masnick of being an arsonist (not that anyone should do this, it's just an example), or accused someone he cared about of doing something horrible (not that they should do that either). You can bet his position on Section 230 would change overnight, as he'd know that the poison would spread globally, and his protests would only cause those uninformed masses he's always writing about to believe the lies even more.

          Nope. The Constitution doesn’t care. Only the person who wrote the defamatory content is responsible for its defamatory nature. Period. That’s according to the Supreme Court, BTW.

          And again, whether or not you think it’s good policy is irrelevant. That doesn’t really change the fact that platforms are protected this way by the Constitution.

          And as for Mike specifically, it should be noted that he thinks that defamation law should only be a last resort and, even then, is often too counterproductive to be a good idea even when directed against the right target. Plus, your stated example is highly improbable to happen at all, let alone to Mike specifically. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’d realize that suing over the false speech would only cause it to spread even further thanks to the Streisand Effect, making it even less likely he’d change his mind in your scenario.

          Search engines spread libel which is why every country BUT the US has no Section 230 and does fine with it. A few reputations of innocent people is not acceptable loss for the greater good of the internet.

          Again, we value free speech over the reputations of a few innocent people. That’s why defamation has such a high bar here. And again, §230 isn’t your only problem here; it’s also the 1A and basic jurisdiction issues. And, like I’ve said already, what happens in other countries has no bearing on whether it’s constitutional in the US.

          Also, other countries don’t have such large search engines as Google or Bing or such large social media platforms as Facebook or Twitter. That’s because §230, the 1A, and the SPEECH Act protect online platforms from liability for third-party content and have more freedom to moderate or not as they wish here more than in any other country or under any other country’s laws. The SPEECH Act prevents international forum shopping, too.

          Look, under the 1A, US laws at any level cannot recognize a separate harm for simply being the medium by which defamatory content gets found or posted. §230 doesn’t even matter that much there; it just shortcuts the process.

          Without Section 230 there never would have been revenge porn.

          Again, the problem there isn’t §230. In fact, the problem that every revenge-porn law in the US has run into has never been §230 but the 1A. They’ve pretty much all been declared unconstitutional. §230 was never the problem there. Forget holding platforms and search engines accountable for revenge porn; there’s been difficulty even getting the original posters accountable for revenge porn because of the 1A.

          Look, just face it. The problem you have isn’t §230; it’s the 1A. That’s the point I was making. Even without §230, what you want can’t happen under the Constitution.

          But really, you’re talking about a completely separate aspect of §230. When I mentioned unconstitutionality, I was talking about the moderation aspect, which is not the same as the part that shields platforms from liablility for third-party content. Specifically, I was discussing the fact that it is unconstitutional for the government (Federal, state, or local) to force a privately owned platform to be neutral, let alone a neutral public forum. You’re talking about a different prong of §230—the prong that deals with liability for third-party content for which the ICS provider/user played no part in developing. While this is also protected by the Constitution and basic jurisdictional issues, it’s not the same thing as what was being discussed. Poking holes in my argument with regards to liability for third-party content is missing the point of my argument, which, again, is about moderation. (We were also discussing social media platforms, not search engines.)

          It’s still worth pointing out that such protections still exist without §230 and are far from unprecedented (see, e.g., letters to the editor in newspapers), but it’s not really the same thing as what I was talking about.

          Here’s what I was saying before:

          • The protections offered by §230 (in toto) are not unprecedented under US law, serve the public good, and are not limited to protecting only large corporations but also small corporations/NGOs and private individuals

          • These points have been explained—in detail—multiple times to this same person

          • This person needs to provide evidence of corporations abusing their rights over their platforms before I can accept their allegations as true.

          • Neutral public fora cannot exist. They are effectively impossible.

          • There are times when people want a nonneutral forum.

          • It is unconstitutional for the government to force a privately owned platform, no matter how large, to be a “neutral” forum, let alone a “neutral public forum”.

          • Pointing out these facts doesn’t necessarily mean that one is inherently against the existence of neutral public fora.

          That’s it. Nothing about whether or not repealing §230 at all, let alone entirely, would be unconstitutional. Nothing about search engines in particular (a search engine isn’t a forum, after all). In fact, your entire post had little to do with anything I actually said.

          Also, with the exception of §230 being good for the public, everything I said was demonstrable fact. And even with that one, the point was simply that a decent argument could be made in favor of that, and it was limited to whether it offers any benefit to the public, not whether or not those benefits outweigh any or all downsides to §230. That would be a separate discussion, and the OP didn’t ask for that. That part is still opinion, though. Everything else is factual, however.

          We can still argue about whether or not §230 is good policy, and I’m willing to have that conversation in a different thread, but those policies are rooted in the US Constitution, and that doesn’t change based upon what other countries do or don’t do. It also doesn’t change based upon what you or I think the law should be. All it does is establish our respective opinions about the protections offered by §230 (which are also protected under other areas of US law, including the US Constitution). §230 is just a shortcut to keep websites running smoothly. After all, websites have a bigger issue with the law of big numbers.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2020 @ 2:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / just

            TL;DR

            Removing Section 230 would not at all be unconstitutional. It's a privilege not a right, and the public, through Congress, may attach as many (or as few) strings as they'd like. You could be 100 percent right about what Section 230 is today or was yesterday, and TOMORROW we could make it about neutrality.

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

            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Dec 2020 @ 3:21pm

              TOMORROW we could make it about neutrality

              And that would make 230 unconstitutional, since the government would be compelling sites like Twitter to host speech its admins do not want to host (as outlined in the Twitter TOS), which would in turn violate the First Amendment. The government can’t — and shouldn’t — have the right to tell Jack Dorsey, Mike Masnick, or anyone else that their websites must host all legally protected speech. After all, what would then stop them from saying that some form of legally protected speech with which the government disagrees must be taken down? You seem to think the government should get to decide “neutrality”, but you fail to take into account that giving the government that power would both violate the First Amendment and give the government a dangerous amount of control over what speech can and can’t be published in the U.S.

              You can’t have government-mandated neutrality on the Internet. To even try would fundamentally alter the freedom of speech and expression in the United States. Or do you really want the government forcing every site to be like 8kun?

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

            • icon
              bhull242 (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 1:01am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining /

              And thus you completely missed what I said.

              Repealing §230 in its entirety would likely not be unconstitutional.

              Modifying §230 might be unconstitutional, depending on how it’s done.

              Making §230 protections conditional based upon whether or not the site is “neutral” would certainly be unconstitutional.

              Furthermore, many of the protections guaranteed by §230 are also guaranteed by the Constitution and common law even without §230. §230 just makes it easier to fight these cases. So no, they aren’t “privileges”; they’re rights.

              Basically, you were completely wrong on almost anything, which you might have realized had you bothered to read just the first paragraph of what I said, which clearly refutes what you just said.

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

            • icon
              Toom1275 (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 9:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So where are your bullet points outlining /

              [Asserts facts not in evidence]

              (perhaps you should learn to read)

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 8:32pm

      Re: So where are your bullet points outlining / justifying?

      UNPRECEDENTED

      That word does not mean what you pretend it means.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:30am

    Alternative?

    "If Prodigy had not attempted to stifle swearing, bullying and “grossly repugnant” content, the court stated, it would not have been liable for damages. "

    So that every public site MUST post on the front page and when signing in..
    That all text and spam is saved, and you come here at your OWN risk.
    WOW, sounds like a good porn site.

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

  • identicon
    Finished Beginner, 25 Dec 2020 @ 3:37pm

    Section 230

    Hmm . . . My takeaway is that the judge who originally criminalized free speech - the one this argument is based on - was the one who is wrong. That being so, the entirety of the "protect the 230 or we are doomed!" emotional appeal is invalid.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Dec 2020 @ 1:14pm

      the entirety of the "protect the 230 or we are doomed!" emotional appeal is invalid

      You can’t make a statement such as that and refuse to explain it.

      47 U.S.C. § 230 gives the owners and operators of interactive computer services the right to moderate speech as they see fit without risking legal liability for those decisions. Those protections apply to corporate-owned services such as YouTube to smaller services owned by “actual persons” (e.g., the average Mastodon instance). That same law also protects those services — and their users — from liability for speech posted by third parties. 230 extends to the Internet protections from legal liability for third-party speech that we grant to meatspace institutions such as bookstores and libraries.

      Without 230, only the largest services with the largest corporate owners could afford to fight off those lawsuits and otherwise continue operating similarly to how they operate today. All other services would do one of three things to avoid legal liability for third-party speech:

      1. Refuse to moderate any speech (except for illegal shit)

      2. Overmoderate all speech

      3. Refuse to accept third-party speech altogether

      Option 1 gives us another 4chan/8kun. Option 2 gives us a service where you can never know whether your speech — innocuous as it may seem to you — will ever be published. Option 3 shuts down a sizeable chunk of the Internet and stifles an untold number of voices in the process.

      Which one sounds like the best option to you?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2020 @ 2:57pm

    Mike-Er, "Steve," somehow the internet has survived in every other country than the US, none of which have Section 230. Distributor liability (which is a separate harm from what the user does) is a notice-and-takedown scheme similar to the DMCA, or what offline publishers have. Bookstores sell MILLIONS of books a year in a no-230 environment and they don't read everything they sell.

    What you would get with no 230 is something like USENET where users would have to filter, but where everyone's name is traceable and no one could use an anonymous remailer (against which anyone is defenseless under 230 since the search engines that archive it can't be sued nor can the original publisher be found). The condescending, oversimplified "explanations" here never address that loophole.

    At the very least, if we're going to have 230, get rid of the single-publication rule so a site "republishes" every time it is refreshed or updated.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Dec 2020 @ 3:14pm

      somehow the internet has survived in every other country than the US

      And in some of those countries, the government has blocked (or is currently blocking) entire websites dedicated to user-generated content, so…yeah…

      Also, as pointed out above: What other countries do is irrelevant to Section 230, as Section 230 applies only to U.S. law.

      Distributor liability (which is a separate harm from what the user does) is a notice-and-takedown scheme similar to the DMCA, or what offline publishers have.

      And as you point out, even if you didn’t mean to…

      Bookstores sell MILLIONS of books a year in a no-230 environment and they don't read everything they sell.

      …distributor liability is bullshit. If a bookstore has the same protection from legal liability for selling books that contain potentially defamatory speech, I see no reason other than spite, greed, or spiteful greed to hold Twitter accountable for a third party saying something defamatory through Twitter (so long as Twitter employees had no direct hand in crafting or publishing that speech). 230 extends such protections to Twitter — and, for that matter, Techdirt.

      What you would get with no 230 is something like USENET

      No, you wouldn’t. Sure, a small segment of the population may go that far to get their Internet fix, but everyone else would either abandon all their smaller platforms for the larger ones still left standing (since they’ll be the only ones with the resources to fight lawsuits that 230 would take care of) or simply leave the Internet altogether. You think Twitter’s dominance is bad now, wait until nobody can go to Mastodon or Gab or Parler or any other Twitter-like because they all shut down to avoid lawsuits.

      where users would have to filter

      Users should have the ability to filter content, but site moderators should have the ability to…well, moderate speech so users have less work to do themselves. 230 makes possible such moderation without a fear of legal liability. That you want that protection gone is saying more about that than you likely care to admit.

      no one could use an anonymous remailer (against which anyone is defenseless under 230 since the search engines that archive it can't be sued nor can the original publisher be found)

      …fucking what

      The condescending, oversimplified "explanations" here never address that loophole.

      Because you haven’t explained, in terms simple enough for anyone to understand, how…whatever the fuck you were talking about even remotely relates to 230 protections in any way.

      if we're going to have 230, get rid of the single-publication rule so a site "republishes" every time it is refreshed or updated

      You’ve said some really dumbassed shit in the past, but holy fucking shit, this might be the absolute dumbest thing you’ve ever said. What’s worse is that I don’t know whether you’re talking about the server-side page or the client-side page being refreshed/updated — and it doesn’t even matter which one because either one would be dumb as hell. Holy shit, dude, do you genuinely hate free speech that much?

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 1:11am

      Re:

      Did you notice that all the people/companies that run the really big websites are American?

      Also, the “single-publication” rule is a constitutional issue. You’d have to amend the Constitution to overturn that.

      Look, we’ve been arguing that all the things people dislike about §230 would still happen in some shape or form without §230. The Constitution (esp. Article III and the 1A) and basic property rights and liability logic provide most of the same protections offered by §230, just not as clearly or as quickly. So basically, US law has §230 even without §230 to some extent.

      Also, under US law, there is no such thing as distributor liability for things like defamation, period. Such a thing would be unconstitutional. That is not a recognizable harm under US law even without §230. I don’t think you understand that.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      Notice how there has never once been an argument against CDA 230 that wasn't built off of deliberate lies?

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Dec 2020 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re:

        Pure coincidence, I'm sure one of these days an honest argument against 230 will be trotted out that will just blow the supporters of 230 out of the water, right about the same time a married bachelor comes up with secure broken encryption.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2020 @ 6:26pm

      Re:

      I have to say, I'm genuinely impressed you're still at it Jhon. Getting your heroes Prenda Law, Malibu Media, Richard Liebowitz nuked from orbit hasn't stopped you. Getting humiliated by Strike 3's evidence thrown out hasn't stopped you. Putting all your chips in the basket of the dumbest President ever just because he's got a misguided hateboner for Section 230 hasn't stopped you. It'd be inspiring if it wasn't so goddamn stupid.

      You see, MyNameHere, this is why nobody believes your claims that people parody you. Nobody needs to. Your level of idiocy is such that trying to replicate it would give any functioning human an aneurysm. You're a sad hack trying to pass off financial scam tips and copyright trolling as a legit business model, based on imaginary castles of Hollywood clout and women who you call whores and magically can't get enough of you. Who the fuck do you think you're trying to kid?

      I'd ask you to bring on that lawsuit and press release and expose you've been claiming for the past... How long has it been? Two and a half years and counting? But we all know that's not happening. Your feverish vengeance against SophisticatedJaneDoe is nothing more than the furiously scribbled fanfiction written by a middle schooler in her overpriced notebook. SOPA, SESTA, Shiva Ayyadurai... So many attempts to destroy this site and all you can do is stammer about Russian bots. I'm actually surprised you haven't died from Covid licking Daddy Trump's toes so much.

      Now fuck off, you old impotent fuckwit, or I shall taunt you a second time!

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


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