60 Minutes Episode Is Pure Misleading Moral Panic About Section 230; Blames Unrelated Issues On It

from the oh-come-on dept

I have a browser open with about a dozen different bad and wrong takes on Section 230 that one day I may write about, but on Sunday night, 60 Minutes jumped to the head of the line with an utterly ridiculous moral panic filled with false information on Section 230. The only saving grace of the program was that at least they spoke with Jeff Kosseff, author of the book on Section 230 (which is an excellent read). However, you can tell from the way they used Jeff that someone in the editorial meeting decided "huh, we should probably find someone to be the "other" side of this debate, so we can pretend we're even-handed" and then sprinkled in Jeff to explain the basics of the law (which they would then ignore in the rest of the report).

It's almost difficult to describe just how bad the 60 Minutes segment is. It is, quite simply, blatant disinformation. I guess somewhat ironically, much of the attack on 230 talks about how that law is responsible for disinformation. Which is not true. Other than, perhaps, this very report that is itself pure disinformation.

What's most astounding about the piece is that almost everything it discusses has nothing to do with Section 230. As with so many 230 stories, 60 Minutes producers actually seem upset about the 1st Amendment and various failures by law enforcement. And somehow... that's the fault of Section 230. It's somewhat insane to see a news organization like 60 Minutes basically go on an all-out assault on the 1st Amendment.

The central stories in the piece involve people who (tragically!) have been harassed online. One case involves a woman that was falsely blamed by some nutjob conspiracy theorists of having brought COVID-19 to the United States. Because of that, she and her family received death threats, which is absolutely terrible, but has nothing to do with Section 230. 60 Minutes points out that law enforcement didn't care and said that the death threats weren't enough of a crime. But... uh... then shouldn't 60 Minutes be focused on the failures of law enforcement to deal with threats (which actually can be a crime if they fall into the category of "true threats")? Instead, somehow this is Section 230's fault? How?

And it gets worse. 60 Minutes trots out the bogeyman of "anonymous internet trolls," even though this comes right after 60 Minutes shows that the nutjob conspiracy theorist who started this has a name and is well known (as a nutjob conspiracy theorist). The whole setup here is bizarre. The death threats are awful, and if they are criminal, then the problem is with the police and the FBI who the show says did nothing. If they're not criminal, then they're not breaking the law. So, the reason there's "no one to sue" is not because of Section 230, but because no laws were broken. But that's not how 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley frames it.

Right about now you might be thinking, they should sue. But that's the problem. They can't file hundreds of lawsuits against internet trolls hiding behind aliases. And they can't sue the internet platforms because of that law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Written before Facebook or Google were invented, Section 230 says, in just 26 words, that internet platforms are not liable for what their users post.

Over and over again, the report blames Section 230 for all of this. Incredibly, at the end of the report, they admit that the video from that nutjob conspiracy theorist was taken down from YouTube after people complained about it. In other words Section 230 did exactly what it was supposed to do in enabling YouTube to pull down videos like that. But, of course, unless you watch the entire 60 Minutes segment, you'll miss that, and still think that 230 is somehow to blame.

The second half is basically more of the same. It talks about two more unfortunate stories that actually suggest Section 230 is working correctly. The first involves Lenny Pozner, who has been fighting back against insane conspiracy theorists who have gone after him since his son was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. But, again, Pozner's story shows that Section 230... works? After going on for a few moments about how legitimately awful Pozner's situation is, Pelley reveals that Facebook, YouTube and others have been super responsive to Pozner and are quick to pull down information that he, and a non-profit he set up, flag as problematic. The segment talks about how Pelley sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, and then admits that since then Facebook has been super responsive:

After the letter, a Facebook manager called Pozner.

Lenny Pozner: It began a relationship with Facebook that helped them learn about the material that is being posted on their platform and how it is abusive, defamatory

Scott Pelley: Have you seen a difference, a practical difference in Facebook?

Lenny Pozner: Yes, it's almost all gone.

So, um, why are we blaming Section 230 again? It sounds like the system is working. The same is true in the next story. Andy Parker, the father of the tragically murdered Alison Parker -- a reporter who was murdered by a fired co-worker live on air in the middle of an interview. Parker has wanted those videos off of social media. And... that's basically what happened.

Lenny Pozner flagged Alison Parker videos for YouTube to remove.

YouTube wrote us, "There is no place on YouTube for content that exploits this horrendous act, and we've spent the last several years investing in tools and policies to quickly remove it." YouTube told us it now prioritizes all requests from Pozner's HONR Network.

But 60 Minutes says this is proof that the platforms moderation doesn't work?

Andy Parker: I really expected them to do the right thing. their motto was, "Don't be evil." And for a while, they did a pretty good job of it. But now, they are the personification of evil.

Huh? What? But...?

That's when the report finally admits that the first couple profiled, falsely blamed for bringing COVID-19 to the US, also were successful in getting the video pulled down. And... then they still blame Section 230 -- the same Section 230 that enables YouTube to pull down those videos:

Scott Pelley: Based on what you've had to learn about all of these things, what do you think the solution could be?

Matt Benassi: This is really, really hard, right? 'Cause Section 230. When that was written, it was probably done with the intent that social media companies would police themselves in some manner. And social media companies haven't done that very well.

Except... the segment shows they did police themselves.

And then the segment ends in the most bizarre fashion, trying to at least nod towards the point that Section 230 being revoked would completely change the internet, but... I mean... this is just word salad:

But making social media liable would also mean Facebook, Twitter, even Wikipedia and Yelp, couldn't exist as we know them. President-elect Biden wants to revoke Section 230. The federal government is already suing to break up Facebook and Google. No one can say what social media 2.0 will look like or whether the innocent will ever be protected from a world wide web of lies.

What do the antitrust lawsuits have to do with Section 230? Why mention that? It's a total non sequitur. And getting rid of Section 230 does not "protect the innocent from a world wide web of lies." Because most lies are protected by the 1st Amendment, not 230. And in the rare cases they are not, that's an issue for law enforcement, not Section 230.

It's really becoming difficult to not believe that major media companies are, themselves, choosing to air blatant anti-internet propaganda. You may recall that one of the revelations from the Sony hack a few years back was that the big movie studios got together to plot out a strategy for undermining the internet, which included using media properties they own to run a smear campaign of reports and articles. Whether or not that's the intention, it certainly has the same effect here. CBS provides no disclaimer about the fact that it is owned by Viacom, one of the companies who was involved in that plot.

Nor does 60 Minutes note that its own site is protected by Section 230. Nor does the segment point out that Section 230 protects free speech online and protects users themselves. The brief clip of Jeff Kosseff just gives a basic description of part of the law, but not any of the important nuance (that Jeff knows and explains literally every day).

It's pure propaganda. And it's an online piece that seems to be suggesting (falsely) that without 230, we'd no longer have misinformation online. It's bonkers.

And, finally, it's insane that a news organization like CBS, which has faced many defamation cases over the years, is more or less promoting more defamation cases. I've never quite seen anything like it. But CBS/Viacom and 60 Minutes should be ashamed of putting on this garbage. It's not informing people. It's misinforming them.

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Filed Under: 60 minutes, abuse, cbs news, crime, defamation, misinformation, moral panic, propaganda, scott pelley, section 230
Companies: cbs, viacom


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  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 9:46am

    Hey Mike, What’s your opinion on “The 1996 Law that broke the Internet?” An article published by, of all people, the Atlantic. It is one of the most batshit insane things I’ve ever read, it’s almost as if it was written by a random crackpot that the Atlantic staff pulled off the street.

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

    • icon
      aerinai (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 2:17pm

      Re:

      I also read this and yes, the dude was off his rocker. It read like the same protectionist crap that I've seen from other journalism outlets that are mad that they have lost their space in the world and are mad that they have to compete with average, everyday people having a voice.

      Pretty much the article for everyone else who hasn't read it:
      "How dare people be able to share information that is not vetted by an editor on the internet!"

      "How dare people be given a platform to promote themselves in a singular place! Back in my day they'd have built their own website for that!"

      "How dare facebook/youtube be big! They should do more to get rid of content I don't like!"

      "Lets completely sidestep the fact that Section 230 protects big and small businesses and just focus on 3 companies that I don't like!"

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 2:34pm

        'Their pocket-change is your entire site's budget'

        "Lets completely sidestep the fact that Section 230 protects big and small businesses and just focus on 3 companies that I don't like!"

        Not just protects big and small, it protects small businesses way more than it protects big ones. Gut 230 and Facebook will have some extra expenses to deal with but they've got the resources to do so, whereas smaller companies that might compete with them, either now or in the future are going to be screwed as they lack the needed resources and are forced into the position of either crippling themselves if not shutting down entirely.

        It's the ultimate irony that when dealing with the people attacking 230 the companies they like to hold up as boogiemen and justifications to gut the law are the very ones that stand to gain the most by it's removal.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 3:46pm

          Re: 'Their pocket-change is your entire site's budget'

          I think it is because they don't want "the next Facebook" to exist even more. They operate under the delusion that they can extort money out of big companies but even they aren't stupid enough to think they will be able to deal with many small players. It is the same reason guilds were preferred as a means of administration by nobility - easier to deal with a defined number of entities than a dynamic count of them. So really what angers them the most is free market competition existing for them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 8:22pm

      Re:

      It essentially was - he name dropped like he was somebody important but the real question was "Who is this douchebag trying to claim authority?"

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2021 @ 9:24pm

      Re:

      The Atlantic piece was written by Steve Randy Waldman, definitely not a crackpot. There are serious policy reasons to reconsider Section 230's liability protections. Yes, they have allowed greater freedom of expression, but at the cost of losing the gatekeeping function of pre-internet media. It's a serious issue, and Section 230 is a big part of it. There is a reason your favorite newspaper isn't full of all the wacky shit that exists on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The reason is they don't have the benefit of Section 230. It frankly does not help to claim that serious thinkers are crackpots. (Granted, the right-wing critics are crackpots, since there is no evidence that Section 230 causes an imbalance of political views.)

      Also, as a lawyer, it is really annoying when people claim that the later views of a statute's authors are somehow relevant. They really aren't. Once a law is passed, it is the text, history, and purpose of the law that matters. Almost all laws are the result of compromise. When you ask Sen. Wyden's opinion on Section 230, all you are getting is his current individual opinion on how the law should be interpreted. At this point, his opinion is neither more nor less valid than yours or mine.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 9:49am

    how did CBS get pushed in to this? my money's on certain politicians in DC (pick a house, any house).

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 12:41am

      Re:

      Section 230 very much helps ordinary netizens serve as press, capable of reporting news and events, and these days they all have a video camera right with them.

      Internet + everyone gets a camera = disrupting technology that affects a lot of establishment industries...

      One of which is Newsmedia. Another of which is broadcast television.

      I think the Columbia Broadcasting System has plenty of reasons to want to help kill the internet. And if not kill it, slow it down.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:07am

    /s

    How bizarre. It's almost as if the government and major influencers (news media) really don't want the populace to have a voice.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:09am

    They're adults, treat them accordingly

    It's really becoming difficult to not believe that major media companies are, themselves, choosing to air blatant anti-internet propaganda.

    There's a really simple solution to that: Stop assuming that people who are mature enough to run tv and/or newspaper companies are blithering idiots, and start assuming that if they put out blatantly obvious propaganda and lies like this it's because that's what they intended to do.

    You do not 'accidentally' create a hit-piece like that, they knew full well what they did and deserve to be called out on it and their reputation(assuming they even have one worth anything if this is the sort of content they put out) deserves to reflect that.

    Still, gotta love the hypocrisy, in a hit-piece that brings up the harms of misinformation and lies they provide almost nothing but because the truth would gut their propaganda, way to prove your point 60 Minutes.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:10am

    this sort of bullshit is going to continue unless those who got this into law originally get on the TV and dispell the concerns and expose the lies and those spreading them! it seems to me that those who want 230 gone, just like the entertainment industries want the internet gone (unless put under it's total control) wont stop doing whatever they want, lies and bullshit included, until they have what they want! the really scary thing is, they keep blaming how 'big tech' is being given/has got control when in actual fact, removing 230 is going to do so much harm TO THE PEOPLE! but as is usual here, US politicians, who are supposed to be looking after the very people who vote them into positions of power ACTUALLY DONT GIVE A FLYIN' FUCK, BEING FAR MORE CONCERNED WITH DOING WHATEVER THEIR SPONSORS WANT! what 2faced, hypocritical cunts!

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:21am

      I guarantee you that if both authors of 230 went on national tv to point out why they wrote the bill, what it's meant to do and how it's working exactly as intended there would be liars claiming otherwise inside the week if not day, as the anti-230 lot have always built their arguments on lies and since admitting that they're wrong/liars would tank their positions why do that when they can just lie more?

      Still, calling out liars who are trying to screw the public out is always a good use of time so even if it wouldn't stop the lies it would still be worthwhile endevor as it made it even so slightly more difficult to fool people with those lies.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      Wyden has done multiple interviews for news orgs, including at least one cable news interview, over the past year.

      It has had no effect.

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

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 10:14am

    Section 230 to these morons is like the human mob is to Regina from Regina Hellstar. Animalistic, petty, possibly insane, willfully ignorant, and willing to kill something because they’d rather deal with a scapegoat than actually try to solve problems.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 11:10am

    As with so many 230 stories [they] actually seem upset about the 1st Amendment and various failures by law enforcement. And somehow... that's the fault of Section 230.

    To many people, the constitution is a sacred, holy document. To criticize it is blasphemy, especially if you are criticizing what is literally the first thing in it. If you attack the first amendment, then you are attacking America and are a communist traitor.

    Section 230 though is a lot less important sounding. What even are the first 229 sections. In addition, many people only hear about section 230 when it is being criticized. This gives the impression that it is a regulation created by out of touch bureaucrats, and it is thus fair game to change.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      "To criticize it is blasphemy, especially if you are criticizing what is literally the first thing in it."

      If they think that, what do they think it's amending?

      "What even are the first 229 sections."

      Publicly documented and easy to find for anyone actually wanting to find them??

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 3:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Also long struck down. There is a reason that the courts chose that one area of the CDA to survive on its own - it was the only constitutional portion of it and a valid policy.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 4:45pm

          Title 47 [was Re: Re: Re:]

          Also long struck down.

          This is so spectacularly wrong that I'm inclined to read it as an attempt at humor.

          But just in case anyone here is rather new to Techdirt, a brief correction is in order. I'm going to start out by dropping a link to: 47 U.S. Code Title 47 TELECOMMUNICATIONS.

          Secondly, I'm just going to drop a link for the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

          I'll point that while §230 is codified as 47 USC § 230, it is not generally the case that the numbers correspond. For instance, §1 of the Communications Act of 1934 is codified at 47 USC § 151. And conversely, 47 USC § 1, which has been repealed since 1947, probably had nothing whatsoever to do with the Act of June 19th, 1934, but I'm not interested enough to nail down exactly whatever it used to be.

          This is semi-important because Title 47 has not been enacted into positive law.

          A non-positive law title of the Code is an editorial compilation of Federal statutes.

          That is, Title 47 is a convenient, handy resource. Chapter 5 of that title contains provisions of the Communications Act of 1934. But the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, is the law.

          Anyhow, I hope the commenter that I'm replying to was simply joking. And I hope everyone here understands that actual situation.

          Questions?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 5:20pm

          Reno v ACLU [was Re: Re: Re: ]

          … one area of the CDA…

          This part is also wrong. This was discussed here at Techdirt just a month ago. Right now, I'm just going to immediately refer you to that comment, even though the explanation there could probably stand re-writing.

          If people here have questions, I'd rather start by discussing how Public Law 104-104, being the Telecommunications Act of 1996, amends the Communications Act of 1934.

          Then, we could move on to Title V of the the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which title “may be cited as the ‘Communications Decency Act of 1996’ ”.

          Then, further, we might address the Cox-Wyden “Online Family Empowerment“ amendment to the CDA.

          Penultimately, we could discuss the decision in Reno v ACLU (1997).

          And wrap up by discussing further amendments to the Communications Act of 1934, and developments in the case law.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 2:44pm

      To many people, the constitution is a sacred, holy document.

      And I can think of at least a dozen Congressional Republicans who would rather toss out the Constitution than say “Donald Trump is a lying son of a bitch who lost a free and fair election”. (To say nothing of Trump himself.) So don’t play that card; it means effectively nothing right now.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2021 @ 11:20am

        Re:

        I think he has more of a point than you're realizing - don't forget that holy texts are frequently not read or say the exact opposite of what you'd think from looking at people who claim to follow them. I mean, wasn't Jesus basically a socialist?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 3:47pm

      Preample [was Re: ]

      … especially if you are criticizing what is literally the first thing in it.

      People of a certain political pursuasion tend to criticize the U.S. Constitution's preamble chiefly for the phrase

      promote the general welfare

      Those criticisms often do veer towards sheer incoherence, but for the most part, as far as I can tell, when it comes to “welfare” —they're agin' it. Strongly. People of a certain political pursuasion.

       

      Anyhow, so just what the hell does the first part of the Constitution have to do with topic under discussion here again?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 6:27am

        Re: Preample [was Re: ]

        Fairly certain what was meant by "literally the first thing in it" was a reference to the fact it is the first amendment.

        Pedantically speaking, "literally the first thing in [the US Constitution]" would be the preamble, which establishes where the Constitution's authority comes from.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 11:34am

    Hey, Mike. Are you going to do a similar tear down of The Atlantic article that recently came out?

    https://apple.news/AHpqYTApyRG-OV5Kq7BGifw

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      Bottom of the page, 'Submit a Story', they're much more likely to notice something sent directly to them rather than a link in the comment section.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 10:28am

        Re: Re:

        I figured since Mike follows this stuff pretty closely and The Atlantic is a reasonably high profile source he had probably seen the article I referenced.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 5:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Possibly, but at the same time with so much out there to see and cover it's also entirely possible for him to miss something even if it is of interest to him/TD, hence the suggestion to point it out to them directly.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 12:04pm

    It's a competitive attack. 60 Minutes is like a curated collection of 40 minutes of Twitter quotes and 40 advertisements. If people go getting their misinformation and faux-social-contacts from Twitter instead of 60 Minutes, those 40 advertisements are going to bring in less money to the kleptocrats in the Big Media boardrooms. Section 230 is just collateral damage.

    I don't like misinformation; hence daily browse of Techdirt, not Twitter--and no TV news at all.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 1:43pm

    What do you expect?

    "I guess somewhat ironically, much of the attack on 230 talks about how that law is responsible for disinformation. "

    Good comment, but what does it mean?
    ITS not that everyone is an idiot.
    OR that a democracy is FULL of smart people.
    Let alone Politicians THAT CAN READ.

    Got to hear PART of the conversation about CBS 60min, being LIABLE for an opinion from a commenter to the show, Not the interviewer.
    Which seems abit strange until you look at what happened to Compuserve and Prodigy. 1 rules that Things must be moderated and hte OTHER said that it SHOULD NOT be Moderated.

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

  • icon
    radix (profile), 4 Jan 2021 @ 4:00pm

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. - Upton Sinclair

    I've said it a million times. Section 230 is a key piece of democratizing the news, so it's folly to expect any traditional news gatekeeper to present the whole story. If they even do understand it, they have a vested interest in misrepresenting it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 4:06pm

    Maybe old media company's are willing to put out blatantly false or misleading content about section 230 in order to attack
    Google or Facebook, who seem to be better at getting ads than old legacy corporations
    If you are a professional journalist who does not know how section 230 protects free speech maybe you need to look for a new job
    And 230 protects 1000s of small websites not just big tech like Google Google has 1000s of uploads per hour it would be
    strange if a reporter who could not find someone who was unhappy about some videos or some content on YouTube
    The personification of evil ... Wtf
    Google does not try to rig elections or spread fake news about
    election fraud or take away health insurance from millions
    of Americans in the middle of a pandemic
    This report could be used in a class as how not to report on
    the law or social media or as an example of fake news
    and dusinformation
    I'm sad to see 60 minutes stoop so low as it has some good
    reporters on its staff

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2021 @ 6:17pm

    ...And 230 protects 1000s of small websites not just big tech like Google...

    Yes, but do you think that fact would make it more palatable to the Big Media conglomerates? Nay, not so, but far otherwise! In the long run, the thousands of small websites are a bigger existential threat to the "tv channel push out to everyone, no choices except other channels" model of "entertainment" than FarceBook or Twaddle.

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

  • icon
    BernardoVerda (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 12:10am

    What the h*** happened to *60 Minutes*

    I used to watch 60 Minutes pretty often, and it was pretty good journalism, and that's what they were known for (to the extent that they did a whole show one time, when they had failed to do their job properly, about just how badly they had failed to do their job properly, and how it happened -- and apologized for screw-up).

    But the stories about how 60 Minutes screwed up another story seem to be occurring more and more frequently these days. Especially with stories that might be seen as having political implications. 60 Minutes has lost its shine of reliable journalistic integrity and dependable journalistic competence. What the hell happened?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 12:40am

      Re: What the h*** happened to *60 Minutes*

      I'm going to guess the same things that's happened to all journalism - actual investigative journalism doesn't get the same ratings as "controversy", so they pretend there's two sides to every issue even if one side is clearly wrong. Then, the corporations who run them demand that ad revenue and political favours are more important than accuracy or integrity.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2021 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re: What the h*** happened to *60 Minutes*

        "...the corporations who run them demand that ad revenue and political favours are more important than accuracy or integrity."

        You can affirm that guess as long since proven. At least if you take a look at the way marketing's evolved. Media used to be, at one point, institutions somewhere between independent truthsayers with an ideological calling and political bullhorns intended to push the message of the backers out, usually with at least a casual nod to the facts to establish credibility.
        The sensationalism was relegated to the scandal rags, evening press, tabloids and other forms of "news light" mainly intended to sell as part of entertainment. Once upon a time what was sold by genuine news agencies was mainly summarized fact presented in legible format by professionals in the field.

        It's just that real news are boring. People would rather read fiction and thus wild hunches and sensationalist conspiracy theories once the bailiwick of tabloids like the Weekly World News started emerging into the mainstream media and the professional fact finder became a niched job about as employable as a liberal arts student. The new reporter or journalist hung their success instead on their ability to cater to whatever spin and story would sell more headlines.

        Then the internet came along and the process escalated to the point where even today you can't access a major media website without finding a solid mass of pure clickbait lining articles written with one primary purpose; to draw the attention of the unwashed masses hungry for new items to hate and fear in order to sate their addiction to grievances and thrills. To the point where I'd hesitate about where to draw the line between Fox News or OANN - or the shifty drug dealer peddling horse on a street corner in the 'burbs.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 2:36am

    It seems the underlying issue here is third party liability.
    Holding someone responsible for the actions of another is contrary to the independence and freedom loving mantra I hear from the same people who wish to destroy section 230.

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 2:50am

      Re:

      My experience is that the people who cry loudest about "freedom" are only talking about their own perceived freedom. They will drive your rights into the ground in a second if they think they will get to do more of what they want to do.

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2021 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re:

        "My experience is that the people who cry loudest about "freedom" are only talking about their own perceived freedom."

        Well, there are thousands of self-styled "conservatives" on Gab enjoying their freedom to use the N-word instead of "black person"; the word "bitch" as a derogatory reference to any woman or perceived weak person; and to expound on why Hitler didn't finish the job properly since the global jewish conspiracy personally has it in for any honest, red-blooded, lily-white american patriot and sabotages them by every turn, apparently by paying people like Mike Masnick to set up a cadre of dedicated astroturfers to silence all dissent.

        Think of all these poor, benighted racists and bigots, PaulIT, deprived of their rights to publicly expressed hatred. Don't you feel a tear coming to your eye in sympathy for their plight?

        Huh. Weird. Me neither.

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  • identicon
    ARLibertarian, 5 Jan 2021 @ 11:31am

    Not the only ones treatened

    Governments are the only ones at risk of free speech.

    Traditional main stream media outlets also have lost control of the dialog.

    A healthy dose of critical thinking is needed when consuming unfiltered "news" and opinion, but even so it's better than having corporate mouth pieces guiding the conversation to the desired conclusion.

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jerry Scher, 5 Jan 2021 @ 3:02pm

    What about Censorship?

    I'd like to hear the opinion of this author on Anti-conservative censorship by the 3 social media giants, and how/whether section 230 is to blame, or not to blame.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 5:08pm

      Re: What about Censorship?

      I'd like to hear the opinion of this author on Anti-conservative censorship by the 3 social media giants, and how/whether section 230 is to blame, or not to blame.

      I've addressed it many times:

      (1) If there was anti-conservative moderation, that's not "censorship" as there are many other places people can go to speak their minds. Moderation is not censorship.

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200521/10454244546/moderation-v-discretion-v-censors hip-theyre-not-same.shtml

      (2) There remains no evidence of "anti-conservative" bias in moderation choices. If anything, the reverse appears to be true (on Facebook). On Twitter, there is no evidence at all. There are cases of trolls & white supremacists being banned, but there are also plenty of cases of left-leaning trolls banned as well (it's just that conservatives live in a bubble and ignore those).

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200531/02142744614/new-study-finds-no-evidence-anti-cons ervative-bias-facebook-moderation-if-anything-opposite.shtml
      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20190 221/16154641652/does-twitter-have-anti-conservative-bias-just-anti-nazi-bias.shtml
      https://www.techd irt.com/articles/20201017/00052845523/facebook-is-so-biased-against-conservatives-that-mark-zuckerbe rg-personally-agreed-to-diminish-reach-left-leaning-sites.shtml

      (3) Even if there were "anti-conservative censorship" happening on social media sites, it wouldn't be because of Section 230. It would be because of the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment allows Twitter to decide that it doesn't want assholes on its platform (conservative or not) in the same way it allows Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax to report news from a view very slanted towards Trump's obsessions.

      (4) Finally, it also allows new upstart sites, like Parler, to moderate as they see fit -- including banning "leftists" as Parler's CEO has publicly admitted to doing (in other words, the only actual example I've found of politically motivated moderation).

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      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 5:21pm

        Censorship ≠ Moderation

        I'd also add that most, perhaps all netizens also want a non-zero amount of content moderation, as unmonitored forums will get flooded with commercial spam. (Commercials about penis pills, refinancing mortgages, hot girls in your area and investments into royal Nigerian affairs, at that.)

        Even 4Chan/b which still moderates (for spam and child porn) is way too spicy for most folk.

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      • identicon
        cdowney4, 8 Jan 2021 @ 6:36am

        Re: Re: What about Censorship?

        "The 1st Amendment allows Twitter to decide that it doesn't want assholes on its platform (conservative or not) in the same way it allows Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax to report news from a view very slanted towards Trump's obsessions."

        I would agree, except that social media platforms are getting special dispensation from Section 230, which Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax are not getting. Those networks are liable for what is said on their networks.

        Section 230 is basically allowing social media the privilege of not having to review and censor their content, but they are deciding to selectively censor content anyway. If they want to act as a publisher, then remove Section 230 and allow them to act as a publisher and review/edit/censor all content as necessary. That wouldn't go well, obviously, just based on the sheer mass of content.

        Social media platforms, particularly ones that are monopolies (or are soon to be) shouldn't be getting special privileges from the government and then be allowed to operate however they choose, hiding behind that privilege when it benefits them and forgoing the privilege when they disagree with the content.

        I don't see it too differently from why the MLB was called before Congress regarding steroids. It wasn't because steroids are illegal. It was because the government allows the MLB the privilege to operate as a monopoly, and they don't just get to operate that monopoly however they choose while receiving special dispensation.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 8 Jan 2021 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re: What about Censorship?

          "I would agree, except that social media platforms are getting special dispensation from Section 230, which Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax are not getting. Those networks are liable for what is said on their networks."

          Ooooh... you're so close...

          Section 230 applies to all online platforms, including Fox's website, OANN's forums, etc. It does not apply to the TV broadcasts, which should be obvious if you actually read the law. But, Fox is as protected against some asshole commenting on their site as Facebook is. Just as both Facebook and Fox are liable for things they did/said themselves.

          You can lie all you want, but the very simple law you're lying about states that your right-wing cesspools are as protected from censoring the people they disagree with, or allowing hate speech they agree with, as social media are.

          But, answer me honestly - why are you so intent on lying about section 230 on a site that only allows you the ability to bullshit because section 230 exists?

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    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 6 Jan 2021 @ 10:19am

      Re: What about Censorship?

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

  • identicon
    JustMe, 16 Jan 2021 @ 9:08pm

    Let's at least be honest about the effects of Section 230

    One of the unfortunate aspects of the prevalence of misinformation is that some people will take real policy disagreements and accuse anyone who disagrees of being a misinformation super-spreader. That's what the author of this article does. There are serious policy disagreements about Section 230. Contrary to Mr. Masnick's suggestion, Section 230 really has played a major role in the type and quality of speech on the internet. (I'll stipulate that the right-wingers' criticisms of Section 230 are bonkers.) It is obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it that the liability protections of Section 230 have caused social media companies to moderate speech less than they would in the absence of Section 230. Ignoring that fact doesn't change it. It just means you aren't willing to engage in good faith discussion about the pros and cons of Section 230. Moreover, the argument that it is really a law enforcement failure is a dodge. Like it or not, civil liability plays a substantial role in causing speech-hosting entities to moderate the speech they host. Giving internet-based companies freedom from the risk of liability (even if it is purely freedom from nuisance suits), has real consequences, both positive and negative. It does a disservice to readers to mislead them about the tradeoffs. Frankly, it is no different from Breitbart calling The NY Times "fake news," which is actually what Mr. Masnick has done. If you want to be part of the important discussion relating to Section 230, one must deal openly with the positive and negative effects of the statute.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 18 Jan 2021 @ 4:59pm

      Re: Let's at least be honest about the effects of Section 230

      One of the unfortunate aspects of the prevalence of misinformation is that some people will take real policy disagreements and accuse anyone who disagrees of being a misinformation super-spreader. That's what the author of this article does.

      Really?

      There are serious policy disagreements about Section 230.

      This is true. Literally none of those policy disagreements were discussed in the 60 Minutes piece. It literally had nothing at all to do with Section 230. If they wanted to highlight the policy disagreements, then they should have done that.

      Contrary to Mr. Masnick's suggestion, Section 230 really has played a major role in the type and quality of speech on the internet. (I'll stipulate that the right-wingers' criticisms of Section 230 are bonkers.) It is obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it that the liability protections of Section 230 have caused social media companies to moderate speech less than they would in the absence of Section 230.

      You are correct that social media sites would likely pull down more content, but if your argument is that this would mean less right wing nutjobbery... I don't think the evidence bears that out.

      The thing is, we have a competing system to compare this to: the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions (also the EU's notice & takedown provisions, as well as the RTBF setup). In all of those cases, you can argue it's absolutely true that more speech is taken down... but in every one of those cases it's also true that the default system becomes one of notice-and-takedown, where the notice alerts sites to content that violates some law.

      The rightwing nutjobbery would not fall into that classification. So I don't see how the obvious conclusion is that sites would have been any more inclined to remove it earlier.

      Ignoring that fact doesn't change it.

      I don't ignore it. You're making up a scenario that does not reflect reality. Some of us prefer to live in reality. Not fantasy land.

      Moreover, the argument that it is really a law enforcement failure is a dodge.

      It is not a dodge. Every example in the 60 Minutes piece involved clear failures of law enforcement, not civil liability.

      Like it or not, civil liability plays a substantial role in causing speech-hosting entities to moderate the speech they host.

      Weird way to say "aren't SLAPP suits cool"? Sorry, but I don't like it when anyone supports using the courts to suppress protected speech.

      Frankly, it is no different from Breitbart calling The NY Times "fake news," which is actually what Mr. Masnick has done.

      Oh come on. Talk about hyperbolic nonsense. Fuck off.

      If you want to be part of the important discussion relating to Section 230, one must deal openly with the positive and negative effects of the statute.

      As I have always done. If you think the 60 Minutes report is part of that, well, you're too stupid to be a part of the conversation, frankly. And I'm pretty happy with my position in "the important discussion relating to Section 230." Which is on the side of truth an accuracy.

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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 1:25am

    "Section 230 really has played a major role in the type and quality of speech on the internet"

    Yes, but some people just seem very confused about what that role is, and are intent on misrepresenting it.

    "It is obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it that the liability protections of Section 230 have caused social media companies to moderate speech less than they would in the absence of Section 230"

    You have it backwards. Section 230 exists because there was an attempt to pretend that when Prodigy moderated some content, then they were directly liable for anything that had been left unmoderated. Section 230 was then necessary to state explicitly that platforms could not be held liable for things said on their platform, moderated or not. If the Prodigy case had gone the other way, then many platforms would not have moderated at all to avoid liability for imperfect moderation.

    "Giving internet-based companies freedom from the risk of liability"

    They have no such thing, then can still be liable for things they themselves did. All section 230 does is to make it clear that if you have an issue with speech, you have to go after the speaker, not the platform they used to speak, as it is in the physical world.

    "Frankly, it is no different from Breitbart calling The NY Times "fake news"

    Sure, if you buy into your half-baked misrepresentation of what's happening, it's possible to come up with such a faulty conclusion.

    By the way, in the above - if Breitbart state that themselves in one of their editorials, then could be liable for it, but if a commenter under the editorial says it, they cannot.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 5:09pm

      Re:

      Yeah, sorry, but your response is full of non-sequiturs. Look, I'm not against Section 230, I just think we need to have an honest debate about it.

      For example, you say I am wrong to point out that Section 230 has caused social media companies to moderate less than they otherwise would. You then point to the Prodigy case, saying that without Section 230, companies would moderate less. Not so. Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy was a problematic decision. But it was one decision, by one lower NY trial court. Hard to know exactly what would have happened in the absence of Section 230, but I assume you agree that Section 230 was designed to eliminate the risk that, without liability protections, more and more courts would have treated social media companies as akin to traditional publishers. We should be able to agree on that. Section 230 was designed to ensure that the maximum amount of speech be permitted without the risk of liability, while still permitting some moderation. It allowed social media companies to do some moderation, without having to really invest in full scale moderation, which everyone understands is very difficult for online platforms. Without Section 230, it is virtually certain that social media companies would clamp down much harder on third-party speech hosted on their platforms. Not only do you likely know this, I'm assume it is why you oppose repeal of Section 230.

      You actually admit my point in your next paragraph. You acknowledge that Section 230 removed some risk of liability from social media companies and placed it, you say, where it ought to be, solely on speakers. Where the risk should lie is a proper point of policy debate. I might even agree with you. But it is not debatable that Section 230 shifted some risk of liability away from social media companies. I know Masnick has said that he thinks Section 230 only removed the risk of nuisance suits. Maybe. But if you've ever had to deal with nuisance suits, you'd know that they create very real costs. Again, maybe social media companies ought to have protection from those types of suits. But, in the absence of Section 230, a rational actor would seek to eliminate the risk, and would do so by permitting less speech.

      Ultimately, Masnick's argument boils down the assertion that Section 230 appropriately balances the competing policy concerns and should be left alone. That's a fair point, and I may agree actually. But to claim that all critics--including some pretty heavyweight thinkers--are misrepresenting the law is wrong. And harmful. These are tough concepts that are difficult to grasp for the average citizen. Many people don't know the difference betwen legitimate policy debates concerning Section 230 and the wacky right-wing criticisms. I'm just suggesting we shouldn't make it harder for them to understand. You may win them to your side right now, but at what cost?

      I stand by what I said comparing Masnick's blanket attacks on all Section 230 critics to Breitbart's modus operandi. This manner of arguing important issues has become increasingly prevalent (probably in part because of, ahem, social media) and it is dangerous.

      Apologies for getting on my high horse here, really. But I think it is important.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 5:25pm

        Re: Re:

        Following up on my point, PaulT, just look at the comments to this article. Many of them are just a quirk or two away from full on QAnon-level conspiracy bullshit.I don't mean your comment, obviously. I don't agree with you but I don't think you're a nut either. I'm just saying we have to do a better job of not riling up the yahoos.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 9:08pm

        Re: Re:

        "I assume you agree that Section 230 was designed to eliminate the risk that, without liability protections, more and more courts would have treated social media companies as akin to traditional publishers"

        Yes, which would have left most companies with 2 main options regarding UGC - block it completely or avoid liability for ineffective moderation by doing zero moderation.

        Perhaps you can explain, but there's no logical scenario in which the natural response to not having section 230 is more moderation.

        "But, in the absence of Section 230, a rational actor would seek to eliminate the risk, and would do so by permitting less speech"

        Exactly, so why are you saying silly stiff like "the liability protections of Section 230 have caused social media companies to moderate speech less", since blocking more speech would logically be more moderation?

        "But it is not debatable that Section 230 shifted some risk of liability away from social media companies."

        Yes, liability for other peoples' speech. They are not protected by 230 from the consequences of their own speech.

        "I stand by what I said comparing Masnick's blanket attacks on all Section 230 critics to Breitbart's modus operandi"

        Then you still have a very strange view of the situation.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 9:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Following up on my point, PaulT, just look at the comments to this article. Many of them are just a quirk or two away from full on QAnon-level conspiracy bullshit."

          I'm sure you can give an example, but all I see here is a single AC desperately trying to pretend that everyone else is wrong, despite not having backed his claims up with anything substantial. Why do I get the feeling that your mentions of Q and Breitbart are merely you attempting to repeat claims you heard elsewhere, without understanding what they referred to?

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Nope. I actually know the law. Let's try an example. Person A writes a libelous comment about Person B on Facebook (or threatens violence, or some other horrible thing that causes damage to Person B, take your pick). If Section 230 exists, we all agree that Facebook could remove the comment and it would alter Facebook's potential liability. That's what Section 230 is for. Or Facebook could leave the comment up. Facebook gets to make a choice. Section 230 has been interpreted by the courts to shield Facebook if it leaves the comment up in most circumstances.

            But what if Section 230 is repealed? What then? Perhaps Facebook will leave the comment up. After all, a lot of people, yourself included, firmly believe that there is no reason to hold Facebook liable for hosting the comment, with or without Section 230. To them, and to you, it is an outrage that Facebook would ever be held liable for the mere hosting of potentially libelous information. If the world only contained people who have that belief, then Facebook has nothing to fear and should leave the comment up.

            But here is the thing. There are many people who don't agree that Facebook should be completely free to host the potentially libelous comment. These people make a different value judgment. They look at the victim of the potentially libelous comment and think that the victim should have the ability to sue both the person who posted the comment and Facebook. They think that both are to blame--the commenter for the libelous comment and Facebook for acting as a disseminator of the libelous comment. In this situation, the First Amendment might offer some protection for Facebook, but it is far from clear that Facebook is out of the woods. See New York Times v. Sullivan. Facebook might get sued. Facebook might win, but there is a chance Facebook might lose. And, in any event, Facebook will have to incur the costs to litigate, because plaintiffs' defamation lawyers don't care much for the First Amendment. Facebook's GC, Jennifer Newstead, looks at this situation and notices that there isn't just one case like this, there are thousands. What does she do? If Section 230 is repealed, I can tell you what she does: She walks in to Zuck's office and says, "Hey Mark, we have a problem. We have to start taking down lots of problematic comments. We have to have a new, much much stricter moderation policy. If we don't, plaintiffs' lawyers are going to bleed us try with lawsuits. If you want to leave these sorts of comments up, fine, but the company will be bankrupt from litigation costs within five years."

            That is the debate about Section 230. Some people think we, as a society, would be better off without Section 230 because they want Facebook to moderate more, some people think we are better off with Section 230 because they prioritize more speech. Both views have merit. It is a value judgment. People who disagree with your value judgment are not misinformed. Nor are they idiots repeating "fake news." They just have a different point of view on this important policy issue.

            My point about Q and Breitbart is that the Jim Watkins and Steve Bannon's of the world know what they are doing when they demonize their opponents as evil or idiots or purveyors of agenda-driven face news. They know they can't convince people with logic and rational thought, so they instead put all their energies into undermining the credibility of their opponents. They tell readers want they want to hear, they tell readers that the media is lying, that experts are either lying or stupid, that all public servants are crooked and that science doesn't exist, and that you, dear reader, should be outraged by this state of affairs. I see similarities in Techdirt's posts on Section 230, so I pointed it out. You aren't required to agree.

            Or maybe I am an ignorant fool who can't string two coherent sentences together. I'm a chimp banging on a keyboard.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:19pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Clarification. First paragraph, fifth sentence should read "If Section 230 exists, we all agree that Facebook could remove the comment and it would NOT alter Facebook's potential liability."

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:42pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "After all, a lot of people, yourself included, firmly believe that there is no reason to hold Facebook liable for hosting the comment, with or without Section 230"

              Yes, but the reason why section 230 exists is that the US system is not full of reasonable actors. That there is no reason to hold them liable does not mean that someone will not attempt to do so. They are already being sued for stupid stuff all the time, even though 230 means they have no standing to be held liable, why would you assume the same thing won't happen constantly without it?

              Also, bear in mind that section 230 protects every platform in the US, not just the Facebooks of the world. Sure, they might be able to leave things as they are and fight to lawsuits as they come along, but without section 230 any asshole with a grudge can take down smaller sites completely, whether or not the site had anything to do with the issue in question. Hosts outside of the US will be fine, since what had to be made explicit with 230 is already implicit in most other national laws, but US sites made for the US market are in big trouble without it.

              "Facebook's GC, Jennifer Newstead, looks at this situation and notices that there isn't just one case like this, there are thousands. What does she do? If Section 230 is repealed, I can tell you what she does: She walks in to Zuck's office and says, "Hey Mark, we have a problem. We have to start taking down lots of problematic comments. We have to have a new, much much stricter moderation policy"

              Then, when you start looking at companies outside of Facebook, the conversation goes "we have to block user comments / reviews / content completely". Or, "we can't possibly afford the risk of incomplete moderation so we have to let that slide".

              "Some people think we, as a society, would be better off without Section 230 because they want Facebook to moderate more, some people think we are better off with Section 230 because they prioritize more speech."

              ...and both are wrong because that is not the effect that taking down section 230 would have in the real world. Those people also claim they want to take down Twitter and Facebook and leave the internet in the hands of smaller platforms, but the reality is that removing 230 would destroy the smaller platforms and only leave the "big tech" options.

              "People who disagree with your value judgment are not misinformed"

              My experience is that they are, because when challenged to state what is wrong with section 230 they start blathering on about things that aren't actually in the law.

              "They know they can't convince people with logic and rational thought, so they instead put all their energies into undermining the credibility of their opponents"

              So, how is that in any way similar to people here discussing easily verifiable factual information?

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 11:56pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                You are right about "assholes with a grudge." Indeed, you are now making my point for me. And you are also right that it will "take down smaller sites." But it will also change the behavior of bigger players. We are getting closer to agreement.

                I haven't thought about how companies wholly outside the US will react. You might be right. But I am talking about platforms subject to US law. And, by the way, if the foreign company is operating in the US, or even serves US customers, they probably are subject to jurisdiction of US courts, so the repeal of Section 230 will affect them.

                I see you really think some platforms will react by stopping all moderation. I really doubt it, given that the litigation risks favor shutting down more--or all--third-party speech. I'm confident that, in the main, my assessment is correct. All I can say is I know how the incentives line up. I guess you can choose to accept that I may have a point, or you can choose to believe I'm a blithering idiot.

                I'm quite sure you are right that most people are ill informed. I have no right to demand you believe I am not one of them. Or that various other knowledgeable professionals are not all misinformed. I could tell you biographical facts that would convince you that I am knowledgeable, but I am not going to do that--mostly out of principal, partly because I value my privacy.

                I'll just say again that my only point is that there is a legitimate debate about whether Section 230 has done more harm than good. That is the debate we should be having.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:36pm

    I just noticed the following statement in your reply: "Perhaps you can explain, but there's no logical scenario in which the natural response to not having section 230 is more moderation."

    I directly answer this question in my most recent reply. See above. The incentives are clear. Social media companies will moderate much much more if Section 230 is repealed. They will do so for the simple reason that the protections of Section 230 will be gone, and litigation risk will accordingly increase. It is a straight line.

    With respect, this is where your error is occurring. I mean no offense by that. It is a point that is obvious to litigators, but perhaps not to non-lawyers. Repealing Section 230 will increase litigation costs to social media companies and they will react by moderating (or censoring, if that is your preferred word) more speech. Some people think that is a good thing, some people think that is a bad thing. But, again, people who disagree with you are not morons (even if they can't quite articulate their point of view). By the same token, you are not a moron for having the point of view you have. I assume you prefer the world with Section 230 in it. Perfectly reasonable. (I know that sounds patronizing, but I really don't mean it that way.)

    There is no conflict between my saying "the liability protections of Section 230 have caused social media companies to moderate speech less" and "in the absence of Section 230, a rational actor would seek to eliminate the risk, and would do so by permitting less speech." They are the same thing. With Section 230, less moderation and more speech. Without Section 230, more moderation and less speech. That is the balancing that fundamentally underlies Section 230. We can't get around it, unfortunately. I wish we could.

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:49pm

      Re:

      "The incentives are clear. Social media companies will moderate much much more if Section 230 is repealed. They will do so for the simple reason that the protections of Section 230 will be gone, and litigation risk will accordingly increase."

      Again, you ignore that fact that it was Prodigy's attempt to moderate that got it sued in that case. The impetus of that case was to move that any attempt at moderation made you liable for anything not moderated. Since perfect moderation is impossible, any platform will be liable at any time, but they can avoid liability by doing zero moderation. I don't think you understand what the real implications are here.

      Also, you keep referring to social media platforms, but you seem to miss the simple fact that this would affect every site on the US internet, from personal blogs to Amazon's review sections.

      "Repealing Section 230 will increase litigation costs to social media companies and they will react by moderating"

      Again, wrong - this will affect everyone, not just social media companies, and it's naive to assume that everyone will react in the same way. You keep telling me I'm wrong, but I suspect you just haven't considered to rule of unintended consequences. There's a hell of a lot that you seem to be ignoring here.

      "a rational actor"

      You seem to have pinned your arguments on assuming that both sides are only populated by rational actors. Why is that?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 11:27pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm not ignoring Prodigy, I'm just not hung up on it. If Section 230 is repealed, you say that companies might just stop moderating. I'm sorry, but no. If they do that, they will be gambling on the expectation that the courts will uniformly hold that they remain not liable so long as they don't moderate. That is a gamble they won't take. You are assuming that the law is settled with respect to the liability of companies that host other people's speech. It isn't. I can't predict the future, but I can tell you that in every other circumstance where legal risk goes up, industry reacts by taking action to limit the risk. Here, without Section 230, the best way to limit risk will be to stop hosting other people's speech. We should expect that that is what the industry will do. In fact, this expectation is precisely why most oppose repealing Section 230, because they worry that industry will react by allowing less speech, and that by moderating more, industry will tend to censor good speech as well as harmful speech.

        I refer to social media platforms because I am too lazy to go look to remind myself of the term of art used by Section 230. Is it "an interactive computer service" that hosts speech provided by an "information content provider" or something like that? I think so. Anyway, I am well aware repealing Section 230 would have an effect on many many sites, including Amazon comments and personal blogs. (Remember, I never said I favor repealing Section 230. Because repealing it would have such a wide-ranging impact, I actually support reforming it, not repealing it. But I haven't seen a reform proposal that I think works. So I'm torn.)

        As for the potential for unintended consequences, you are right, nobody can be totally confident predicting the future. But the likely consequences are well known. And the debate must take those likely consequences into account.

        As for whether for-profit companies like Facebook or Amazon are rational actors when it comes to assessing and limiting liability risk, they are--and ruthlessly so. They are businessmen, they couldn't care less about First Amendment values, they profess to care because it suits their interests. If Section 230 is repealed, I strongly suspect some CEOs will all of a sudden become less enamored with third-party speech on their platforms. For example, if Bezos could get a carve out for consumer reviews, I guarantee he would throw all other forms of speech under the bus. Obviously Zuck and Dorsey will have to fight to the bitter end to preserve Section 230, or some version of it.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2021 @ 12:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "I'm not ignoring Prodigy, I'm just not hung up on it."

          That suit is the exact reason why section 230 exists. Maybe you should be concerned about what that suit revealed that section 230 was directly intended to prevent.

          "You are assuming that the law is settled with respect to the liability of companies that host other people's speech. It isn't"

          I'm assuming that the historical precedent that triggered the drafting of the law indicates the direction things would go if the law is repealed.

          "I refer to social media platforms because I am too lazy to go look to remind myself of the term of art used by Section 230."

          The problem there is that you're reducing the argument to downplay its effects, intentionally or not. You're basically referring to a food law as if it only affects MCDonalds and KFC, ignoring the fact that it affects anyone who sells food of any kind. Can you see why that's skewing the argument?

          "But the likely consequences are well known"

          Yes, but you keep arguing that some of these don't matter or don't exist.

          "As for whether for-profit companies like Facebook or Amazon are rational actors when it comes to assessing and limiting liability risk, they are--and ruthlessly so"

          I said both sides. Prodigy came about because the asshole who Wolf Of Wall Street was based on was upset that some people were relaying facts about him.

          "Obviously Zuck and Dorsey will have to fight to the bitter end to preserve Section 230, or some version of it."

          I'd look at what they've said about it recently rather than depending on your faulty assumptions. It might surprise you.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2021 @ 12:37am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah, I read what Zuckerburg said. He wants a clear safe harbor. Publish moderation policies, have a 24 hour takedown system, etc. In return he wants strict protection from liability. That proposal may or may not be better than the current system. I dunno. But I can promise you that Zuckerburg will never, under any circumstances, support a straight repeal of Section 230 with nothing similar to replace it.

            Facebook's response to the call to repeal Section 230 is straight out of the corporate playbook. When more regulation is headed your way, don't fight it, pretend to embrace it and then lobby to make it more favorable to your company. If you are lucky (and by lucky I mean if you make enough campaign contributions or hire enough former government officials from both parties), you may even be able to craft the new regulation to make it even more favorable to your business than the current law. And you get to posture yourself as a First Amendment hero to boot.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2021 @ 1:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "But I can promise you that Zuckerburg will never, under any circumstances, support a straight repeal of Section 230 with nothing similar to replace it."

              He will support whatever's best for Facebook, and he can clear out a lot of smaller competition and prevent new competition if it's drafted in the right way.

              You have to remember that this is about far, far more than the likes of Facebook, and it's disingenuous to only focus on them. It's handy for the misleading propaganda that's been spread on this issue, but it's far from the whole story the rest of us are discussing.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2021 @ 10:51pm

      Re:

      Sorry, one more thing, PaulT. I think you are a little hung up on this notion about "other people's speech." Yes, you are correct that Section 230 doesn't protect the speaker from liability, it protects only the host. My point is that without Section 230, social media companies will have less liability protection. That is the important point. And plaintiffs' lawyers don't want to sue the speaker, they want to sue the deep pockets.

      Masnick tries to get around this point by arguing that this problem isn't a Section 230 problem, it is a law enforcement problem. My response is go tell that to Jennifer Newstead, a former Principal Deputy Assistant AG. Tell her that if Section 230 is repealed, law enforcement should go after every commenter who libels or threatens or incites an insurrection. She will never stop laughing.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Jan 2021 @ 11:56pm

        Re: Re:

        "Sorry, one more thing, PaulT. I think you are a little hung up on this notion about "other people's speech."

        Yes, because that's pretty much all that section 230 means - if you want to sue over something that someone said/did, you have to sue the people who actually did those things and not the platform they used.

        Do you have some other meaning of the law in your mind?

        "Tell her that if Section 230 is repealed, law enforcement should go after every commenter who libels or threatens or incites an insurrection"

        Do you actually think this is to do with what law enforcement would do directly, and not the litigious activity of private citizens against people they don't like? If so, you might need to re-read the arguments being made.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2021 @ 12:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          At this point, you are just making my arguments for me. Again, you are correct that Section 230 limits a platform's liability. But you are failing to see that if you take that away, some people will choose to sue the platforms, some courts will permit it, litigation costs will rise, and so on and so forth. I get the sense that you have switched to arguing that the protections of Section 230 are a good thing. I have no quarrel with that opinion. My quarrel is with your argument that repealing Section 230 won't cause platforms to moderate/censor more harmful speech. It will. And the collateral consequence may be that they will censor more good speech too, throwing out the good with the bad. Your error is your cramped view of how the Section 230 incentives work.

          As for the law enforcement, just read what I said again. Masnick wrote somewhere saying that the prevalence of harmful speech on the internet is a law enforcement problem, not a Section 230 problem. If you read what I wrote with care, you will see that I am saying that his take on law enforcement is complete and utter nonsense, bullshit, baloney, stupid, dumb, ridiculous, and embarrassing for him--for exactly the reasons I think you understand. Law enforcement ain't going to do it. But plaintiffs' lawyers are chomping at the bit to sue Facebook, Twitter, and anyone else with money. Some people think that is good, because it will cause platforms to moderate/censor more, some people think it is goddamned unAmerican to limit anyone's God-given right to say whatever the fuck they want whenever they want. But whether you think it is good or bad, it is clear that repealing Section 230 will cause platforms to crack down on third-party speech.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2021 @ 1:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "But you are failing to see that if you take that away, some people will choose to sue the platforms, some courts will permit it, litigation costs will rise, and so on and so forth"

            Erm, no that's my entire argument - without the protections, many sites will be the target of litigation they can't currently faced, therefore they will take action to prevent that. In some cases, this will be removing UGC entirely, in others allowing it but not moderate. Most sites will be unable to take the option of "moderate and hope we don't get sued too much for the extra liability we just opened up".

            "Your error is your cramped view of how the Section 230 incentives work."

            I'm beginning to suspect you have a sever reading comprehension problem, since you seem to be repeat a lot of what I said then claiming I don't understand those same words.

            " If you read what I wrote with care, you will see that I am saying that his take on law enforcement is complete and utter nonsense, bullshit, baloney, stupid, dumb, ridiculous, and embarrassing for him"

            You've said a lot of words but very little of actual substance - what specifically do you have an issue with? You've said a lot of vague generalisations (many of the objectively wrong),m but not what you specifically think is incorrect.

            Can you maybe quote the sentences you have an issue with then explain what the problem is?

            "some people think it is goddamned unAmerican to limit anyone's God-given right to say whatever the fuck they want whenever they want"

            ...and those people don't understand what their own constitution says or don't agree with private right to free association.

            "But plaintiffs' lawyers are chomping at the bit to sue Facebook, Twitter, and anyone else with money"

            Or anyone else without money. It would be trivial to get a rival small business shut down if they allow comments or reviews, for example.

            "it is clear that repealing Section 230 will cause platforms to crack down on third-party speech"

            Which is a massive problem, and anyone who doesn't understand that doesn't understand the issue at hand.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2021 @ 4:36pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Let's get this straight, Paul. I started this conversation by pointing out, correctly, that Masnick was wrong to argue that anyone who criticizes Section 230 is misinformed. Some are, but some aren't. You doubled down in defending Masnick by claiming, incorrectly, that repeal of Section 230 would not cause platforms to crack down on third-party speech by moderating more that they currently. You claimed, incorrectly, that platforms would just stop moderating entirely. You made this argument because you want to undercut the critics argument that Section 230 is partly responsible for the prevalence of various forms of harmful speech on the internet. Your goal is to avoid confronting the fact that Section 230 has indeed played a role the growth of harmful speech.

              Now, it appears to me you understand that your initial point was wrong. But you won't just admit it and move on, so you are switching tactics and defending Section 230 the way you should have in the first place--by recognizing that repealing Section 230 will indeed cause platforms to censor/moderate more speech and then arguing your belief that repealing Section 230 would be a net bad thing.

              I'll just say this: Even if you won't admit it, I'm glad you have come around to my way of thinking. Repeal of Section 230 is a valid policy debate and not all critics are misinformed, some just have a different opinion on the balance struck by Section 230. In the future, rather than accusing people who disagree with you of being deranged, just explain why you disagree.

              But I realize you stopped listening awhile ago and instead opted for ad hominem attacks.

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2021 @ 10:32pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Masnick was wrong to argue that anyone who criticizes Section 230 is misinformed"

                Which is your first mistake, since he doesn't do that. He correctly notes that most arguments against it are based in bad or completely false interpretations, and goes down the list of why this particular 60 Minutes show was wrong. Like most honest people, I'm sure he's happy to accept a discussion that's not based on falsehoods. It's just not his fault when very few of them are presented.

                "You claimed, incorrectly, that platforms would just stop moderating entirely."

                Again, stop misrepresenting the people who you're supposedly talking to. I said no such thing. I said that, given the problems that Prodigy exposed and section 230 was written explicitly to avoid, that platforms were just as likely - if not more likely - to just ditch UGC altogether or not moderate, than they would be to just moderate more heavily if 230 is removed. Since the problem is that any level of moderation would expose the platform to liability whether that moderation is light or draconian, it's not hard to see what the easier route is any why many places would opt for that approach. None of us have crystal balls to see what the future would hold, but platforms simply moving to heavier moderation on their existing setups is probably the least likely option, especially when you shift your argument away from large social networking platforms and look at everyone who would be affected.

                I'm sorry if the actual arguments being presented are too nuanced for you to process, but you won't win any argument by misrepresenting the arguments presented to you.

                "But I realize you stopped listening awhile ago and instead opted for ad hominem attacks."

                No, you're just arguing with the strawman you constructed because you can't actually understand the real arguments. Sad, but this is typical for these arguments.

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

  • identicon
    Jeaninne Elizabeth Rowland, 22 Feb 2021 @ 6:03pm

    No.

    None of this justifies how this man had to Alter his browsing habits to avoid seeing the moment of her death. I was there. I was on my way back to JMU that day and kept thinking "Why are there so many cops on I-81!?"

    I saw the video in question. It is horrific to see death. Why is everyone questioning this man not wanting to see the moments leading up to his daughters death!?

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


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