Yes, You Can Believe In Internet Freedom Without Being A Shill

from the a-little-history-lesson dept

You may have noticed lately that there’s an increasing (and increasingly coordinated) effort to paint today’s biggest and most successful companies as some kind of systemic social threat that needs to be reined in. As veteran tech journalist John Battelle put it, tech companies frequently are assumed these days to be Public Enemy No. 1, and those of us who defend the digital world in which we now find ourselves are presumptively marked as shills for corporate tech interests.

But a deeper historical understanding of how we got to today’s internet shows that the leading NGOs and nonprofit advocacy organizations that defend today’s internet-freedom framework actually predate the very existence of their presumed corporate masters.

To get taste a of the current policy debate surrounding Google and other internet companies, consider the movie I Am Jane Doe, which documents the legal battle waged by anti-sex-trafficking groups and trafficking victims against the website The film, which premiered this February with a congressional screening, also tracks a two-year investigation and report by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations into the site’s symbiotic relationship with traffickers.

The documentary is powerful and powerfully effective. It has managed to accomplish what few works of art can ? encourage Congress to fast-track legislative action. Last month, a powerful group of 27 bipartisan cosponsors introduced new legislation targeting titled the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA. While there were rumors the bill would be attached to the upcoming “must-pass” defense authorization bill, it now appears it will move through regular order, with a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee scheduled for Sept. 19.

Some documentarians strive to be perceived as neutral chroniclers, but I Am Jane Doe producer Mary Mazzio has lobbied aggressively on behalf of the bill. The film’s official website and social media accounts have also jumped into the fight, publishing legislative guides and lobbying materials, as well as rallying a coalition to go after the bill’s opponents.

Here’s our problem with Mazzio’s blunderbuss approach: since the bill’s introduction, internet-freedom advocates (including a letter by R Street, the Copia Institute and others) as well as legal academics have raised alarm bells. In particular, the bill’s overly broad provisions would gut key protections for free expression and digital commerce by amending a foundational law undergirding today’s internet ? Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

If you love even parts of what the internet has to offer, you likely owe thanks in some way or other to Section 230. We don’t view any statute as immune from any criticism, but we do insist that any effort to chisel away at a law expressly crafted to protect and promote freedom of speech on the internet deserves a great deal of scrutiny. The problems posed by the proposed legislation are both expansive and complex, and internet freedom groups have the expertise to highlight these complexities.

Mazzio isn’t one for complexity, as her film makes it a point to smear internet-freedom groups rather than address their arguments on the merits. The producers do interview experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), but ultimately paint those experts as shills for big tech companies. They allege advocates of online free speech and expression callously oppose commonsense efforts to curb trafficking simply because they would hurt big tech’s bottom line.

This kind of rhetoric has continued throughout the advocacy campaign to pass SESTA.

But the film’s promoters would be well-served to pay closer attention to the facts. Defenders of Section 230 aren’t “supporting Backpage,” any more than advocates of Fifth Amendment rights support criminals or oppose police. They also should look closer at the history.

While it may be easy to paint Section 230 proponents as shills for big tech because some of them sometimes receive funding from tech companies, the reality is that organizations like CDT and EFF supported these policies before today’s Big Tech even existed. And other nonprofits, like the foundation that hosts the immensely valuable free resource Wikipedia, don’t depend on corporate funding?they’re primarily funded by individual donations?yet insist that Section 230 is what made it possible for them to exist.

While Google was founded in 1998 and launched in 2004, both CDT and EFF, who are mischaracterized in the film as ersatz public-interest advocates, were deeply engaged in the debate way back in 1995 over the Communications Decency Act. There’s perhaps no greater evidence of how relatively un-slick and un-corporate those organizations were than their self-representations in the ASCII art newsletters of this pre-Google period supporting the bill that would later become Section 230 of the CDA:

Both organizations opposed almost all the language in the CDA and both spearheaded legal efforts that led to the CDA mostly being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. But both also supported the Cox/Wyden amendment that would later become Section 230 of the act, which also created legal protections for “good Samaritan” blocking of offensive material. The Cox/Wyden amendment was added to the Telecommunications Act in the Senate in 1995, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Feb. 8, 1996.

It’s not just that Google and Backpage weren’t around when Section 230 became law. Facebook wasn’t founded until 2004, YouTube wasn’t founded until 2005 and Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006. This isn’t just a coincidence. Our vibrant online ecosystem exists because of Section 230 and the liability protections it affords to online platforms. It is the law that made today’s internet possible.

The Internet Association, a tech trade association that has helped lead industry opposition to SESTA, is mostly made up of tech companies (like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Yelp, Snap and Pinterest) that found success after the CDA and that rely, in one form or another, on its intermediary liability protections for user generated content. And keep in mind that it’s not just tech giants that oppose SESTA’s language amending Section 230. It’s dozens of startups and medium-sized companies, too.

Indeed, as outlined in this letter from internet-freedom advocates, there are good reasons to think SESTA’s proposed changes are hastily conceived and ill-suited to address the problems they purport to solve. Sex trafficking is a horrible crime, but Section 230 already does not protect sites like Backpage if they deliberately facilitate criminal acts. The limited immunity afforded to online platforms by Section 230 does not apply to any federal criminal law, nor should it apply to state criminal law if platforms are acting in bad faith. Furthermore, a 2015 amendment to sections of the federal code governing sex trafficking should make it even easier for federal prosecutors to go after sites that host ads for trafficking, although we still need time for the courts to interpret how it is applied.

The DOJ already has the power under current law?even without SESTA?to prosecute Backpage and its founders. Indeed, lawyers for Backpage acknowledged that "indictments may issue anytime" from a federal grand jury in Arizona. If they don’t, it’s the proper role of Congress to hold a hearing and ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions why they aren’t prosecuting this case or those like it.

If we need additional resources for the FBI or the DOJ’s criminal and civil rights divisions to investigate and prosecute these cases, that’s a conversation worth having. It also bears examining whether Congress should clarify the standards for platforms that contribute to the development of user content, given the different interpretations among the circuits.

But what we’re seeing in the “I Am Jane Doe” advocacy campaign is that SESTA’s proponents don’t want to have substantive conversations about the law. Instead, they want to create their own “fake news” version of what the issues are and rush their bill to passage, no matter the consequences.

Both the intended and unintended consequences of SESTA could be catastrophic. In effect, the law threatens to undermine all of Section 230’s benefits to the global internet ecosystem in order to make it easier to prosecute Backpage and its founders, who seem likely to end up in jail no matter what. While today’s tech giants will likely have the resources to navigate this in some form, the barriers it sets up could mean the next wave of internet platforms never come?and the ones that we have left are further incentivized to restrict speech. Rather than open a dialogue about current cases and the state of the law and how to refine Section 230’s protections, SESTA proponents want to rush in with a legislative chainsaw to carve out vast new liabilities for online platforms?the same platforms that provide us with the internet we love and upon which we all now rely.

If Congress rushes to pass SESTA without listening to the substantive arguments of the bill’s critics, it will be making a catastrophic mistake.

Mike Godwin is a senior fellow with the R Street Institute who worked extensively on the CDA at EFF in the mid-1990s. Godwin later worked for the Center for Democracy and Technology as well. Zach Graves is technology policy director at the R Street Institute.

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Companies: cdt, eff, google

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Comments on “Yes, You Can Believe In Internet Freedom Without Being A Shill”

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Groaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

More likely the desire is to turn the Internet into the TV of 1917.

There is, and has been, a hatred of the net by governments and many businesses. The net provides for the dissemination of much truth, and not truth. But those who whine the loudest believe that they should have a monopoly on tell “that which is not so” to the citizenry.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s actually pretty insightful, displaying exactly what motivates things like federal laws: Fact-free feelings and opinions, even when the resultant law is counter-productive to their own cause. Sure, let’s base laws on what we think someone’s reputation is, whether deserved or manufactured.

I wonder when the reputation of other sectors will cause existing rules to even be enforced. Oh, wait, we are throwing out all of those. I guess the “tech” sector really is so much worse. And apparently there is nothing to do about bad things that can be facilitated using IT, aside from writing totally bad laws. I mean, except enforcing the extant laws such as they are already doing…

lol, reputation.

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And apparently there is nothing to do about bad things that can be facilitated using IT, aside from writing totally bad laws. I mean, except enforcing the extant laws such as they are already doing…

Well, there’s also destroying the security provided by encryption by backdooring it all, eventually leading the collapse of the economy. A lot of people in Congress think that’s something good the tech sector could do, too.

With SESTA and an anti-encryption bill getting passed, Congress could double-save the children.

Paolo says:

Re: The concern is there may be a form of regulatory capture going on

Regulatory capture indeed… And you’re smart to be skeptical. Here’s some background information on these groups you may find helpful.

First, you may want to check out this report from on just how involved Google has been in the fight against prosecuting Backpage here.

Pay special attention to the sidebar on page 4 of the report that details how Google hired away one of the top sex trafficking victims’ advocates Malika Saada Saar from the Human Rights Project for Girls who then curiously dropped her calls for action against Backpage as soon as she was put on Google’s payroll.

Next, pay special attention to CDT and EFF. As noted in the report linked above, the two "free speech" organizations not only receive substantial funding from Google, but their boards of directors and advisory boards are literally overrun with Google executives and law firms representing Google (see appendices starting on p.37). CDT and EFF have filed dozens of amicus briefs supporting Backpage against lawsuits by 12 and 13 year old victims, some of whom have been trafficked thousands of times. They have even filed as intervenors on Backpage’s behalf.

Next, lets take a look at the organizations listed in Godwin’s piece above. Coincidentally, prior to joining R Street Institute, Godwin worked for… EFF and CDT. The Google-funded R Street Institute is a right-of-center organization. Godwin joined R Street right about the time that Google realized that it needed to start making inroads with Republicans. Convenient that…

Godwin mentions the letter from "internet freedom" advocates raising alarm bells about SESTA. Lets look at the signatories to that letter:

  • R Street Institute – Google-funded
  • TechFreedom – Google-funded
  • Freedom Works – Unknown
  • Heritage Action – Google-funded
  • New America’s Open Tech Institute – Google-funded
  • International Center for Law & Economics – Google-funded
  • Campaign for Liberty – Unknown
  • Free the People – Unknown
  • Masnick’s Copia Institute – Google-funded
  • Demand Progress – Unknown
  • Access Now – Google-funded
  • Niskanen Center – Google-funded
  • Citizen Outreach – Unknown

In fact, take a look at virtually any op-ed, letter to the hill, or action alert opposing SESTA and you will find Google money behind it. Heck, there’s even an op-ed from some group called "Connect Safely" that is ostensibly concerned with childhood internet safety but believes SESTA is a "trojan horse" for bad internet things. Bounce over to their supporters page… Google-funded.

Now try this: Go to Google News and search "Section 230". The very first 3 or 4 results you will likely get are EFF action alerts (not news stories) that have been posted on Google News now for over a week. The action alerts encourage visitors to send a message to Congress opposing SESTA. But Google would never manipulate its search results… No, news placement is all done by an algorithm they assure us. Yeah right.

But it’s this paragraph that really takes the cake:

"While it may be easy to paint Section 230 proponents as shills for big tech because some of them sometimes receive funding from tech companies, the reality is that organizations like CDT and EFF supported these policies before today’s Big Tech even existed."

That’s the same flimsy argument that telco shills use arguing that they have "always been for free markets" or "against government regulation". Indeed, if groups funded by big oil, big Phrma or the telcos vomited out such baldly transparent nonsense, you can be certain that Masnick would be ridiculing them at the top of his lungs. But he’s a little constrained here I suppose since Google was one of the original funders of… the Copia Institute.

Mike Godwin (profile) says:

Re: Re: The concern is there may be a form of regulatory capture going on

Mr. Anonymous omits facts that undercut whatever point he thinks he’s making about me.

(1) I worked for EFF from 1990 to 1999. Google didn’t exist then.

(2) I worked for CDT from 1999 to 2003. Google didn’t fund CDT then.

(3) I worked for Public Knowledge from 2003-2005. Google didn’t fund Public Knowledge.

(4) I worked for Yale University from 2005-2007. Google didn’t fund my position at Yale.

(5) I worked or Wikimedia Foundation from 2007-2012. Funded by individual donations, for the most part.

(6) I worked for Internews from 2013 to 2014. Funded by the U.S. government, for the most part.

My work for R Street certainly has benefited from Google funding, as well as funding by many other sources, but my work on Section 230, now more than two decades old, has no roots in Google funding (and certainly not in Backpage funding).

My views about Section 230 are a function of my work on internet-freedom issues dating back now more than a quarter century. Maybe they’re incorrect views, but nobody whose sole argument is that I was paid to have those views is likely to be persuasive on that point.


Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The concern is there may be a form of regulatory capture going on

This is a good point, Thad. Because the argument being made by Paolo and Jane Doe seems to rest on the unsaid assertion that: “Google is fighting this because they want to continue to make money from human trafficking.”

I find that assertion unlikely. Google has many easier ways of making money, which don’t carry the brand or criminal risk. What is Google’s likely motivation? Google is against SESTA because of the chilling effects on free speech, and Internet freedom. They are not worried about SESTA harming their “sex trafficking business”, but rather the rest of their business.

And, as such, they are just the canary in a coal mine for a myriad of startups present and future, whose business ideas may be cut down because of a possible nefarious use of their tech. We don’t ban roads because of traffic deaths, we don’t ban cargo vans because they’re well suited for kidnapping, and in general, we don’t ban the tools, but rather the illegal use of those tools. We blame the criminals, not the tool makers.

Why should this be different?

At what cost do we enable our government to catch the bad guys? How much freedom and privacy must I give up? And if I’m being promised that sacrificing my freedom will save these victims’ lives — is that true? Will it work? Or could the government and police do their jobs just as well without?

Are there alternatives? Could we get the same effect by just funding the police 4% more, and still keep our freedoms? I’d rather protect the Jane Doe victims with my money than my freedoms.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: The concern is there may be a form of regulatory capture going on

“That’s the same flimsy argument that telco shills use arguing that they have “always been for free markets” or “against government regulation”.

Except that telcos are so often visibly NOT in favor of free markets and ARE in favor of Regs they like. They support their market-capturing franchise deals, barriers to entry, utility pole monopoly, spectrum exclusivity, and so much more.

Can you show me where the EFF wasn’t consistently in favor of a free and open Internet?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: subject line

Gee, I’m not at all surprised that Masnick’s stated — new — policy of allowing all comments is so quickly forgotten.

BUT I’ll yet again provide an excuse (because telling the whole truth is fine with me): Techdirt MAY not be censoring views, though the flagged above shows IS, only having trouble with commercial use, again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 subject line

>> That would equate to about 1 attempt every 8 seconds, according to the time stamps. That is how to get mistaken for a robot. Either that, or you are lying again.

I’m not lying. You’ve admitted that you’re SEEING them.

But not admitted to a name.

If “Resend” works, as did above, that’s within 8 seconds by intent, so proves your assertion WRONG.

I already excused Techdirt for possibly because of long and linky comment, but you won’t be nice.

ECA (profile) says:

I looked into this recently..

Its strange that they have specific numbers of Those taken into a comment to me about CHILD Sex trafficking..

The suggestion is that there are 100,000 Every year in this nation..
WHO has the power to hide/abduct 100,000 children and it NOT being in the news paper? The number is huge for what it is. 275 children PER DAY ???
These numbers are garnered from Missing children, runaways, SOLD children and numbers I cant find..

Underworld is a hard thing to say, but Anyone/group that can HIDE/HOLD/Capture 100,000 persons Every year, is REALLY DEEP DOWN THERE..and have ALLOT of money to back them up.

This is NOT something that could have been created recently. its to BIG. and the Privacy behind it is to overwhelming. If we had a virus running around this country with THIS many deaths, it would be in the news. I say death because this is removing them from society NEVER to be seen. And keeping them alive for 10 years, means there are 1 million in THIS SYSTEM.. AND the number of OWNERS of these children would have to be CLOSE to this number. As I HOPE they dont throw away 1 per year..(I can only prey)

The Emergency alert system was installed long ago. But getting Down to the Numbers..

” and only 115 were “stereotypical kidnappings,” defined in one study as “a nonfamily abduction perpetrated by a slight acquaintance or stranger in which a child is detained overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom or abducted with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.””

“But in other ways, the NCIC may understate the figures. Many missing persons aren’t reported at all—a 1997 study estimated that only 5 percent of nonfamily abductions (in which a nonfamily member detains a child using force for more than an hour) get reported to police. “

Other points in the article..

Even if the First numbers are true.. With an Average of 5-6 per STATE EVERY DAY…the emergency alert system would be going off ALL THE TIME.. or there are ALLOT of people, having kids JUST TO SELL THEM..

There is only 1 way ANYTHING can be done and its to TAG every child AT BIRTH, AT THE HOSPITAL with a Satellite tracker..

BANNING any type of free speech only makes THINGS EASIER to hide what is being done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: For the record, my comments starting 1100 Pacific...

And of course you don’t realize that anything you post can’t be edited. I don’t know about actual accounts because I don’t have one.

Are you trying for a race to the bottom of the barrel with Hamilton? Perhaps you should join him in grieving over Shiva’s case. A bloo bloo bloo!

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: Re: My MAIN lengthy comment is not yet through.

I’m going to break my personal rules and reply to you here.
I can’t see any of the comments that you claim to have submitted that aren’t on the page. However, here are some ideas.

In general, spam blockers look at the number of posts over a period of time per-IP address. So, if you constantly try to post after a comment gets held for moderation, the system will assume that there’s a bot at your IP address and start null-routing your posts.

Second, posts that are heavy on links and light on non-linked text will be thought to be phishing or spam posts. Remember, anti-spam bots aren’t very intelligent, they don’t read your content they just look for huge links and try to block them. As an aside to this, don’t forget that TechDirt has moved to markdown from HTML, if you’re coding a huge number of links in HTML, the bot will probably block you.

Thirdly, all of the posting you’ve done so far probably hasn’t helped you at all with this. A semi-intelligent anti-spam bot will prevent your IP address from posting anything complex now because of what you’ve done thus far. If it’s built like that, there’s no fix for it except for an administrator override.

Lastly, it’s possible that your computer or something else from your IP is infected and trying to spam TechDirt. If so, that’s why your complex posts aren’t getting through. There’ve been actual spam-bots that got through before, that’s why they use anti-spam tech now.

These are just a few basics about anti-spam tech, I don’t know what solution TechDirt uses specifically and, this is one of the few cases where security through obscurity is a good thing. If you reveal exactly what your anti-spam filters block, the spammers will just build a better bot that much faster.

Anonymous Coward says:


I love the EFF, 230, and freedom of speech on the internet. However; I reserve the right to think of anyone who speaks positively of google (or ms, apple, fb…etc), without 2x the words explaining how bad they are, as being a shill. Being overly positive about these groups is simply not an informed or responsible viewpoint. Good deeds don’t cancel out bad deeds anymore then two wrongs make a right. The consolidation of power these companies have wrought is resulting in an entirely predictable glut of corruption which is only going to get worse. Yes, googles on the right side of this one, and many others, but focusing on such is like admiring the style of Hitlers mustache (said tongue in cheek- w/ hat tip to Godwins law)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Umm...

You can skip the failings- but at least acknowledge the direct malicious actions. -otherwise you’re just allowing them to use their good deeds as cover for grotesque malfeasance. (no relation to articles others posted- which seam to be a mis-info campaign imho- also not the person complaining about posts not going through)

One recent example:
DRM in HTML5- with no protections for crucial legitimate use cases- that just happened, and it may eventually destroy the internet ‘as we know it’. Soon the web may be riddled with bugs/vulnerabilities that can’t/won’t be found/reported for fear of jail. Why bother paying for competent coders and security review when you can just hide you lousy software behind section 1201? ..And how will you compete if you do, but no one else does… How long before everyone is locking up everything behind DRM to force people to look at malware infested ads? These companies are the powerhouses that made this catastrophically harmful crap happen.

I’m tempted to write a long diatribe outlining the evilness these companies have propagated over the years- because W3C’s corruption isn’t even the tiny tip of the iceberg. I’ll try not to rant though- few want to hear it, and at this point it feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

People keep ceding control for convenience, often without even realizing it, and without a thought of what that control, collected and consolidated in aggregate can accomplish. Knowledge is power, power corrupts. It’s NOT just about selling you stuff. Economist say user data is the new oil- guess who’s the new well?

“Don’t ever let them call you a natural resource! Have you seen what they do to natural resources?” (-utah phillips)

No sense in dwelling on doom and gloom, by all reasonable measure though, we’re headed to some really dark times- these companies aren’t just beating the path, they’re laying rails and putting up fences, they’re banning the automobile and airplane, in favor of carriages and buggy whips, reinventing the wheel with new software so they can copyright it, and installing shiny toll booths everywhere they can get away with. (…metaphorically speaking of course- for now…) They’re quite literally racing to see who can put 20% of the populous (transportation workers) out of a job, with little talk or plans for dealing with the repercussions of such.

crud…barely scratching the surface and I think I’m already failing at not ranting… metaphors probably aren’t any better then more tangible bullet points, worse maybe… anyway

I’d love to read all the response comments that were hidden by community- but I’d have to allow scripts from google in order to view them… and that just seams so fitting to what I’m getting at here. Today, reliance on google stops me from seeing comments I might be interested in- down the road, I wouldn’t be surprised if google manages to remove most of the functionality from the net for people like me, who value privacy/control/security- there won’t be a damn thing I can do about it, because all but an insignificant few will acquiesce- most won’t even know they’ve given anything up. Extolling the virtues of a lesser evil is still encouraging evil, and the monopolies these companies have are severely limiting the speed at which anything better will develop= if it does at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Umm...

I’d love to read all the response comments that were hidden by community- but I’d have to allow scripts from google in order to view them…

Not so.

You’re just not technically-adept enough to realize that hidden comments are collapsed client-side. It’s code running on your own box that presents them as hidden.

Today, reliance on google stops me from seeing comments I might be interested in

No. Google has nothing to do with it.

If you can’t figure out how to turn off CSS in your browser, then there’s just not a lot of help for you. That’s one of the most basic, standard moves for anyone who runs without javascript enabled. Only takes a menu pull-down and a radio-button selection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Umm...

“It’s code running on your own box that presents them as hidden.”

Opps! -Well that kinda weakens one of my points a bit; but sincerely, Thanks! I’ll look into that. Admittedly, I didn’t try and trace down the mechanism, beyond looking a the no-script and request policy menu’s… Just saw grayed out non-working links and assumed JS. Had I view source I could have figured that out- so perhaps laziness more then lack of aptitude- I ended up viewing them through a disposable VM. I’ve been as JS free as possible for 5+ years, never learned much about CSS though, maybe I’ve been blaming JS for more then it deserves at times.

Anonymous Coward says:

Enough to refute Godnicks with the real danger:


Search engine giant Google and other tech platforms have threatened to shut down free-speech social media site Gab in the name of fighting “hate speech.”

Gab, a social media platform known as a free speech oasis, was just recently ordered to transfer their Australian domain elsewhere or face shutdown.

“Gab’s domain registrar has given us 5 days to transfer our domain or they will seize it. The free and open web is in danger,” the website tweeted.

From Infowars, but no link: don’t want them to credit you.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Sick and tired of Google? So am I.

What once started out as a portal to your favorite websites has turned into an out of control spy machine that even George Orwell couldn’t have envisioned. Or maybe that was the plan all along. Over the last few months, Google’s been under intense scrutiny from pundits on the right and left over their increasingly dangerous practices, whether it be their skewed search results that seem to target Conservatives or their intentional demonetization of right leaning websites through their AdSense program. Google has shown us their true colors. They hate the right, but more importantly, they hate free speech.”

Anonymous Coward says:

So, OKAY, I can do it piece by piece! AFTER using "Resend".

Now, the site hasn’t collapsed under spam, has it? — There’s yet more.

Masnick stated Techdirt wouldn’t / doesn’t censor posts, but right above, some “AC” states that he can see the posts to know they’re 8 second apart, and “another” states that it’s “spam”, but how does he know, HMM?

Anonymous Coward says:


“Indisputable Proof Of Coordinated Attacks By Tech Giants To Control Access Of Information In Order To Control The Masses”

“Google, the largest search engine on the net, they starting making sure the “results” found during searches were their preferred narrative versus items that actually ranked higher, providing higher ranking (seen on the 1st page of their search results) to leftist sites like Snopes, Wikipedia, and the mainstream media, with few exceptions.

The proof is in the pudding. Over at Reddit, they highlighted the difference between searches on Google and the results found, compared to DuckDuckGo, and the contrast is amazing. [image]”

But DON’T believe this! Do your own tests! — Dare you to!

From that, BTW: for those who don’t know what a “monopoly” is, here’s it used as I do by Glen Greenwald: “The unrestrained power amassed by the Silicon Valley monopolies is staggering,”

Another headline proves Google globalist crackdown on dissent because TOO diverse:
“Google Fires Diversity Manifesto Author James Damore For WrongThink”

Anonymous Coward says:

More again.

The Google engineer fired for writing a controversial memo about diversity has gone beyond referring to the company as an “echo chamber” that won’t stand for dissent and now says it’s “almost like a cult.”
“Either we were to remove a particular article or see all of our ad revenues choked off in an instant. This is the newest method that Big Brother is using to enforce thought control.”

“Yes, Google Uses Its Power to Quash Ideas It Doesn’t Like-I Know Because It Happened to Me”

‘People waking up to its power’…

Anonymous Coward says:

RELEVANT and ON-TOPIC, not spam.

“Google isn’t merely EVIL; it has become a DANGER to freedom, liberty and democracy… Steve Cioccolanti issues urgent warning”

“Criticizing Google may have cost these scholars their jobs, but they’re only getting started”

Sue (profile) says:

The Pain of the 230

For another angle,
Here are a few great articles on the pain and grief that the 230 brings to Americans and the culture on a daily basis, here are three great articles:

THE ECONOMIST: Eroding Exceptionalism: Internet firms legal immunity is under Threat

The Internet Will Not Break: Denying Bad Samaritans Section 230 Immunity


That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The pain of reading those articles...

The first one had problems before(acting as though it’s surprising that different services deal with different rules for one), but they utterly lost me at ‘It is getting easier to police platforms, too, thanks to artificial-intelligence techniques which can recognise and predict patterns of bad user behaviour.

If they think that those filters aren’t riddled with problems then they need to rush out to patent their magic code immediately, as I imagine a great many companies would snap it up in an instant.

The wrap up was similarly ridiculous, first defending the absurd ‘Right to re-write history’ by claiming that ‘Google has the money to hire enough lawyers to handle requests based on the right to be forgotten.‘, almost dismissing outright that smaller companies do not have those resources, and ending on what I see as a self-defeating argument, that the services are important to society therefore the protections that allowed them to reach the size that they are need to be undermined.


The second is already off to a rough start in it’s intro, which might as well be "We’re not saying they intentionally designed this site for sexual predators… but this is totally what it would look like if they did.", acting as though there’s something nefarious about a site pointing out that people are responsible for their own actions, and that a system that randomly pairs people might result in someone unpleasant/sleazy being involved.

The second example is pure emotional argument, and a bad one at that. Yes the person who runs the site sounds like a disgusting person, but from the sounds of it the ‘harm’ discussed is pretty much all done by the users.

… and the third example is terrorism, because of course it is, followed by repeatedly conflating physical businesses allowing people access to physical spaces/products with digital businesses offering platforms.

More examples brought up that I disagree with and think were ruled correctly(sites only lose immunity if they ‘materially contribute’ to content, forwarding an email with commentary isn’t enough to strip immunity, asking for gossip in general doesn’t count as ‘co-development of illegal content’, no ebay is not responsible for the posts of their users…)

Backpage, because much like terrorism stuff of course they’d have a problem with that, and as it’s already been covered on TD enough I’ll just leave it at a facepalm.

Arguing that even though 230 protections might have been important to allow services to grow now that things are more developed they’re not as necessary, ignoring that gutting those protections would lock in the current providers and kill off any upstarts that don’t have piles of money…

Blanket immunity gives platforms a license to solicit illegal activity, including sextrafficking,
child sexual exploitation, or nonconsensual pornography.

Well no actually, if a site actually asks for illegal content then they are no longer in a neutral position, have actively encouraged it’s posting, and that would strip their immunity, so this sentence is not only hyperbolic it’s flat out wrong.

Site operators have no reason to take down material that is clearly defamatory or invasive of privacy.

Go to court, get a ruling, bring it back to the site. There’s the ‘reason’.

And now we get to the ‘modest proposal’, and it is a doozy. Make protections under 230 contingent upon active moderation, such that ‘negligent or even reckless moderation would be enough to qualify, but absent that a site would be liable.

Well that wouldn’t be a recipe disaster at all! /s

More ‘If they take reasonable steps in moderation they’ll be fine!'(have fun defining ‘reasonable’)…

Another conflation between a site posting something and the users, and that providing a platform for people to be people, which also allows scum to be scum should be enough to strip immunity…

More conflation between physical locations and online ones…

And ending on the ‘modest proposal’, that ‘encouraging’ moderation should be the norm, and the requirement for protection. No. For all the talk about ‘cyber mobs’ and how they can chill speech, making protections from liability contingent upon active moderation strikes me as far more likely to chill far more speech.


And now the third.

Yes people can be jerks online.

Yes anonymity can make going after them for being jerks difficult or even impossible.

No the proper response is not ‘make the platforms liable instead!’ No, not even if they take a hands off approach and don’t proactively go after the nasty people that are being jerks.

This one strikes me as another case where ‘The cure is worse than the disease’. People can be jerks, and this can have real consequences to others, but making platforms liable for the actions of their users would be all but guaranteed to cause even more harm to everyone.

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

Thanks One Guy.. good writing, hats off to you. Some good points.

Yes you said it well, “People can be jerks, and this can have real consequences to others”

But I side with the Economist and the other writers.

For 100 years (and currently),print press are responsible for their users toxic bile, but the American public has to suffer for 20 years plus because it’s the just internet?

Only the US, not UK, Europe, Australia, has this abomination of the 230.. These websites are just getting away with murder. The game/ charade is up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

PS , the 2nd article has a download link.. it’s actually about 30 pages or so..

Clicked. Saw Danielle Citron. That was enough to close the window. Her reputation precedes her. Do you perhaps have anything by someone who isn’t just icky?

I’m actually fairly tolerant, and generally open to honest attempts at pursuasion—scholarly or otherwise.

You got another author?

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The pain of reading those articles...

Anonymous, thanks.

Read the Economist, those guys are pretty good writers. The mag has been around for 100 years. Arthur Chu article is quite good. Rana F of Financial Times recently. Now lot of anti 230 articles coming out. The game is up… 20 years of a parallel legal universe. Free pass… Total BS. Ruining the Culture of our country.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

For 100 years (and currently),print press are responsible for their users toxic bile, but the American public has to suffer for 20 years plus because it’s the just internet?

They have to ‘suffer’ because the services are significantly different, such that the rules for one are simply not feasible for the other.

A newspaper prints only what they choose to print, they have total editorial control, and the amount of content they have to deal with is limited such that they can easily pre-vet everything in it.

A site hosting user submitted content though merely provides the platform for others to post content, their editorial control tends to be limited to spam filters and similar things(and even then you can have false positives and mistakes letting stuff through), and most importantly the scale is such that for any useful user-submitted content site it’s simply not feasible to pre-vet, such that they are dependent on outside sources informing them of problems(DMCA claims for the most part).

Applying the same rules and liability makes no sense, and would cause significant harm, vastly more than letting jerks be jerks in my opinion.

Wanting sites to be a little more pro-active is one thing, and while I disagree with it in general as simply not realistic at scale I can understand why people might think that way. Making it a legal requirement however I absolutely do not support or agree with, as that would lead to more harm than good, locking in the current major sites and preventing any new ones who can’t shoulder the requirements from springing up.

Regarding the second link leading to a document 30 pages long, I know. I read the thing as I was typing my comment up, that’s why my comment was likewise so lengthy, because I was posting responses as I came across points.

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

One guy, thanks.

To be fair, Facebook will remove bad stuff, but the Backpage thing is tip of a huge iceberg of bad actors our there that the 230 enables.

So many extortion websites now that the 230 enables who can count?…

The 2nd article, “the internet will not break..”, lays out why the internet would be just fine without the 230, and the US would not be cultural cesspool that the 230 has made it. Look at UK, Europe, and Australia.

And the Economist article points out how websites in US are getting away with murder in this “parallel legal universe”.

And the Chu article is fantastic as well.

The 230 was naively passed in 1998… ‘GOOD SAMARITANS”.. as if Americans are nice fun people who will act nicely and legally.. This law is an abomination that has allowed enormous legalized criminality/ extortion, and coarsened the culture.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

Respectfully, Sue, the United States has a very different history and tradition on freedom of speech than the UK, Europe, or Australia. We don’t ban hate speech like some countries do, we don’t ban Nazi imagery like Germany does, it’s much harder to secure a defamation conviction in the US than it is in the UK, and we haven’t banned porn featuring small-breasted women like Australia has. "Parallel legal universe"? No, just a sovereign nation that put press and speech freedoms right up front in its Bill of Rights.

Your comments on "coarsening the culture" are irrelevant to a conversation about the law. Coarsening culture is not illegal.

Sex trafficking is awful and must be fought vigorously. Nobody is denying that. But Section 230 is necessary for protecting online discussion communities. Making forums liable for things their users post means that constant active moderation is required for every online forum. That’s unsustainable.

You talk about how the Communications Decency Act was "naive", and note that it was passed in 1998? Yes, you’re right about that. The CDA was naive. In fact, the majority of its restrictions on online speech were overturned as unconstitutional. Because in this "parallel legal universe", we have very tight restrictions on what speech the government is allowed to control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

Good points Thad, did you read the full Danielle Keats Citron/ Benjamin Wittes / PDF?

The Internet Will Not Break: Denying Bad Samaritans Section 230 Immunity

I cannot see how anyone could disagree with this analysis — seems very spot on.

And there are more and more analysis.. Ironically, it’s not Facebook who is the problem.. people always say, “oh there would be no Facebook..” Facebook is actually very good about removing bad actors and content. But there are some really bad sites… that the 230 enables completely. I think it’s time is up. But I appreciate your comments. You reject the Keats Citron/ Benjamin Wittes / PDF?

Mike Godwin (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

‘For 100 years (and currently),print press are responsible for their users toxic bile, but the American public has to suffer for 20 years plus because it’s the just internet?’

Is the argument here that the internet is precisely like the “print press”? That’s a difficult equation to support without analysis. Section 230 is grounded in the ways in which the internet, even in 1996, was not just the “print press” transmitted in bits, but also functions analogously to (a) telephones and telegraphs, (b) common carriers like postal services and package services, and (c) bookstores and libraries. These other traditional means of content distribution are not governed by press law but by different legal and regulatory frameworks, and not just here, but also in “UK, Europe, Australia.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

Thank Mike, great article and writing.

But the 230 is just a complete scam/ sham and disaster for millions of helpless Americans (and people around the world who are also victimized by the 230), and the Backpage and sex trafficking is just the tip of a huge iceberg of bad Samaritans, and legalized extortion industries (think of the scam/ sham notorious fake complaint industry… who thrive and are sustained because the 230..)

And it’s endless. The internet because of the 230 is still a lawless, wild west cesspool 20 years on- and getting worse each year. And you know what? The tech world never talks about that too much. And it’s been terrible for the culture- but great for websites.

But those articles lay it out way better then I can: The Economist. the Benjamin Wittes 24 page piece and Arthur Chu on Tech Crunch.. The Economist says it can’t continue forever, hopefully the soon it’s over the better.

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

Part of the Chris Cox/ Ron Wyden team?
Wow… I’m sure it made sense at the time, but the grief this law has unleashed on the general public for 20 years? has been unreal.. I don’t see that mentioned so much on pro 230 articles usually so for some balance, that’s why I posted those 3 which do a much better job than a layman can.. Very well written/ researched.

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

“Go to court, get a ruling, bring it back to the site. There’s the ‘reason’.”


1-Lawyer fees for this (and you will need a season lawyer),are about 10k, to 15k — the other 99% cannot afford that.
2- Before you blink, the statue of limitations is over. Then what do?
3- Sites are not obliged, thanks to the American section 230 to honor the court ruling.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

1&2: ‘It’s too hard/expensive to do it legally’ is not a valid excuse(and I find it hard to believe that getting a default judgement if someone has a valid case would be very expensive or time consuming).

Getting speech, even ‘bad’ speech, removed should be difficult, because that protection also protects ‘good’ speech that someone might take offense to or otherwise want gone.

3: Going to need a citation needed on this one. I find it hard to believe that just because a site can’t be held accountable for user submitted content they also are free to ignore court orders to remove content.

Sue (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The pain of reading those articles...

Thanks One Guy
1– Yes very very expensive and hard to do those default judgements and you and have get done in one year. What do once the year is up??? (then Statue of limitation)

2–Ripoff Report, Complaints board and the whole fake complaint – extortion industry which the 230 enables–routinely ignores court orders. They don’t have to do anything. They have the 230 backing them up!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: The pain of reading those articles...

Hi Sue,

I’ve been on both sides of the censorship argument where user generated content is concerned and I get where you’re coming from. Have a read of this:

That’s my personal experience, and that of another person who happens to disagree with me.

Okay, so maybe you still disagree. Read this:

Okay, this is a case where TD was sued in part for comments made by commenters about a man who claims to be the father of email as we know it despite the fact that it had been in existence for a good six years beforehand.

We’re afraid that the world you’re trying to create is one in which only permitted speech can exist. In such a case all speech would have to be approved by a moderator before being posted either online or in print. How can that be reasonable? It’s the only proactive way on the planet of dealing with unsavoury speech. I await your response.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Follow the money...

Follow the comment history.

“DeComposer” is yet another with TWO YEAR GAP from July 2015, then resumes in 2017 — and handily appearing to be opposition here, which to say the least, is HIGHLY unusual. Astro-turfing is my conclusion, from fact in evidence.

Maybe we could get an explanation for your two year commenting absence?

Anonymous Coward says:

Now I'm wondering why only TWO of the several have been "flagged"?

Kind of wacky too. Guess will be in time.

Tell ya what, AGAIN, Techdirt: without quid pro quo or threat, I say it’d just be easier to let the ONE out rather than me complaining and still getting it in piecemeal. Surely. Of course, that’d be rational.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Now I'm wondering why only TWO of the several have been "flagged"?

You will find few people here who believe, without question, that Google is “good” in every way. But if your only comment, argument, or point of discussion is “Google sucks”—to the detriment of actual conversation about a given topic—nobody here will care to engage with you other than to insult you. Have an actual point to make about the article above; if you cannot, expect a community-wide flagging of your comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

What's up with the mostly hidden comments?

I was unable to get a long and linky comment in at all, began experimenting:

“subject line to test whether can get in at all.”

Worked, but still wasn’t able to get the main in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's up with the mostly hidden comments?

After a bit, an “AC” responded:
“Stop spamming the forum and your posts won’t be treated like spam.”
Implies saw the comments, lying if didn’t know what was in, and if did read them, lying even more… Of course, that’s deniable.

“That would equate to about 1 attempt every 8 seconds, according to the time stamps.”
It’s an “AC” yet definitely asserts has SEEN the time stamps. This one is undeniable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's up with the mostly hidden comments?

Then "Beadon" subtly lies. As administrators, he’s able to see the queue..
I respond "Re: My MAIN lengthy comment is not yet through."

Eventually I cut down the length (as I’ve done here: seems reduced to LESS), and all got in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What's up with the mostly hidden comments?

So was a change at Techdirt blocking lengthy posts that caused the problem.

The three comments, at least one administrator able to see the queue, didn’t let legitimate opposition through.

Typical Techdirt censoring.

BUT. Perhaps my commenting led to “Sue” and “DeComposer”. Otherwise would be all fanboys.

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