Social Media Section 230 Law: No One is Happy

Mish

There is growing pressure to revise Section 230 to make internet businesses more accountable for online content

What is Section 230?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gave social media giants like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Google, and YouTube broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

The law dates back to 1996 when no one could foresee the power of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

No One is Happy

The Wall Street Journal reports Social Media’s Liability Shield Is Under Assault

Democrats say the immunity has allowed companies to ignore false and dangerous information spreading online, since the companies generally aren’t liable for harmful content.

Republicans focus their ire on another aspect of Section 230, which says companies broadly aren’t liable for taking down content they deem objectionable. President Trump and others contend liberal-leaning tech companies have used that provision to block conservative views.

It may make sense for there to be liability for some of the content that is on the platform,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17.

“There are literally thousands of companies whose business model is based upon the protections afforded by Section 230,” said Bradford Young, associate general counsel of Tripadvisor Inc., which publishes user reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions.

What Do They Want?

  • Democrats want to censor Republican lies.
  • Republicans want to censor Democrat lies or nothing at all. 
  • Republicans also complain social media is on the side of Democrats. 
  • In general, both sides will only be happy if the other side is miserable.

Force v. Facebook

Consider the case of Force v. Facebook. The latter was sued by victims of terrorist attacks in Israel on grounds the terrorists got together due to Facebook algorithms.

The case was dismissed due to section 230.  

Making connections “has been a fundamental result of publishing third-party content on the Internet since its beginning,” the second circuit court of appeals ruled. 

Zuckerberg's Liability Plea

Zuckerberg's call for liability is hardly innocent. Facebook makes enough money it can afford to lose a lawsuit or two (or fight them in court for years).

New startups can afford to do neither. Zuckerberg's goal is to eliminate further competition.

There’s something deeply cynical when Zuck goes out and says, ‘Please regulate us,’” said Benjamin Lee, general counsel of online discussion forum Reddit Inc. 

Reflections on Censorship

Questions of the Day

Everyone Wants Change

Everyone wants change, but typically only if it is their change. 

Can it be that if everyone is unhappy but for widely differing and opposite reasons, the law is best left alone?

Mish

Comments (53)
No. 1-28
Tengen
Tengen

Sorry for another off topic post, but I'm seeing serious cognitive dissonance over on ZH. Sidney Powell's GA lawsuit alleges election interference by Iran, which the ZH crowd correctly identifies as hogwash. However, they blame the fed gov and neocons for this latest iteration of Iran scaremongering, when it actually came from Powell's lawsuit.

Between this sort of specious reasoning and the weird typos, Sidney Powell comes across as a lunatic, yet millions now have total faith in her. They even gleefully threw Tucker Carlson overboard for her, despite Tucker's years of MAGA service and nobody knowing who Powell was until a few weeks ago. Crazy!

Alright, heading out to dinner soon, hope everybody has a good Thanksgiving.

Anda
Anda

Should be left as is, companies will forge their own market, whether in decency, deep digital, alternative etc. Probably just a warning on the level of tolerance (as per films etc.) should be ticketed to any site. Good thanksgiving to you all over there .

(Lament of the first generation by Liz Carroll)

Greggg
Greggg

Everything ever posted or published is biased, including my post.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

The only answers are to deregulate the airwaves or regulate the internet. The truth is too complicated for most people to even understand. In fact most people don't even understand that it is complicated. This makes it that much easier to brainwash anyone who wants to be brainwashed.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Zerohedge ? Seriously. That site has little credibility left amongst anyone who wants a government.

Bungalow Bill
Bungalow Bill

I don't know if you read The Strident Conservative or not, but he has done a great job explaining how the Salem Radio Network purged conservatives from the radio who didn't promote the pro-Trump agenda. These broadcasters were quickly replaced by those with the same Trump talking points you hear on every pro-Trump radio show these days. Nobody was concerned about "suppression" of their free speech even with it's conservative bias. Amazing how that works.

Felix_Mish
Felix_Mish

OAN? Never heard of it. Has a Wikipedia page so it must exist in somebody's world.

Felix_Mish
Felix_Mish

Spam is at the root of so many of the world's intractable problems. :)

Consider the Google/FB/Twitter/Microsoft/Instagram/Imgur/Amazon/et al situation. They could be a "common carrier" like Ben Franklin's post office and not filter at account-creation time or at posting-creation time or at comment-creation time - and be buried under a flood of spam.

So they must filter or die.

Once they accept that fact, then the question is, what is spam? That's a hard question to answer. Pandora's box.

Too, by limiting spam, they demonstrate they can limit any "speech". (The public and politicians won't see the devil-in-the-details in this assertion.)

So, we now have a cool way of identifying people who have a problem with the US constitution's 1st Amendment. Remember high school in the USA? When your teacher gave the class a scenario in which you and almost everyone else in the class agreed to violate some Bill of Rights Amendment?

And, this is all a very simple issue. Until people all around the world are involved.

Consider the number of people in the world who, consciously or not, consider CNN or WaPo to be the voice of the US government. Should the US government act accordingly?

Sechel
Sechel

Facebook and Twitter are publishers just like the New York Times. When I submit an op-ed it gets reviewed and the Times decides if it gets published. Social media companies have avoided this fact and lobbied against it to protect profits. There are no alternative facts. We're not arguing over opinions but the spreading of lies. Facebook and Twitter will be the death of Democracy.

Call_me_Al
Call_me_Al

"Everyone wants change, but typically only if it is their change. "

Quite right. This is akin to advocating for tolerance, but generally only for those views that one finds tolerable.

What is the goal of more governmental regulation, that is to say how will it be deemed a success? When everyone has an identical feed and thinks the same? If you support efforts to enhance speech regulation, will you still support it when <your> speech is deemed verboten?

Johnson1
Johnson1

I quit using Facebook 2 years ago. I will read a twitter now when linked in an article. I do not use Instagram, etc.

Any site that requires much more than an an email for information I avoid.

There is a new acroynm for social media. BUMMER (Behaviors of Users Modified and Made into Empires for Rent)

Just walk away.

Mr. Purple
Mr. Purple

The Social Dilemma on Netflix is worth viewing.

"The remedy for freedom of speech is more freedom of speech." -- Justice Louis Brandeis

Webej
Webej

‘Twitter, CNN, Fox, WaPo, the WSJ, OAN, and NYT’

One of these does not belong in the set, and has been indemnified against liable by section 230 in a way that the others have not. Fruit and nuts in the same mix.

[1] One of the arguments always brandished to defend the social media's rights to do anything they please is that they are private. Think again. They have legal carve outs and enjoy different rules for the playing field; all 5 the cloud platforms were just awarded a government contract; advisors, lobbyists, regulators, and executives are all involved in the same revolving doors; the corporations assist government agencies far beyond legal mandates. It is exemplary of the kind of government/corporate networking also known as ‘fascism’, the fusing of supposedly different centres of power.
[2] Many activities have a naturally monopolistic dynamic. It makes no sense to have parallel interstate highways, road, transit systems, water and sewage infrastructure, etc etc. Why does everybody use the same email or phone system? Well, because any alternative will connect you to only a handful of people. Why do you use windows? Not to sponsor the vendor, but because it it easier to interact with others using the same programs and file formats. Consolidation was forced historically not so much by anti-competitiveness (well, in some cases, it was) as by the nature of the game. That applies to a lot of the social media world as well -- like the public square and communications, it trends to unifying the audience.
[3] Once activities reach the scale of becoming part of normal social intercourse, they become public goods or publicly regulated. We don't tolerate a utility with a concession that disconnects a customer because he said something nasty about the owner's wife.
[4] For other parties, illegal speech & publication (but not bias) is something that can be resolved by legal recourse, e.g., Nick Sandman & the Covington boys.
[5] Social media platforms should be governed by transparent rules (not ducking disclosure by pretending it's a computer algorithm making decisions) for which there should be legal recourse. Those rules must err on the side of tolerance for the platform when they are passive to content, but must be very restrictive and openly public when the selection of content is active. It should be easy for parties to enforce legal injunctions, but should be very hard to censor content for reasons that do not allow legal recourse.
It will stay messy, but it should certainly be possible to strike a better balance than currently.

Doug78
Doug78

It all comes down to whom allocates the advertising dollar. All these companies exist only because of revenues from companies and organisation advertising through them which leads to the question who within these organisations allocates these sums for advertising? One might say it’s the CEO or someone up there like that. The Head of Marketing would be the logical one but that person gets his inputs from the mid-level managers so one could say that these managers are the true deciders. They choose who gets what and how much and since advertising revenue feeds these machines their true clients are the mid-level marketing managers and they will do and say whatever these people want them to say and do. Because of the tremendous influence the social media companies have on opinion and that they exist to please the hand that feeds them, one could conclude that the future of our civilisation is decided by mid-level marketing executives.

Doug78
Doug78

Just 6% of US adults on Twitter account for 73% of political tweets. Facebook has similar pattern. Most Twitter and Facebook usage has to do with the highly useful “bulletin board” functions and doubtless many people would want that to continue. For Facebook and Twitter the origin of the controversy and the danger stemming from it comes exclusively from the political posts. The obvious solution would be to use their algorithms to identify political posts and sequester them in a separate category which could be accessed by the user at will. It would be a simple thing to do and it wouldn’t hurt their ad revenue at all. If they wanted to still use article 230 that would be the way to go however if their objective is to spread political views are widely as possible then they definitely wouldn’t do something like that.

caradoc-again
caradoc-again

Radical Transparency - The way I think this will go in 10-20 yrs.

Everyone will have a digital ID and be responsible (traceable) for all online activity/posts.

No ID = not allowed to be active in online forums. It will be linked to passport & health passport & possibly digital currency.

Each individual is responsible for their activity and all legal matters linked thereto.

Sechel
Sechel

A lie can spread half way around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. Freedom of speech is one thing but intentional lies and propaganda on social media often promoted by bots is a problem.

amigator
amigator

You and I both know neither side wants to discuss the truth or real issues it does neither any good. Enter third or fourth party please.

I vote no censorship, if individuals can not think for themselves and figure out what's going on and rely on Facebook (or whatever media) to tell them what's right or wrong I think we have whole other set of problems.

Facebook (or any other social media) could disappear tomorrow and we would be no worse off.

It's kind of hard to believe we need a law to identify the owner of the platform that could be liable for bad ideas and illegal activities of users. I think that says a lot about who is running the country.

Realist
Realist

This topic is just one more example of reality: many problems in life are complex. There are rarely any simple solutions to complex problems. And there are no perfect solutions. But the worst thing we can do with any problem, is ignore it. That is apparent with the pandemic, which Trump and his supporters continue to ignore. So, I hope that the problem of free speech vs the spreading of lies and hate is something that will continue to be worked on by the interested parties. Over time, partial solutions may appear. But I will keep my expectations low.

From a personal point of view, all I can do is recognize the problem exists and use my own common sense to ascertain truth from lies. Although I am open to different points of view (I check out Fox, CNN, Reuters etc), I will tend to frequent the sources that do the best job of presenting reality. That is why I frequent this blog. Mish does an admirable job of presenting many points of view and focusing in on truth and reality. Which is much appreciated in these times of rampant misinformation.

Sechel
Sechel

Trump declared Twitter a national security threat after #DiaperDon trends following meltdown at miniature table

FromBrussels
FromBrussels

The Brave (and increasingly fake) New World created by Sapiens Apes in recent decades approaches outright insanity ! Big question remaining : are we happier now, apart from crazier?

Eddie_T
Eddie_T

I took Jaron Lanier’s advice and unplugged from social media several years back. No FB, no Twitter, no Instagram.....gotta vote with your feet on things that matter that much..and it does matter to me...the occasional forum is the extent of my social media behavior...feels about right to me. Neither do I watch television.....other than streaming particular shows I choose for pure entertainment.

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

The litmus test should be "shouting fire in a crowed movie theater." Beyond that, everyone needs to assume nothing posted is factual. Market forces (users and advertisers) can then sort out.

Brother
Brother

dese

Brother
Brother

Imagine running an ad in the newspaper with threats and lies about anything you wish. The newspaper doesn't mind they go ahead and print it. There you have today's online social media business model.

vanderlyn
vanderlyn

BIG TECH is dying to be regulated. they'll capture the senators and regulators and thwart competition. this is all opera.

jfs
jfs

My vote is to do nothing. Any change will probably only come as a result of Big Tech lobbying with the result being to the benefit of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, and to the detriment of their upstart competitors.

Alternatives are only one click away and the network effect of many users is something that is currently in the process of being duplicated on alternative platforms.

varshapg
varshapg

Hi, really thanks for such great info dear. Social media is one of the best website providing and personally I am happy with this law.


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