PACT Act Is Back: Bipartisan Section 230 'Reform' Bill Remains Mistargeted And Destructive

from the second-verse,-same-as-the-first dept

Last summer we wrote about the PACT Act from Senators Brian Schatz and John Thune -- one of the rare bipartisan attempts to reform Section 230. As I noted then, unlike most other 230 reform bills, this one seemed to at least come with good intentions, though it was horribly confused about almost everything in actual execution. If you want to read a truly comprehensive takedown of the many, many problems with the PACT Act, Prof. Eric Goldman's analysis is pretty devastating and basically explains how the drafters of the bill tried to cram in a bunch of totally unrelated things, and did so in an incredibly sloppy fashion. As Goldman concludes:

This bill contains a lot of different policy ideas. It adds multiple disclosure obligations, regulates several aspects of sites’ editorial processes, makes three different changes to Section 230, and asks for two different studies. Any one of these policy ideas, standing alone, might be a significant policy change. But rather than proposing a narrow and targeted solution to a well-identified problem, the drafters packaged this jumble of ideas together to create a broad and wide-ranging omnibus reform proposal. The spray-and-pray approach to policymaking betrays the drafters’ lack of confidence that they know how to achieve their goals.

Daphne Keller also has a pretty thorough explanation of problems in the original -- noting that the bill contains some ideas that seem reasonable, but often seems sorely lacking in important details or recognition of the complexity involved.

And, to their credit, staffers working on the bill did seem to take these and other criticisms at least somewhat seriously. They reached out to many of the critics of the PACT Act (including me) to have fairly detailed conversations about the bill, its problems, and other potential approaches. Unfortunately, in releasing the new version today, it does not appear that they took many of those criticisms to heart. Instead, they took the same basic structure of the bill and just played around at the margins, leaving the new bill a problematic mess, though a slightly less problematic mess than last year's version.

The bill still suffers from the same point that Goldman made originally. It throws a bunch of big (somewhat random) ideas into one bill, with no clear explanation of what problem it's actually trying to solve. So it solves for things that are not problems, and calls other things problems that are not clearly problems, while creating new problems where none previously existed. That's disappointing to say the least.

Like the original, the bill requires that service providers publish an "Acceptable Use Policy," and then puts in place a convoluted complaint and review process, along with transparency reporting on this. This entire section demonstrates the fundamental problem with those writing the PACT Act -- and it's a problem that I know people explained to them: it treats this issue as if it's the same across basically every website. But, it's not. This bill will create a mess for a shit ton of websites -- including Techdirt. Forcing every website that accepts content from users to post an "acceptable use policy" leads us down the same stupid road as requiring every website have a privacy policy. It's a nonsensical approach -- because the only reasonable way to write up such a policy is to keep it incredibly broad and vague, to avoid violating it. And that's why no one reads them or finds them useful -- they only serve as a potential way to avoid liability.

And writing an "acceptable use" policy that "reasonably informs users about the types of content that are allowed on the interactive computer service" is a fool's errand. Because what is and what is not acceptable depends on many, many variables, including context. Just by way of example, many websites famously felt differently about having Donald Trump on their platform before and after the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Do we all need to write into our AUPs that such-and-such only applies if you don't encourage insurrection? As we've pointed out a million times, content policy involves constant changes to your policies as new edge cases arise.

People who have never done any content moderation seem to assume that most cases are obvious and maybe you have a small percentage of edge cases. But the reality is often the opposite. Nearly every case is an edge case, and every case involves different context or different facts, and no "Acceptable Use Policy" can possibly cover that -- which is why big companies are changing their policies all the time. And for smaller sites? How the fuck am I supposed to create an Acceptable Use Policy for Techdirt? We're quite open with our comments, but we block spam, and we have our comment voting system -- so part of our Acceptable Use Policy is "don't write stuff that makes our users think you're an asshole." Is that what Schatz and Thune want?

The bill then also requires this convoluted notice-takedown-appeal process for content that violates our AUP. But how the hell are we supposed to do that when most of the moderation takes place by user voting? Honestly, we're not even set up to "put back" content if it has been voted trollish by our community. We'd have to re-architect our comments. And, the only people who are likely to complain... are the trolls. This would enable trolls to keep us super busy having to respond to their nonsense complaints. The bill, like its original version, requires "live" phone-in support for these complaints unless you're a "small business" or an "individual provider." But, the terms say that you're a small business if you "received fewer than 1,000,000 unique monthly visitors" and that's "during the most recent 12-month period." How do they define "unique visitors"? The bill does not say, and that's just ridiculous, as there is no widely accepted definition of a unique monthly visitor, and every tracking system I've seen counts it differently. Also, does this mean that if you receive over 1 million visitors once in a 12-month period you no longer qualify?

Either way, under this definition, it might mean that Techdirt no longer qualifies as a small business, and there's no fucking way we can afford to staff up a live call center to deal with trolls whining that the community voted down their trollish comments.

This bill basically empowers trolls to harass companies, including ours. Why the hell would Senator Schatz want to do that?!?

The bill also requires transparency reports from companies regarding the moderation they do, though it says they only have to come out twice a year instead of four times. As we've explained, transparency is good, and transparency reports are good -- but mandated transparency reports are huge problem.

For both of these, it's unclear what exactly is the problem that Schatz and Thune think they're solving. The larger platforms -- the ones that everyone talks about -- basically do all of this already. So it won't change anything for them. All it will do is harm smaller companies, like ours, by putting a massive compliance burden on us, accomplishing nothing but... helping trolls annoy us.

The next big part of the bill involves "illegal content." Again, it's not at all clear what problem this is solving. The issue that the drafters of the bill would likely highlight is that some argue that there's a "loophole" in Section 230: if something is judged to be violating a law, Section 230 still allows a website to keep that content up. That seems like a problem... but only if you ignore the fact that nearly every website will take down such content. The "fix" here seems only designed to deal with the absolute worst actors -- almost all of which have already been shut down on other grounds. So what problem is this actually solving? How many websites are there that won't take down content upon receiving a court ruling on its illegality?

Also, as we've noted, we've already seen many, many examples of people faking court orders or filing fake defamation lawsuits against "John Does" who magically show up the next day to "settle" in order to get a court ruling that the content violated the law. Enabling more such activity is not a good idea. The PACT Act tries to handwave this away by giving the companies 4 days (in the original version it was 24 hours) to investigate and determine if they have "concerns about the legitimacy of the notice." But, again, that fails to take reality into account. Courts have no realistic time limit on adjudicating legality, but websites will have to review every such complaint in 4 days?!

The bill also expands the exemptions for Section 230. Currently, federal criminal law is exempt, but the bill will expand that to federal civil law as well. This is to deal with complaints from government agencies like the FTC and HUD and others who worried that they couldn't take civil action against websites due to Section 230 (though, for the most parts, the courts have held that 230 is not a barrier in those cases). But, much more problematic is that it extends the exemption for federal law to state Attorneys General to allow them to seek to enforce those laws if their states have comparable laws. That is a potentially massive change.

State AGs have long whined about how Section 230 blocks them from suing sites -- but there are really good reasons for this. First of all, state AGs have an unfortunate history of abusing their position to basically shake down companies that haven't broken any actual law, but where they can frame them as doing something nefarious... just to get headlines that help them seek higher office. Giving them more power to do this is immensely problematic -- especially when you have industry lobbyists who have capitalized on the willingness of state AGs to act this way, and used it as a method for hobbling competitors. It's not at all clear why we should give state AGs more power over random internet companies, when their existing track record on these issues is so bad.

Anyway, there is still much more in the bill that is problematic, but on the whole this bill repeats all of the mistakes of the first -- even though I know that the drafters know that these demands are unrealistic. The first time may have been due to ignorance, but this time? It's hard to take Schatz and Thune seriously on this bill when it appears that they simply don't care how destructive it is.

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Filed Under: acceptable use policy, brian schatz, civil law, intermediary liability, john thune, liability, section 230, transparency reports


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  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 12:36pm

    We made this with good intentions

    Haven’t anyone on top of Capitol Hill know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and bad internet bills.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 12:37pm

    Book title suggestion: "Section 230: Journey from 26 words to 26,000"

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

  • icon
    Blake C. Stacey (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 12:43pm

    But, the terms say that you're a small business if you "received fewer than 1,000,000 unique monthly visitors" and that's "during the most recent 12-month period." How do they define "unique visitors"? The bill does not say, and that's just ridiculous, as there is no widely accepted definition of a unique monthly visitor, and every tracking system I've seen counts it differently.

    As far as I know, nobody in a quarter-century of trying has invented a meaningful way to quantify website traffic, and every method for putting a supposedly precise number to it is an advertising gimmick. Why on Earth would we write a reliance upon an ad gimmick into federal law? It's like changing the penalties for a crime based on the quantity of bad vibes that it generated.

    Here's a wild idea: Why don't we have a National Commission on Internet Regulation before we try to write legislation?

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:10pm

      Re:

      National Commission on Internet Regulation

      Say the fuck WHAT?!?!

      How about we have NO internet regulation, and the bad actors can just keep on pissing, whining and moaning when the rest of us call them out. Either they'll eventually get the memo, or else they'll be shut out of society's advancements, and to my way of thinking, they'll have only themselves to blame. This is one time that Government, big or not-so-big, won't be able to save them from their own stupidity, no matter how hard they might try.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 5:11pm

      Re:

      As far as I know, nobody in a quarter-century of trying has invented a meaningful way to quantify website traffic, and every method for putting a supposedly precise number to it is an advertising gimmick.

      I see this as a fairly minor problem with an otherwise awful law. If you're telling your advertisers you have a million unique monthly visitors, and you're caught telling a court otherwise, you're going to be in some trouble. And it's doubtful that services will want to understate their counts by too much. I'm not expecting an epidemic of services claiming 999,999 monthly visitors.

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

      • icon
        Blake C. Stacey (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 6:02pm

        Re: Re:

        It is a comparatively small point among the galaxy of bad points that is this proposed law. But to me it seems indicative of the lack of thought or care that apparently went into the drafting process. It's a "wait, why?" moment.

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

        • icon
          Blake C. Stacey (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 6:47pm

          afterthought

          And even if it can be measured in a semi-robust way, it's such a ... bizarrely nonindicative number to put so much weight upon. Not every reader of a news website hangs out in their comment section --- very probably, most don't. Most people who read Wikipedia don't edit it. The challenges of content moderation, and the potential risk to the public of any given bit of user-contributed content, scale at best vaguely and imprecisely with "monthly unique visitors".

          My hackles go up a bit whenever it sounds like a law would make a particular technology mandatory, or effectively so. Let's say that I run a nonprofit with a substantial website. I'm not beholden to any advertisers; my donors care about the importance of our mission, not click rates and page impressions. We provide longreads of lasting relevance, so we're not really concerned with most performance metrics. Accordingly, our "analytics" needs are modest, mostly geared to predicting what our upkeep costs will be. We have no need to track "unique" views --- but suddenly, we're legally liable if we don't!

          (I know of a community website for higher mathematics research that gets ~300,000 page views per month. All it would take is Tucker Carlson going on a rant about the moral degeneracy of math teachers, and they could break a million, I'm sure.)

          Again, this is only one problem among many that have been pointed out.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 2:29pm

        Re: Re:

        Define "unique monthly visitor". I think this is part of the wider point attempting to be made, that most of this stuff makes no sense, and that legislators and everyone else should actually be understanding and thinking about this stuff before issuing "nerd this way" laws. (i.e., regulations would basically never have a chance to materialize)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:04pm

    But, much more problematic is that it extends the exemption for federal law to state Attorneys General

    Who keep on appointing themselves keepers of the public morals, and censors in chief.

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

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:10pm

    Question for Mike:

    Is this bill likely to be unconstitutional in that it compels speech?

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:13pm

      Re: Question for Mike:

      Parts of it, yes. But if it's crafted like most bills, any parts that are struck down by the courts will still leave the rest intact and enforceable. Witness the CDA and Obamacare, for two recent examples.

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:26pm

    No one with any goddamn sense should support this bill.

    So of course it’ll find support in Congress.

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

  • icon
    deanathema (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:30pm

    section 230 aka section 420

    Honestly, at this point I think the only way for people to get the point of 230's current benefits, is to just repeal it. Do it and see what happens. These morons won't understand until it directly affects them, or until they get 50,000 letters/phone calls from PISSED constituents. In short, repeal section 230 now! and have it spectacularly backdraft explode in their idiotic faces.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:47pm

      'Your post has been held for review, it will go up eventually.'

      While I agree that something like that certainly would get the point across an actual repeal would be hugely damaging, as the lawsuits would be flying and moderation would be a massive mess until it was reinstated(assuming it was, there are more than enough spiteful politicians who wouldn't care what damage was caused).

      A better option I'd say is for sites to set aside a day or even week where they would act as though it wasn't a law any more, showing the results without actually requiring the law to be revoked, and when the complaints started rolling in they could simply point out that they are merely providing examples of what people are pushing so hard for, so if they don't want that sort of treatment on a permanent basis they'd better keep 230 in place.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 2:34pm

        Re: 'Your post has been held for review, it will go up eventuall

        (assuming it was, there are more than enough spiteful politicians who wouldn't care what damage was caused).

        I highly doubt what you suggested would work either cause of what you said.

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:15pm

      Re: section 230 aka section 420

      Only 50,000? You are generous to a fault, I must say. I'd make it 2 orders of magnitude greater, and even then, I'm pretty sure that number would fall short.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 12:47am

      Re: section 230 aka section 420

      While that always sounds like a great idea, the millions of jobs affected in the interim would likely cause massive and irreversible negative effects.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 8:40am

        Re: Re: section 230 aka section 420

        Well, once american entrepreneurs realize the way to have a market at all will be to put the servers in a domain outside of the US...that'll more or less be it for most of a segment of US IT infrastructure providers and server farms.

        I find it extremely ironic that the US, in the wake of finding that it wasn't a good idea to migrate all manufacturing overseas, now seems hell-bent on pushing so many other jobs that way as well.

        73 million american citizens. And, it looks like, most of the body politic, from both sides of the aisle. we might as well all just invest in a few classes in mandarin and call it a day, because the american experiment is all but over at this point.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:35pm

    Stop treating politicians like idiots

    The first time may have been due to ignorance, but this time? It's hard to take Schatz and Thune seriously on this bill when it appears that they simply don't care how destructive it is.

    The answer to that is simple then: Don't.

    They're adults who have been informed of how stupid and damaging what they are proposing is, if they continue to push those ideas it is entirely reasonable and fair to assume that it's because they want those harms to come to pass or at a minimum simply don't care about the damage they stand to cause, and both of those are more than deserving of hefty criticism.

    As for the bill itself it sounds like if they aren't trying to force sites to not only keep assholes around but allow them to dictate to the sites then they sure did one hell of a job 'accidentally' writing a bill that will create that very situation. Rigid rules and having to answer for every little bit of moderation is a troll's dream as they can simply spam the hell out of a platform and contest every decision, forcing the platform to spend resources it might not have, either giving up on moderation or blocking user content entirely.

    Whether they really do 'mean well' or not this bill is a disaster in the making and they deserve to be called out on trying to give the worst people online veto power over platforms, and that's before you get into giving grandstanding AG's the ability to go after platforms for their PR stunts.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Stop treating politicians like idiots

      Yet, this will continue until it passes.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 4:02pm

        Re: Re: Stop treating politicians like idiots

        That's one possibility, the other would be for online platforms to grow a spine and push back, hard, however the problem with that is that the major players like Google and Facebook stand to benefit greatly by a crippled or gutted 230 since unlike potential competitors they would be able to survive that change.

        Barring those two the only option I see is for attacking 230 to be made so politically toxic that attempting to gut it becomes a non-starter, however with how many gullible and/or dishonest actors out there are who have either been conned into thinking it's this terrible blight on the internet and/or have a vested interest in platforms not being able to show assholes the door that's going to be an uphill battle requiring consistent pushback any time the liars or fools pop up to attack it.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:12pm

    One-Sided

    The bill still suffers from the same point that Goldman made originally. It throws a bunch of big (somewhat random) ideas into one bill, with no clear explanation of what problem it's actually trying to solve.

    The problem is that big tech has come to monopolize public discourse, and in the process become more powerful than government. It would be as if telephone companies decided to permanently disconnect customers who didn't agree with a certain morality code. And disconnection would be not just for using disagreeable language on the phone, but heard anywhere in public. The bill is attempting to fight back against the corporate morality police.

    Do we all need to write into our AUPs that such-and-such only applies if you don't encourage insurrection? As we've pointed out a million times, content policy involves constant changes to your policies as new edge cases arise.

    Correct. Attempting to create rules that only blocks the opposition without affecting those with whom you agree is the method by which the censorship occurs. If an edge case exists that's so complicated that a decision is extremely difficult, it probably means that you're attempting to justify the decision on personal grounds, and not principle.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:17pm

      Re: One-Sided

      It would be as if telephone companies decided to permanently disconnect customers who didn't agree with a certain morality code.
      That is a dumb comparison.

      The bill is attempting to fight back against the corporate morality police.
      And at the same time create problems for small websites like Techdirt.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:19pm

        Re: Re: One-Sided

        Correct. Attempting to create rules that only blocks the opposition without affecting those with whom you agree is the method by which the censorship occurs. If an edge case exists that's so complicated that a decision is extremely difficult, it probably means that you're attempting to justify the decision on personal grounds, and not principle.
        Really?
        Give us one example.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

          Don't get me wrong, there's stuff I agree with you on, and then there's this. I'm neutral though.

          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, 18 Mar 2021 @ 1:17am

        Re: Re: One-Sided

        Just get rid of section 230 already so that this crappy website “Techdirt” can go the way of the Dodo.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 1:49am

          Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

          ...along with every other site on the internet you would use to spout your ignorant nonsense, at a great cost of money and jobs.

          Or... you would stop volunteering your ignorance on a site you claim to hate and everyone will be happier.

          Why don't you try being an adult for once?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 6:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hi antidirt.

          I think it's funny as fuck that ever since you realized that paying for an Insider account for a website you hate, the intellectual level of your discourse basically plummeted below kindergarten tier.

          I wonder if your wife knows you've been cheating on her with Shiva Ayyadurai? That gamble didn't really pay off now did it? Now all you have is Jhon Smith, his mailing list and the "I hate Mike Masnick" press release he like totes promises is coming for realsies. After three years in the making.

          Seriously, if the fact that you think "forever copyright minus a day" is acceptable wasn't proof that you're a fucking joke, it's that you're still here mourning Shiva's failure to nuke a site you don't even think is significant to shit on. You're a has-been. You're a reason why lawyers have and deserve their shitty reputation.

          Maybe next time stick to the Prenda apologism. Paul Duffy is saving a seat for you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:20pm

      Re: One-Sided

      You keep on insisting that you have the right to butt into any online
      conversation, rather than go to the places on the Internet where you are welcome. What next will you demand, re-education camps for those that disagree with you?

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:51pm

      Yes or no, Koby: Do you believe the government should have the legal right to compel any privately owned interactive web service into hosting legally protected speech that the owners/operators of said service don’t want to host?

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 4:19pm

      Re: One-Sided

      The problem is that big tech has come to monopolize public discourse, and in the process become more powerful than government. It would be as if telephone companies decided to permanently disconnect customers who didn't agree with a certain morality code. And disconnection would be not just for using disagreeable language on the phone, but heard anywhere in public. The bill is attempting to fight back against the corporate morality police.

      Koby, I keep asking you not to be stupid, and yet you keep it up. The structure of this bill will encourage a LOT more blocking. As I said I don't think we could keep our comments up if this becomes law.

      Also: no one is blocking people because of a "morality code."

      Correct. Attempting to create rules that only blocks the opposition without affecting those with whom you agree is the method by which the censorship occurs. If an edge case exists that's so complicated that a decision is extremely difficult, it probably means that you're attempting to justify the decision on personal grounds, and not principle.

      Koby, you have no clue what you're talking about and should probably stop trying to weigh in on issues where you only look totally foolish. Your description here is not even close to accurate and makes it clear that you have literally no experience whatsoever on this matter.

      What's really dumb is that we've explained this to you as well, meaning you're no better than Schatz and Thune in that people have corrected your misconceptions and you still repeat them.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 17 Mar 2021 @ 5:12pm

      Re: One-Sided

      The problem is that big tech has come to monopolize public discourse, and in the process become more powerful than government.

      If that was true, how come you can come here and write something inane like that? The truth is, nobody wants to deal with assholes. If you behave like an asshole, you'll be treated like an asshole, and somehow the assholes think this is the fault of those who kicking them out.

      It would be as if telephone companies decided to permanently disconnect customers who didn't agree with a certain morality code. And disconnection would be not just for using disagreeable language on the phone, but heard anywhere in public. The bill is attempting to fight back against the corporate morality police.

      What is the "corporate morality police"? Or you just using an euphemism to cast companies in a bad light for not wanting to deal with assholes? As usual, what you want is to force speech upon unwilling participants.

      Attempting to create rules that only blocks the opposition without affecting those with whom you agree is the method by which the censorship occurs. If an edge case exists that's so complicated that a decision is extremely difficult, it probably means that you're attempting to justify the decision on personal grounds, and not principle.

      So why do you support people who want to fuck around with section 230, since it's language is entirely neutral and adding a bunch of caveats into it will make everything worse.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 5:21pm

        Re: Re: One-Sided

        What is the "corporate morality police"? Or you just using an euphemism to cast companies in a bad light for not wanting to deal with assholes? As usual, what you want is to force speech upon unwilling participants.

        Yeah, Koby and those like them aren't honest enough to admit and own why them and their buddies keep being shown the door so they keep coming up with new and dishonest ways to phrase it.

        Big platforms are first and foremost focused on profits, if it was profitable to keep assholes around then you could be sure that they would be welcomed even if that made for a miserable experience for everyone else, that they instead keep getting the boot has nothing to do with morality but simply the fact that letting the assholes run wild stands to alienate and drive off the majority of users and advertisers, and since that's bad for profits out they go.

        The 'problem' is that the assholes can't admit that the majority of people don't want them around, and they're too enamored of the audience on big platforms to go to ones that actually want them around, so they scream and cry about how it's totally unfair that platforms have rules and they're expected to act like civilized people.

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

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 5:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

          Big platforms are first and foremost focused on profits, if it was profitable to keep assholes around then you could be sure that they would be welcomed even if that made for a miserable experience for everyone else, that they instead keep getting the boot has nothing to do with morality but simply the fact that letting the assholes run wild stands to alienate and drive off the majority of users and advertisers, and since that's bad for profits out they go.

          The 'problem' is that the assholes can't admit that the majority of people don't want them around, and they're too enamored of the audience on big platforms to go to ones that actually want them around, so they scream and cry about how it's totally unfair that platforms have rules and they're expected to act like civilized people.

          Not only that, but the very fact that even Parler (yes, Parler) has banned Milo Yannopoulos means that not even the social networking service built for trolls, racists, and other miscreants wants him around.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 8:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

            Well, only one thing to do, obviously Parler needs to be sued and/or laws need to be passed to force it to host that speech whether it wants them around or not, because being prohibited from using your social media platform of choice is nothing less than complete and utter censorship.

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

        • icon
          Koby (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 8:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

          Big platforms are first and foremost focused on profits, if it was profitable to keep assholes around then you could be sure that they would be welcomed even if that made for a miserable experience for everyone else, that they instead keep getting the boot has nothing to do with morality but simply the fact that letting the assholes run wild stands to alienate and drive off the majority of users and advertisers, and since that's bad for profits out they go.

          Parler became the most popular app several times between November and January, prior to its deplatforming. It would have been very profitable if allowed to reach critical mass, and contrary to your assertion, the disagreement would have been largely isolated instead of creating some kind of miserable experience for others. So I can't agree with you. Instead, it was an excellent example of what happens when the big tech monopoly is threatened. Also, several incidents in non-tech industries have occurred in recent years, such as the Gillette debacle, superhero comics layoffs, politically correct movies, and print newspapers. They all eschewed the profits in favor of politics.

          There's even a saying: "Get woke, go broke".

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

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 8:50pm

            The Dr. Seuss estate “went woke” by pulling those six books with racist content. It didn’t “go broke” as a result — it made a metric fucking shitload of money. Ignorant conservatives thought “the Left” was seriously trying to “cancel” The Cat in the Hat and bought lots of Seuss books to “cancel the cancel” or whatever.

            And let’s not forget Black Panther, a film with a not-zero amount of commentary on race relations. It also made meta-commentary on race by using a majority-Black cast for a film meant for global distribution. Did that film make Marvel “go broke”? (Spoilers: It didn’t. It made lots of money.)

            “Get woke, go broke” is another one of those meaningless bullshit phrases like “cancel culture”: It means only what those who use it seriously feels it means, and conservatives are typically the ones who use it seriously. I mean, you refuse to define “woke”, for starters. But even if we went with a colloquial meaning of the word, plenty of pop culture that “went woke” didn’t “go broke”. That you’re concentrating on the failures means you’re looking to explain a failure on your political beliefs rather than an explanation far more likely to be correct.

            Take that potshot you laid down about “politically correct movies”. Did such a movie fail because it was “politically correct”, or did it fail because it was generally regarded as a “low quality” movie? Like, give me an actual, factual, specific-as-all-hell example to work with here instead of a generality you can flake on when your argument falls apart under the kind of scrutiny I’m dishing out right now.

            And by the by, plenty of “politically incorrect” media fails, too. But I don’t see you saying “go crass, lose cash”.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 12:54am

              Re:

              "The Dr. Seuss estate “went woke” by pulling those six books with racist content. It didn’t “go broke” as a result — it made a metric fucking shitload of money. Ignorant conservatives thought “the Left” was seriously trying to “cancel” The Cat in the Hat and bought lots of Seuss books to “cancel the cancel” or whatever"

              The funny thing about that whole thing is that the 6 books the publisher decided to stop publishing were very low sellers. Then, guess which books didn't sell massive amounts during the parade of ignorance? Yeah...

              "Did such a movie fail because it was “politically correct”, or did it fail because it was generally regarded as a “low quality” movie?"

              Or did it fail due to pandemic closures? Did it fail because it was an arthouse movie that would never have made big numbers at any point anyway? Did it fail because the marketing sucked, or because the studio made it a limited release with zero advertising and it got crushed by some big blockbuster that weekend?

              As usual, I'm going to guess that the reason this tosser never offers real concrete examples of what he's talking about is because it's so easy to determine that he's lying if he gives them.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 1:22am

              Re:

              Digital book “burning” is much more insidious than actual book burning. Removal of books from Amazon, the world’s largest distributor, can mean that removing a single book can result in thousands of copies not being available at once. It’s an authoritarian’s wet dream.

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

              • icon
                Samuel Abram (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 8:28am

                Re: Re:

                Amazon is not the only bookstore in the world, though. There’s Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and best of all, your local independent retail book store!

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

              • icon
                Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 9:00am

                Yes, that is a problem.

                What does that have to do with anything I said in my reply? After all, Amazon didn’t decide to cease publication and distribution of those six racist-ass Seuss books — the Seuss estate made that decision.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 3:17pm

                  Re:

                  And Amazon removing books, as they do, has historically had nothing to do with any of the above claimed reasons.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 12:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

            "It would have been very profitable if allowed to reach critical mass"

            Maybe it would, but the people whose property it was using against their T&Cs to build itself decided they didn't want to help. Parler had 2 choices - abide by AWS's terms of service, or find another platform to use that wanted them there (or, of course, just build their own platform).

            Parler chose to continue to violate the terms of service of the property they were using. I'm sorry that you don't believe in following the rules you agree to when you are invited to someone else's house, but you shouldn't be surprised when you're asked to leave when you refuse to do so.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 7:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

            It would have been very profitable if allowed to reach critical mass

            It did reach critical mass, mainly of people who believed the election had been stolen, and having reached that critical mass, it blew up.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 10:34am

      Re: One-Sided

      The problem is that big tech has come to monopolize public discourse, and in the process become more powerful than government.

      This might be the dumbest thing I've seen from you yet, Koby, and that's really saying something.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2021 @ 3:19pm

        Re: Re: One-Sided

        When the public literally decides as a crowd to patronize one thing, it is hardly that thing monopolizing an industry. That's... exactly backward.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:59am

          Re: Re: Re: One-Sided

          "When the public literally decides as a crowd to patronize one thing"

          The thing I find amusing here is that all these arguments about "monopoly" always seem to be themselves on the idea that people use one social network and that's it. My experience is that most people I know use at least 2-3 social media sites, and even that can vary depending on what you class as a social network. Sure, FB, Twitter and TikTok are social media platforms, but is Reddit? Whatsapp? Do forums like this one count, or only the ones where you give real names - if that, then what about the sites that log you in via Facebook?

          Given that most people use multiple social networks at the same time no matter how you define them, how can they all be monopolies?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 3:23pm

    David Allen Green has a comment policy "Comments will not be published if irksome", I've come to like how it sums up both the intent and the subjective nature of comment moderation.

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

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 4:37pm

    big tech has come to monopolize public discourse

    BUZZZT Wrong answer.

    No, "big tech" is not monopolizing our public discourse, unless you consider some news media sites to be "big tech". Though I'll grant you that "big tech", as a topic of discussion, is sure as hell taking the majority of time in our daily discoursing, that's true. But if you look at it carefully, you'll soon realize that some people are very cunningly not including "big media" in the "big tech" discussion. Such willful distraction is exactly why folks like you have made the statement you did.

    Don't worry, I don't blame you a bit, it's just a natural reaction when skilled operators are steering the discussion. A hint: always look for the hidden agenda behind the curtain. That's where you'll always find the little man, and you can be sure that his agenda will not coincide with yours.

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 4:43pm

      Re:

      Sorry, somehow the above reply got posted as a standalone reply to the article, and not as a reply directed towards to Koby - my fault, I'm sure. But the message of the post stands.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      icon
      Koby (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 9:32pm

      Re:

      No, "big tech" is not monopolizing our public discourse, unless you consider some news media sites to be "big tech".

      The big tech social media companies that are affected by section 230 are platforms, not publishers.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 4:55pm

    This bill would put small websites out of business,
    Or else force them to not allow user comments,
    Ok for Google, Facebook, as it reduces competition from startups,
    Meanwhile telecom company's get to sell user browser data , location info to anyone,
    See giant Microsoft email hacks, effecting 1000s of companys
    Security and user privacy is a major problem in America
    But politicians seem to be obsessed with section. 230

    It's like 10 years ago politicians were attacking violent video games
    This bill helps no one but just puts more red-tape and moderation. Costs on any website with user comments and forums

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 6:17pm

      Re:

      It sounds like those politicians really want a change of career just like the anti-videogame ones as they seemed to get the message and shut their stupid traps after they saw it was losing them elections instead of winning them and whining about it wasn't getting them any sympathy so they should lay low and hope nobody plays any soundbites of their past.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2021 @ 9:41pm

    How likely is the bill to pass?

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 17 Mar 2021 @ 11:06pm

      Re:

      I'm worried. It's bipartisan, and has support on both sides of the aisle. Also, enough tech companies are acting like this may be a "reasonable compromise." So I'm concerned that they'll declare support for the bill, and it'll be rushed through.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 12:19am

        'Oh no Mr. Senators, not the briar patch...'

        I imagine the larger companies are on board because they know that they can handle the burdens this would create whereas it would absolutely gut any competition and prevent any new services from springing up to challenge them, which would be quite the irony given how many politicians have been using them as punching bags and claiming they need to be reigned in.

        As for any of the smaller ones... wishful thinking that they're small enough it won't be used against them or falling for the lies would be my only guess.

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

      • icon
        Blake C. Stacey (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, bipartisan bad ideas make me even more worried then Democratic bad ideas. I'm drafting a letter to my senators (Warren and Markey) about all this, because I'm an academic and writing is my thing. Going to try making the pitch that the rush to legislate without careful study first is off-brand. We need to be hearing from activists who have used the Internet to organize in support of marginalized groups, software developers who know what's technically feasible and what isn't, journalists who have learned to see through corporate and political spin, even (gasp) lawyers who have actually argued Section 230 cases. Instead, the conversation has been shaped by pundits out to make a buck, politicians arguing in the worst faith ("Big Tech is censoring conservatives, a noun a verb Critical Race Theory"), and the CEOs of corporations that ought to be broken up anyway. Passing laws that will further entrench the current major players while simultaneously going after them on antitrust grounds is, as Mr. Spock would say, not logical.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:27am

        Re: Re:

        Is there any indications it will be rushed through?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2021 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re:

        There will be opposers, though.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    When I said "cancel", I didn't mean ME or my pals!, 18 Mar 2021 @ 11:12am

    Maz fears biz will have to answer to customers.

    A) Techdirt presents itself as a public discussion forum. That is its "form contract", the clear gist of visible plain HTML input form, and the many statements extolling "Free Speech". But it's a false front.

    B) You state above that your unique "community voting" / "moderation" system which disadvantages viewpoints by "hiding" which can't be appealed, adding an editorial warning, and requiring a click, is entirely out of your control. That is a lie: YOU wrote the code which implements it. However, Techdirt is to that degree literally NOT YOUR SITE. -- You won't give info on WHO does control it or how, though, or on...

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      When I said "cancel", I didn't mean ME or my pals!, 18 Mar 2021 @ 11:12am

      Re: Maz fears biz will have to answer to customers.

      C) Acceptable comments. You state only that you have no commenting guidelines, and strongly imply that you're imcompetent to do what nearly every other site does. I've several times suggested "bartender" rules as to who's vulgar and who started it, but of course if you did that, your fanboys -- and even re-writers -- would be ones ejected, not those who disagree in civil tone.

      D) But you have contradictorily stated that you're the Editor with total control over what appears on the site. You do remove commercial comments -- that is, spam -- though your fanboys define spam as any comment they disagree with, circling back to B above and highlighting that it's arbitrary.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      When I said "cancel", I didn't mean ME or my pals!, 18 Mar 2021 @ 11:13am

      Re: Maz fears biz will have to answer to customers.

      E) You consider your implementation of site code to be sacrosanct, even though it's clearly to allow unknown persons (allegedly a clique of fanboys) to control discussion by hidden means, perhaps even some given Moderator powers. You blather that "transparency is good" while your own system is utterly opaque and every day evidences discrimination against viewpoints.

      F) Not to be overlooked: on the Copia site you admit that you're "supported" by Silicon Valley capital, therefore the clear conclusion is that you push their agendas. You are therefore not actually a business which is open to all, but hidden persuader, a corporate SHILL.

      Techdirt doesn't serve its apparent customers, but is a propaganda outlet for Big Tech, and if made subject to such bill so that has to be some degree of FAIR, it'd be good for The Public.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 12:07pm

        Re: Re: Maz fears biz will have to answer to customers.

        Decent fan fiction, but could do with more character development. 6/10.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 18 Mar 2021 @ 2:50pm

        Re: Troll shoots himself in the foot, blames shoe.

        Techdirt doesn't serve its apparent customers, but is a propaganda outlet for Big Tech, and if made subject to such bill so that has to be some degree of FAIR, it'd be good for The Public.

        In one sense it would be good for the public: your inane blathering would be erased from the internet. So that means it has at least one positive thing going for it.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Mar 2021 @ 11:41am

      You make this too easy — and maybe a little too fun.

      Techdirt presents itself as a public discussion forum. That is its "form contract", the clear gist of visible plain HTML input form, and the many statements extolling "Free Speech".

      Whatever this “form contract” bullshit means, it’s irrelevant. Techdirt is a privately owned website; that it leaves a portion of the site open to public third-party submissions doesn’t change that fact. And since Techdirt is privately owned, its owners/operators can moderate the site however they want. Your “form contract” bullshit wouldn’t pass a laugh test in law school, never mind an actual court of law.

      disadvantages viewpoints

      No website or interactive web service is legally required to be “viewpoint neutral” vis-á-vis third-party content in any way. That includes Techdirt.

      YOU wrote the code which implements it. However, Techdirt is to that degree literally NOT YOUR SITE.

      Except it is. This comments section being open doesn’t make the site a publicly owned entity.

      I've several times suggested "bartender" rules as to who's vulgar and who started it, but of course if you did that, your fanboys -- and even re-writers -- would be ones ejected, not those who disagree in civil tone.

      …says the guy who routinely “starts it first” by flinging insults, making wild accusations, and ranting about “zombie accounts” even before anyone here has had a chance to reply to your inanity. Hypocrisy, thy name is Brainy Smurf.

      you have contradictorily stated that you're the Editor with total control over what appears on the site.

      That isn’t a contradiction. Techdirt’s admins do have total control over what appears on the site. That they choose to exercise that control in the most extreme cases doesn’t hinder their ability to do so.

      your fanboys define spam as any comment they disagree with

      FYI: The flag is meant for comments seen as “abusive/trolling/spam”. Considering the general “aggresively defensive” tone of your comments, your unwillingness to engage on a good-faith basis anyone who questions your arguments, and your admission that you repeatedly spam the site to get your comments through instead of waiting for your shit to go through like the rest of us? You fit all three categories.

      You consider your implementation of site code to be sacrosanct, even though it's clearly to allow unknown persons (allegedly a clique of fanboys) to control discussion by hidden means

      If’n you don’t like how the community curates/moderates itself, find a community that will accept you and oh wait the whole point of your bullshit is that you’re an attention whore who wants arguments out of some sadomasochistic fetish for Internet slapfights.

      You blather that "transparency is good" while your own system is utterly opaque and every day evidences discrimination against viewpoints.

      Techdirt doesn’t need that kind of “transparency” for a comments section. That you think it does means all your bitching about Techdirt being “insignificant” is worthless.

      on the Copia site you admit that you're "supported" by Silicon Valley capital, therefore the clear conclusion is that you push their agendas

      Correlation is not causation. Yes or no: Can you prove, with evidence instead of your irrelevant feelings, that Copia has directly “pushed the agenda” of any of its sponsors?

      You are therefore not actually a business which is open to all, but hidden persuader, a corporate SHILL.

      Let’s say that’s true. So what? Doing that isn’t against the law.

      Techdirt doesn't serve its apparent customers, but is a propaganda outlet for Big Tech, and if made subject to such bill so that has to be some degree of FAIR, it'd be good for The Public.

      Yes or no, Brainy: Do you believe the government should have the legal right to compel any privately owned interactive web service into hosting legally protected speech that the owners/operators of said service don’t want to host?

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:04am

        Re:

        "Can you prove, with evidence instead of your irrelevant feelings, that Copia has directly “pushed the agenda” of any of its sponsors?"

        Not just any of the sponsors, but any of the non-Google sponsors. We're all familiar with his desperate lies about Google, but I've never got an answer as to how the MacArthur Foundation, Yelp and Namecheap, among others, are controlling the editorial here. After all, their presence on his "gotcha" image he always posts after copying it from the public announcement page of the site he tries to attack gives them equal weight, so surely they have equal influence here to Google.

        "Do you believe the government should have the legal right to compel any privately owned interactive web service into hosting legally protected speech that the owners/operators of said service don’t want to host?"

        We all know the answer to that - he's 100% for outright communism so long as he thinks he'll benefit from it.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:44am

          Re: Re:

          he's 100% for outright communism

          More outright fascism, anybody can build a business so long as he can dictate how the business operates.

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


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