House Republicans Want To Flip Section 230 On Its Head, Bring Back Distributor Liability

from the yikes dept

There was a time when a key part of the Republicans' political platform was for "tort reform" and reducing the ability of civil lawsuits to be brought against companies. The argument they made (and to which they still give lip service) is that too much liability leads to a barrage of frivolous nuisance litigation, which only benefits greedy trial lawyers. Apparently, that concept has been tossed out the window -- as with so many Republican principles -- if you mention "big tech." The latest example of this is a new Section 230 reform bill introduced by Representative Jim Banks called the "Stop Shielding Culpable Platforms Act" which would massively increase liability on any company that hosts user content online.

Banks trumpeted his own confusion on this issue earlier in the week by tweeting -- falsely -- that "Section 230 knowingly lets Big Tech distribute child pornography without fear of legal repercussions." This is wrong. Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is very, very, very much illegal and any website hosting it faces serious liability issues. Section 230 does not cover federal criminal law, and CSAM violates federal criminal law. Furthermore, federal law requires every website to report the discovery of CSAM to the CyberTipline run by NCMEC.

The law is pretty clear here and you'd think that a sitting member of Congress could, perhaps, have had someone look it up?

(a)Duty To Report.—

(1)In general.—

(A)Duty.—In order to reduce the proliferation of online child sexual exploitation and to prevent the online sexual exploitation of children, a provider—

(i)shall, as soon as reasonably possible after obtaining actual knowledge of any facts or circumstances described in paragraph (2)(A), take the actions described in subparagraph (B); and

(ii)may, after obtaining actual knowledge of any facts or circumstances described in paragraph (2)(B), take the actions described in subparagraph (B).

(B)Actions described.—The actions described in this subparagraph are—

(i)providing to the CyberTipline of NCMEC, or any successor to the CyberTipline operated by NCMEC, the mailing address, telephone number, facsimile number, electronic mailing address of, and individual point of contact for, such provider; and

(ii)making a report of such facts or circumstances to the CyberTipline, or any successor to the CyberTipline operated by NCMEC.

And yet, Banks seems to ignore all of this. And that leads to this new law. To be fair, the law itself is not as insane and disconnected from reality as so many other Section 230 bills, but it's still ridiculous. It's all built on the false argument that websites are free to knowingly host this kind of content. In fact, the bill is mostly performative. The vast majority of the bill is actually Banks misrepresenting news stories to make it sound -- falsely -- like websites are free to knowingly host CSAM.

The actual change to 230 is much shorter -- but the impact would basically flip Section 230's role on its head, and would lead to two things I thought Republicans were against: widespread suppression of speech online and a massive influx of frivolous and vexatious litigation. Here's the change. It would add in this paragraph to Section 230:

‘‘(B) NO EFFECT ON TREATMENT AS DISTRIBUTOR.—Nothing in subparagraph (A) shall be construed to prevent a provider or user of an interactive computer service from being treated as the distributor of information provided by another information content provider.’’.

To understand all this, it helps to understand the different kinds of liability that existed pre-Section 230. This history is well documented in Jeff Kosseff's excellent book on the history of Section 230. The key case here was Smith v. California, which involved a book store that was found to have violated a city ordinance against obscenity for having a book on its shelves that was deemed obscene (that book which is currently listed on Amazon, though out of stock, was apparently fairly tame by modern standards, but did involve some scenes where -- gasp -- sex happens).

Either way, the Supreme Court ruled in the Smith case that while obscene books are not constitutionally protected, you can't hold the bookseller liable if they did not have knowledge of the contents of the book and how it was obscene. And thus, the Supreme Court established a somewhat messy "distributor liability" standard, in which you could be liable for books you distributed... but there had to be some knowledge by the distributor of the illegality of the material. The court -- somewhat explicitly -- refused to discuss what "mental element is requisite" to prove knowledge. This distributor liability was considered different from "publisher liability," because the assumption was that if you're the actual publisher, then you obviously have knowledge of the material in question.

This resulted in a lot of confusion in the ensuing years -- and pre-Section 230 -- there was a lot of concern about how that would play out on the early internet (or even with other distributors). Eventually, with the ruling in the Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy case, a judge leapt right past distributor liability, and said that Prodigy actually had publisher liability for defamatory material, simply because it did some moderation.

Section 230 was written, explicitly, to overrule the decision in the Prodigy case. However, since the Prodigy case focused on actual publisher liability, and didn't even get into the weeds of distributor liability, there was some early confusion as to whether or not Section 230 actually protected against distributor liability as well. Indeed, some observers of internet law were initially unimpressed by Section 230, suggesting that it might be useful, but not until courts really had weighed in on the "jumbled mess" of secondary liability frameworks and how 230 impacted them. That changed after the first big case involving Section 230, Zeran v. AOL, which read 230 broadly to say that it prohibited all such civil liability -- including distributor liability.

Since then, Section 230's authors -- Chris Cox and Ron Wyden -- have repeatedly said that the court in Zeran got it exactly right. They have noted, correctly, that any other interpretation of 230 would make it close to useless, because it would lead to a bunch of frivolous lawsuits involving wasteful fighting over discovery to prove "knowledge."

But, apparently, that's what Jim Banks and the Republican Study Committee he leads want. A lot more liability and costly legal fights over discovery to prove knowledge and create liability for distributors. I mean, it's so ridiculous that it might even lead trial lawyers -- a group that has historically backed Democrats -- to start stumping for Republicans since this will open up the field to tons of costly litigation. And, of course, adding back in distributor liability won't magically fix the issues that Banks claims he's trying to fix because -- as already noted -- allowing CSAM on any website is already very, very much illegal, and a huge liability. So none of that changes.

The only actual change created by this bill is that it... will enable lawsuits against tons of websites. And, in order to avoid some of that costly litigating, many websites will also enable the heckler's veto. All anyone will ever have to do to remove content they dislike from the internet is send a notice claiming the content violates some law (defamation being the easiest, but there are others as well). Then, they'll be able to claim "knowledge" if the website refuses to remove it. That means that most websites will be quick to remove any content that someone claims is defamatory, no matter how ridiculous.

We already know how this works out because it's kind of the way the DMCA works today -- except that at least with the DMCA there are some built in counternotice provisions. But already the DMCA is abused to try to hide information. And Banks' change, should it become law, would make that much more widely available. At least under the DMCA, sites can more easily see that, say a negative review, is obviously not copyright infringing. Whether or not it's defamatory is not something a website can easily judge -- and therefore it's much more likely to just pull down the content.

This bill wouldn't just change Section 230, it would flip the entire logic of 230 on its head. Rather than giving websites the flexibility and personal responsibility to moderate in a manner to fit their own community, it would cause nearly every website to start pulling down content at the first whiff of controversy. Rather than enabling free speech online, it would stifle it. Indeed, one might argue that under this law, Twitter would be forced to pull down Banks' tweet about this law. After all it could be argued that it defames Twitter itself in falsely claiming the company knowingly hosts CSAM. Under Banks' law, Twitter would become liable for those false claims... about Twitter.

It's a weird flex for a Republican to push for greater suppression of speech and more frivolous lawsuits, but that's what Jim Banks is doing here. What amazing times we live in.

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Filed Under: distributor liability, jim banks, publisher liability, republican study committee, section 230, tort reform


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

    You're banned. You're banned. EVERYONE GETS BANS!

    It's a weird flex for a Republican to push for greater suppression of speech and more frivolous lawsuits, but that's what Jim Banks is doing here. What amazing times we live in.

    No, that seems entirely consistent with the party these days, where the only speech that matters is that which they agree with and if you aren't toeing the line and giving them what they want then you deserve to be punished until you do.

    As noted in the article it is somewhat funny that so many republicans are pushing for bills like this, because after four years(and counting) of backing Trump you'd think they'd realize that making it so platforms will remove anything even remotely questionable just might backfire on them, but I suppose arrogance and raging hatred at the tech platforms for daring to have rules has blinded them to even the possibility that this can and will be turned against them should they 'win' this.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:21pm

      Or, to put it more succinctly: They’re voting for the Leopards Eating Faces Party and hoping they can escape before the maulings start.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:28pm

        Re:

        I'm not so sure, I think they really are stupid/arrogant enough to think that their faces would never be on the menu because as exemplified by The Dear Leader that they still worship at the feet of consequences for actions are things other people have to deal with.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 4:02pm

          Re: Re:

          I believe they are actually voting for the Black Hole Eats All UCG and UCG Hosting Party. But then everyone can sue all the traditional content producers as well, so whatever.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 7:47pm

      Re: You're banned. You're banned. EVERYONE GETS BANS!

      They seem to have taken W's "If you're not with us you are against us." to heart. If you aren't their propaganda arm you are against them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2021 @ 3:00pm

      Re: You're banned. You're banned. EVERYONE GETS BANS!

      They're trying to create an extreme version of the Prodigy ruling, because they want the consequences that s230 was created to reverse: they want a safe harbour if and only if there is no moderation at all, and a completely unmanageable liability if you have any UGC but moderate it at all. Effectively, they're trying to create a world where the only way to have UGC accessible from America is to have no moderation except the exact minimum required by law. In other words, either twitter allows Nazis or twitter ceases to exist.

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

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:24pm

    *Sigh*

    For five minutes...

    ...can these idiots not blame Section 230 as a scapegoat...

    ...F O R F I V E M I N U T E S ? ? ?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:30pm

      'It's because you're assholes.' 'Boo!' 'Fine, it's 230's fault.'

      No, because that might require them to own the real reasons sites keep showing them the door, and that in turn stands to alienate a good chunk of their voting base.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 2:55am

        Re: 'It's because you're assholes.' 'Boo!' 'Fine, it's 230's fau

        "...to own the real reasons sites keep showing them the door, and that in turn stands to alienate a good chunk of their voting base."

        Or in some cases, like Hawley, have the voting base they're pitching for swear loyalty for life as long as he's willing to stand up and openly declare his adherence to the white cause.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:35pm

    Lawsuits all are all on computers.

    And judgement against you, or debt, rahter is on a computer

    Just break into the computers that keep track of that and erase it out of those computers, then that will be the end of it. You will not owe it anymore.

    Then destroy the evidence of what you did using a secure disk wiping program, so if they come and seize your computers,. they will not be able to recover and any evidence off your hard disk

    No evidence recovered from your hard disk = NO CASE

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:47pm

    That means that most websites will be quick to remove any content that someone claims is defamatory, no matter how ridiculous.

    Which too many politicians seem to think means that they will be able to control the narrative.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    If 230 is SO good, why under constant attack?, 19 Mar 2021 @ 12:59pm

    "faces serious liability issues"? NO, a "provider" only fines:

    First, a "provider" of website services is practically immune by Section 230 from being an "offender" in the criminal provisions. 2nd, a corporation would have to go far indeed to be criminally convicted, and even then it of course cannot be jailed so it's nearly meaningless! X out the criminal part: Masnick being dishonest as usual just threw it in to obscure that corporations will never in practice face anything but money fines, and SMALL ones at that.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      If 230 is SO good, why under constant attack?, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:00pm

      Re: "faces serious liability issues"? NO, a "prov

      (e) Failure To Report.-A provider that knowingly and willfully fails to make a report required under subsection (a)(1) shall be fined- (1) in the case of an initial knowing and willful failure to make a report, not more than $150,000; and (2) in the case of any second or subsequent knowing and willful failure to make a report, not more than $300,000.

      The "fine" (for not reporting) is a pittance to Facebook / Google, which get that much every second. -- And that'd be after their standing army of lawyers fought it every inch; those are tax-deductible STAFF lawyers, so no actual extra expense.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      If 230 is SO good, why under constant attack?, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:00pm

      Re: "faces serious liability issues"? NO, a "prov

      By the way, this is COMPELLED SPEECH, is it not? Proving yet again that corporations are simply NOT "persons" having full Rights: they're required to make not just this but whatever other reports legislators want to "burden" them with.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:12pm

      Goddammit, Brainy, can’t you shut up for a day?

      a "provider" of website services is practically immune by Section 230 from being an "offender" in the criminal provisions

      You didn’t even read the article, Jesus fucking Christ. Section 230 doesn’t immunize any interactive web service from federal criminal law. If a site admin sees CSAM but does nothing about it, 230 doesn’t apply to that situation.

      a corporation would have to go far indeed to be criminally convicted, and even then it of course cannot be jailed so it's nearly meaningless

      A corporation can’t be jailed. A person can. (Or do you call them “individuals”?) And the feds would go after anyone who would knowingly violate federal criminal law by letting CSAM stay up.

      The "fine" (for not reporting) is a pittance to Facebook / Google

      The harm from being outed as a site/service that allowed for the hosting of CSAM with the explicit knowledge of at least one administrator/moderator, however, is not. I don’t know about you, but if I heard a service I used was seemingly CSAM-friendly, I’d stop using that service and recommend to everyone I know that they stop using it/never use it. A reputation is like a plate of glass: Once it shatters, it’ll never be the same again, no matter how hard you try to put it back together.

      this is COMPELLED SPEECH, is it not?

      Technically? No. It would be compelled overmoderation — that is, it would be the government saying “don’t let anything that could get your ass in legal trouble stay up” and services taking down anything that could bring about even the most frivolous lawsuit possible. Mike would almost certainly delete numerous comments of yours here on Techdirt, for example, because of their borderline defamatory content.

      You wanna know what to call that specific idea? I’ll tell you what to call it: Censorship.

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

    • icon
      Ehud Gavron (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:22pm

      Re: "faces serious liability issues"? NO, a "provider" only fine

      ...a corporation cannot be jailed...

      Its directors and management sure can. Use a search engine and check out Kenneth Lay and Bernard Ebbers. There are many more, but these guys were tech CEOs within the last few years.

      Also you entirely missed the point when you wrote about fines:

      ...and SMALL ones at that.

      Mike's point that you missed that several hundred thousand dollars in fines is a rounding error for Google, FB, IG, etc., but it will kill sites (like TD) that can't afford it. (See e.g. Shiva Ayyadurai lawsuit or Hulk Hogan's suit against Buzzfeed.)

      It's all well and good to be uninformed and yelling at Mike without understanding either the history or the facts. You do great at that. Try standup comedy -- on Fox.

      E

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    If 230 is SO good, why under constant attack?, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:11pm

    And yet Twitter gets away with it even when notified!

    allowing CSAM on any website is already very, very much illegal, and a huge liability

    While Censoring Trump, Twitter Exploited Section 230 & Published Photos Of Sex Trafficking Victim

    https://www.blabber.buzz/blab/pop/1025202-while-censoring-trump-twitter-exploited-section-230 -published-photos-of-sex-trafficking-victim

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      If 230 is SO good, why under constant attack?, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:12pm

      Re: And yet Twitter gets away with it even when notified!

      Also recent report that Facebook hosted 20 million instances of child porn last year, but I didn't note the link, and too much trouble to find for a site that doesn't bother with mere facts.

      This piece, as most of Masnick's, is solely to promote and defend corporate power. What Masnick wishes to preserve doesn't do you or me any good at all, but is worth BILLIONS to his precious corporations.

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

      • icon
        Jojo (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:51pm

        Re: Re: And yet Twitter gets away with it even when notified!

        Looks at the Username, then the comments.

        Me: genuinely confused.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 1:53pm

        Re: Re: And yet Twitter gets away with it even when notified!

        Also recent report that Facebook hosted 20 million instances of child porn last year, but I didn't note the link, and too much trouble to find for a site that doesn't bother with mere facts.

        That's from NCMEC's report, which they have the data because of the law mentioned in the article above. Because the law already says that FB has to report it, and it does. In fact, FB is extremely proactive in reporting to NCMEC which is why you know about this.

        https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/gethelp/2020-reports-by-esp.pdf

        In other words, that data point proves the point of the article. Not your point.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 7:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          By blue's own rules, it would have made Parler liable for the Jan 6th insurrection. Which he not only protested, but it's worth noting that no changes in law were needed for Parler to be deplatformed anyway.

          This is an important point to make whenever these single-celled paramecia bring up demands to make copyright law and other laws even more harsh: the law already does what they want it to do. There's no need to modify Section 230, the same way that SOPA and FOSTA were completely unnecessary to take down the websites that these laws were aimed at. The only reason why these laws even get support is because anything less would get people to realize that the idiots pushing these laws are a waste of time and money.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 2:17pm

    So csam content is illegal, so all this
    law will achieve is to reduce free speech, and enable 1000,s of frivolous
    lawsuits, is it sponsored by some association that represents lawyers ?
    or maybe its just a pointless stupid law.

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

  • identicon
    Bobby Clows, 19 Mar 2021 @ 2:26pm

    How likely is this bill to pass???

    Anyone know

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

  • identicon
    CyberKender, 19 Mar 2021 @ 3:19pm

    All of these attempts to overturn Section 230...

    ...make me want to go to their homes, use my phone to post something libelous or copyrighted-but-not-by-me, and then sue them because I did it from within their house...

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

    • icon
      deanathema (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 5:54pm

      Re: All of these attempts to overturn Section 230...

      Nice. Next up, someone writes a bot/website that accepts pasted links, and sends a takedown request for a small fee! Perhaps it could be totally automated, and simply crawl the entire net and sending notices every second?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2021 @ 11:00am

      Re: All of these attempts to overturn Section 230...

      Two wrongs do not make a right, you know.

      They might have enough money to get a experienced lawyer, and the court will likely side with em. Especially if there's video evidence.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Mar 2021 @ 6:53pm

    Yeah I think it is time that a Congressperson that lies gets bitchslapped by oh I dunno an ethics body that does the thing most media won't do... hold them accountable for lying & focusing on the lie & debunking it.

    In the alternative, maybe just go back to horsewhipping them when they lie.
    (In my mind its the whipping scene from 'Roots' with Rand Paul being whipped until he admits he isn't a real doctor & is an asshole)

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

  • identicon
    John Smith, 19 Mar 2021 @ 10:14pm

    Warned you this was coming.

    It gets much worse too.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2021 @ 11:47pm

    "Republican principles" is a classic example of an oxymoron.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Shel10 (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 12:35pm

    Section 230

    This goes back to 1996 Telecommunication Act. At the time, it was created to protect companies which were just getting started. It these companies were simply allowing and open dialogue without filtering content, it was assumed that they might be open to law suits because of disagreements with readers of content.

    Some readers might not like or agree with the published comments. They might want to sue the authors for libel, but would also want to hold the media accountable as well. 25 years latter, section 230 is being used to allow multi-billion dollar companies the ability to censor speech, and publish libelous statements without fear of being sued. These are no longer "startups". The founders of these "startups" are now on the verge of being the wealthiest individuals in the world.

    Section 230 needs to be modified to prevent blocking of protected speech, and the rights of Americans to hear (or read) that speech. How can we justify allowing these companies to publish child pornography while blocking protected speech???

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 Mar 2021 @ 1:22pm

      Re: Section 230

      Oh dear, another person has fallen for or has decided to spread the bullshit.

      For a more comprehensive overview of what 230 actual does and was created to address I suggest you go check the TD archives for Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act, but just touching on a few of your misconceptions/lies:

      1) Moderation is not censorship, unless you want to water the term down such that it loses all meaning. When a bar tells an unruly patron to get out after they've been swearing at the patrons and waxing poetic about the superiority of the white race they have not been 'censored', they've merely been told that the property owner(you lot do value property rights, no?) doesn't care for that sort of speech on their property.

      2) A platforms that creates libelous speech is not in any way protected against being sued, as 230 merely prevents you from going after the platform rather than the actual guilty party. If someone else uses a platform to post libelous speech then by all means, go to court, have the speech found libelous and take that ruling to the platform, odds are good they'll remove it at that point. You don't get to sue the platform for someone else using it in a way you don't like any more than you get to sue Ford for a hit-and-run or a gun maker for making and selling a weapon used to murder someone.

      3) Racism, sexism, claiming that vaccines cause autism, arguing that the nazi's were on to something and those filthy jews had and still have it coming are all 'protected speech', so quick question: Should platforms be forced to host all that 'protected speech', whether they want to or not? Yes or no, anything else will be seen as a dodge, and keep in mind that turnabout is fair play so if civilized platforms have to allow that sort of content the cesspits would also be forced to host any 'protected speech' someone wants to post, like say someone heading over to Parler to mock all the Trump cultists for being either gullible fools or abhorrent people.

      4) And saving the best(that is, most idiotic and wrong) for last, 230 does not cover federal crimes. Would you like to take a guess what legal category CSAM(the current term for child porn) falls under and why that makes your claim laughably wrong?

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 4:31am

        Re: Re: Section 230

        "Oh dear, another person has fallen for or has decided to spread the bullshit."

        Shel10 has a long comment history, usually mimicking the current stormfront chant. He and Restless94110 are the usual representatives of a certain political flavor around here. His input isn't exactly new in this regard.

        And particularly his odious attempts to convince people that "protected speech" should mean that Twitter would have no right to throw people out just because they happen to use the N-word or Heiling a little.

        It's just the extreme right being special fragile snowflakes again, unable to cope with the fact that the majority sees them as repulsive assholes whom no one really wants to extend the courtesy of hosting on their premises.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 12:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Section 230

          And particularly his odious attempts to convince people that "protected speech" should mean that Twitter would have no right to throw people out just because they happen to use the N-word or Heiling a little.

          If only they would be honest enough to own their own positions, rather than cowardly speak in vague terminology... however that cowardice does make it easy to shut them up, if only for a bit, as all you need to do is provide examples and force them to state outright if what you just listed is what they think platforms should be forced to host and most of the time they bugger right off.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Mar 2021 @ 2:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Section 230

            "If only they would be honest enough to own their own positions, rather than cowardly speak in vague terminology..."

            I can't help but think that the modern brand of nazi and good 'ole boy KKK would have Hitler and Nathan Bedford Forrest - you know, the originals - up in arms about the abject cowardice of their spiritual successors. Say what you like about those old monsters, at least they didn't lack courage. Or fashion sense and the sense for the dramatic you'd expect of villains who caught people's imagination for decades and centuries.

            The "Proud" Boys? The modern neo-nazis? The whole of the alt-right? They're like thin, malicious smears of weasel shit desperately trying to avoid saying what they really think. Unless they're in a large crowd they are too cowardly to even squeak a hint about their real agenda.

            Instead they show up all over, in forums where they know they have no traction, frantically blowing dogwhistles in the vague hope that it'll attract some like-minded people. Always failing to realize that by now liberals have learned to hear those dogwhistles quite well and they might as well be toting large signs saying "I HATE JEWS AND BLACKS, PLZ TALK TO ME! HEIL IF YOU UNDERSTOOD!".

            They're all as fucking pathetic as the grade school bully gang wandering around like lost little sheep looking for someone with actual balls to lead them. No wonder they fell all over themselves to bend their knees and bob their heads before Trump.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2021 @ 4:39pm

        Re: Re: Section 230

        Should platforms be forced to host all that 'protected speech', whether they want to or not?

        Businesses should not be allowed to take sides in any political matter (yes, i know this requires SCOTUS to re-read the constitution and return to the previous interpretation that only natural persons were eligible for political rights). Politics should be exclusively reserved to those who will be eligible to vote at the next relevant election, as that is one of the two necessary conditions for democracy.

        They could either have a "no politics" rule, or allow anything political, but not anything which only allows some political views. Banning swear words, or (in meatspace) banning people being noisy or getting too many complaints from other customers would be fine, as long as it was enforced uniformly.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 8:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: Section 230

          Ignoring that a first amendment protection regarding political views is a seriously important thing to maintain, and that to trample over it regarding platforms would trash their first amendment rights(companies are made up of people after all, someone owns those platforms) I'm curious as to which 'political views' are currently getting hammered on social media that would benefit from that change, and please, be specific.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Mar 2021 @ 2:54am

          Re: Re: Re: Section 230

          "Businesses should not be allowed to take sides in any political matter..."

          "Businesses" are owned properties. What you are really saying here is that wealthy people shouldn't be allowed to voice or support their political opinion. This is either very badly thought out or an outright dogwhistle for scuttling large parts of 1A.

          I'd advocate differently.

          First, Mandate full transparency in all campaign donations. Unless every dollar contributed to a campaign has an audit trail good enough to satisfy the average corporate Due Diligence check the money can't be used.

          Secondly, set aside base campaign funding from the tax money for any party able to produce a sufficient proportion of voting backers, on local, state, and federal level. The way it's done in many countries in europe, giving minority parties a shot at telling people they exist, at least.

          Third, and most importantly, fix the damn first-past-the-post mess. Scuttle it in favor of ranked-choice voting so you stop ending up with the candidate losing the popular vote winning anyway. Also, toss out the college of electors from the process completely. The only purpose they serve is to ensure the incumbent powers have another shot at overriding the citizenry's choice.

          "They could either have a "no politics" rule, or allow anything political, but not anything which only allows some political views."

          And this is where the dogwhistle turned into a foghorn.

          What you are saying is essentially that bar owners and private online platforms need to forbid all speech on their premises.
          Because in case you missed it, speaking for reintroducing slavery, taking away women's right to vote, or advocating genocide are all political positions.

          Again, you could just be a tragically unfortunate innocent not really giving what he was saying a thought, but your very "reasonable" speech suggesting that state power needs to prevent people from speaking out against suggested genocide or prevent platform owners from throwing people out of their property...is pretty clearly just the current neo-nazi rhetoric of "It's not fair that we're not allowed to shout the N-word on someone else's premises!!!"*

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 3:34am

      Section 230 needs to be modified to prevent blocking of protected speech

      You’re advocating for compelled association, which is a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee that the government can’t make you associate (or disassociate) with any given person/form of speech.

      the rights of Americans to hear (or read) that speech

      Nothing about Twitter admins banning Alex Jones from Twitter prevents people from going to his website and experiencing his unique brand of ignorance.

      How can we justify allowing these companies to publish child pornography while blocking protected speech???

      We can’t. Which is why we don’t. Which is also why we don’t say those companies are publishing CSAM unless an employee of a given company either posts CSAM or allows CSAM posted by someone else to stay up. And FYI: 230 doesn’t shield companies from federal criminal law.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2021 @ 7:20am

      Re: Section 230

      Section 230 needs to be modified to prevent blocking of protected speech,

      Where in the constitution or bill of rights does it say that you can force your views onto an unwilling audience? They are not big documents so you should be able to find the relevant paragraph easily, if it exists.

      and the rights of Americans to hear (or read) that speech

      What is stopping them from going to a website you control if they want to listen to you. If you cannot attract an audience, it is you that has the problem, and not the platforms or the audiences.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Mar 2021 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Section 230

      Hi Shel,

      Almost everything you wrote here is wrong. You should know that if you read this site, but apparently you don't actually read.

      This goes back to 1996 Telecommunication Act. At the time, it was created to protect companies which were just getting started.

      It was written in response to a lawsuit involving Prodigy, a service owned by IBM and Sears -- neither company was "just getting started."

      It these companies were simply allowing and open dialogue without filtering content, it was assumed that they might be open to law suits because of disagreements with readers of content.

      Nope. It was exactly the opposite. The Prodigy case, which 230 was written explicitly to overturn said that if they didn't filter content at all, there would be no liability. But the fact that they moderated to make their site "family friendly" meant there was liability for anything they left up.

      Section 230 was written to deal with that situation, to allow each and every online website and user the ability to determine for themselves what content they would (and would not) host.

      25 years latter, section 230 is being used to allow multi-billion dollar companies the ability to censor speech, and publish libelous statements without fear of being sued. These are no longer "startups". The founders of these "startups" are now on the verge of being the wealthiest individuals in the world.

      No, the 1st Amendment is what allows websites to remove speech they don't want to associate with -- and 230 itself was written to encourage websites to do exactly what they are doing.

      And, as stated above, it was never about startups. 230 was written to deal with IBM and Sears.

      Section 230 needs to be modified to prevent blocking of protected speech

      That would violate the 1st Amendment. Also, it would be fucking idiotic. Your internet would get filled with spam.

      How can we justify allowing these companies to publish child pornography while blocking protected speech???

      No company is allowed to publish child porn. Don't lie.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 4:43am

      Re: Section 230

      "Section 230 needs to be modified to prevent blocking of protected speech, and the rights of Americans to hear (or read) that speech. How can we justify allowing these companies to publish child pornography while blocking protected speech???"

      Two fucking lies for the price of one?

      I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about seeing the national socialist advocating seizing the means of production when it comes to who people should or should not be forced to host on their private property - because that's what you're saying. That Twitters and Facebooks owners shouldn't be allowed to dictate who are welcome on their premises.

      No one owes you guest rights, you entitled little snowflake! If you are on private property and piss off the owner then out you go. Whether that's a bar, restaurant, or social platform. The rules of conduct are clearly posted, so abide by them or leave.

      And secondly, no company is publishing CP because, frankly, anyone who does post such is arrested and sentenced.
      That you can't make any argument at all without lying - that, in fact, no one criticizing 230 can muster a single argument without dropping a few blatantly false assumptions and outright lies to make their case at all...tells us everything we need to know about you people.

      Man, that the alt-right has started peddling outright marxism - abolishing private property rights over what they present as the "common good" - just to make their case for being allowed to scream the N-word on twitter and babble about the "global jewish conspiracy" on Facebook...that's just priceless irony.

      Or would have been if that particular blend of marxism and nationalism wasn't already well known.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 22 Mar 2021 @ 11:04am

      Re: Section 230

      This goes back to 1996 Telecommunication Act.

      When you're so completely ignorant you can't even get the name of the law right.

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


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