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Hollywood's Behind-The-Scenes Support For SESTA Is All About Filtering The Internet

from the you-know-it dept

Over at the EFF blog, Joe Mullin has an excellent discussion on why Hollywood is such a vocal supporter of SESTA, despite having nothing to do with Hollywood. It’s because the bill actually accomplishes a goal that Hollywood has dreamed about for years: mandatory filtering of all content on the internet.

For legacy software and entertainment companies, breaking down the safe harbors is another road to a controlled, filtered Internet?one that looks a lot like cable television. Without safe harbors, the Internet will be a poorer place?less free for new ideas and new business models. That suits some of the gatekeepers of the pre-Internet era just fine.

The not-so-secret goal of SESTA and FOSTA is made even more clear in a letter from Oracle. ?Any start-up has access to low cost and virtually unlimited computing power and to advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and filtering software,? wrote Oracle Senior VP Kenneth Glueck. In his view, Internet companies shouldn?t ?blindly run platforms with no control of the content.?

That comment helps explain why we?re seeing support for FOSTA and SESTA from odd corners of the economy: some companies will prosper if online speech is subject to tight control. An Internet that?s policed by ?copyright bots? is what major film studios and record have advocated for more than a decade now. Algorithms and artificial intelligence have made major advances in recent years, and some content companies have used those advances as part of a push for mandatory, proactive filters. That?s what they mean by phrases like ?notice-and-stay-down,? and that?s what messages like the Oracle letter are really all about.

There’s a lot more in Mullin’s post, but it actually goes much beyond that. Every rock you lift up in looking at where SESTA’s support has come from, you magically find Hollywood people scurrying quietly around. We’ve already noted that much of the initial support for SESTA came from a group whose then board chair was a top lobbyist for News Corp.. And, as we reported last month, after a whole bunch of people we spoke to suggested that much of the support for SESTA was being driven by former top News Corp. lobbyist, Rick Lane, we noticed that a group of people who went around Capitol Hill telling Congress to support SESTA publicly thanked their “partner” Rick Lane for showing them around.

In other words, it’s not just Hollywood seeing a bill that gets them what it wants and suddenly speaking up in favor of it… this is Hollywood helping to make this bill happen in the first place as part of its ongoing effort to remake the internet away from being a communications medium for everyone, and into a broadcast/gatekeeper dominated medium where it gets to act as the gatekeeper.

And if you think that Hollywood big shots are above pumping up a bogus moral panic to get their way, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember, for years Hollywood has also pushed the idea that the internet requires filters and censorship for basically any possible reason. Back during the SOPA days, it focused on “counterfeit pharmaceuticals.” Again, not an issue that Hollywood is actually concerned with, but if it helped force filters and stopped user-generated content online, Hollywood was quick to embrace it.

Remember, after all, that the MPAA set up Project Goliath to attack Google, and a big part of that was paying its own lawyers at the law firm of Jenner & Block to write demand letters for state Attorneys General, like Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who sent a bogus subpoena and demand letter to Google (written by the MPAA’s lawyers and on the MPAA’s bill). And what did Hood complain about to Google in that letter written by the MPAA’s lawyers? You guessed it:

Hood accused Google of being ?unwilling to take basic actions to make the Internet safe from unlawful and predatory conduct, and it has refused to modify its own behavior that facilitates and profits from unlawful conduct.? His letter cites not just piracy of movies, TV shows and music but the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and sex trafficking.

The MPAA has cynically been using the fact that there are fake drugs and sex trafficking on the internet for nearly decade to push for undermining the core aspects of the internet. They don’t give a shit that none of this will stop sex trafficking (or that it will actually make life more difficult for victims of sex trafficking). The goal, from the beginning was to hamstring the internet, and return Hollywood to what it feels is its rightful place as the gatekeeper for all culture.

Indeed, our post earlier about Senator Blumenthal’s bizarre email against a basic SESTA amendment from Senator Wyden to fix the “moderator’s dilemma” aspect was quite telling. He falsely claimed that adding in that amendment — that merely states that the act of doing some moderation or filtering doesn’t append liability to the site for content they fail to filter or moderate (which is the crux of CDA 230’s “Good Samaritan” language) — would create problems for Hollywood. Indeed, a key part of Blumenthal’s letter is that this amendment “has the potential to disrupt other areas of the law, such as copyright protections.”

But that makes zero sense at all. CDA 230 does not apply to copyright. It doesn’t apply to any intellectual property law, as intellectual property is explicitly exempted from all of CDA 230 and has been from the beginning. Nothing in the Wyden amendment changes that. And… it does seem quite odd for Blumenthal to suddenly be bringing up copyright in a discussion about CDA 230, unless it’s really been Hollywood pushing these bills all along, and thus in Blumenthal’s mind, SESTA and copyright are closely associated. As Prof. Eric Goldman notes, talking nonsensically about copyright in this context appears to be quite a tell by Senator Blumenthal.

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Comments on “Hollywood's Behind-The-Scenes Support For SESTA Is All About Filtering The Internet”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You forgot terrorism. As both Bittorrent and BinLaden became household words in 2001, Hollywood quickly sprung into action trying to associate the two.

From a Wired article about the “Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation (“PIRATE”) Act of 2004,” :

“[The MAFIAA] is pushing to portray P2P networks as dens of terrorists, child pornographers and criminals – a strategy that would make it more palatable for politicians to pass laws against products that are very popular with their constituents.”

https://www.wired.com/2004/03/congress-moves-to-criminalize-p2p/

The 2004 PIRATE Act failed to become law, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from repeatedly trying to get anti-internet/pro-censorship laws passed that would purportedly fight against terrorism, child abuse, and practically every other evil under the sun.

tin-foil-hat says:

More of the same

From the opioid epidemic to abortion and any grandstanding issue du jour, it’s always obvious how little these politicians actually care.

They claim to be pro life but take money from big tobacco and can’t wait to cut food stamps and healthcare for children.

They are so concerned about drug overdoses but enact ssdd drug war policies that lead to more deaths.

Now they have a bill that will make things worse for victims of sex trafficking and harder for law enforcement but rush to pass it anyway.

It’s too bad that the American voting public either doesn’t bother to vote or falls for this BS even when their motives are proven to be entirely self-serving every time.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: More of the same

They vote for wedge issue politicians on principle, cognitive dissonance be damned. Once you understand that the principle of the thing trumps the outcome it all makes sense. This is the crux of authoritarian control-freakery on both sides of the aisle.

At the moment, the right is ascendant so they’re doing most of the damage. This is not about whataboutism, it’s a plea to run the political axis from authoritarian to libertarian. I can’t think of a better way to skirt round partisanship than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Big Content seems to be getting all it wants of late.

Torrent Freak reports a treasured pirate myth has fallen:

“New research from Carnegie Mellon University reveals that more time spent on pirate sites increases the risk of running into malware. The same effect was not found for other categories, such as social networks, shopping or gambling sites. While the results show an increased threat, it’s doubtful that the absolute numbers will impress hardened pirates.”

So, not impressed? Means you fit the definition!

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Despite all the terrible ways SESTA will be used to filter and censor and over-enforce IP rights, my annoyance with it is still largely based on one thing:

Come the next White House administration – and the occasional alt-right social media post gets blocked – certain forum users will be demanding to know why Techdirt never mentioned SESTA when Trump was in power.

Anonymous Coward says:

it tells what so many of us have thought all along, that Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industries want to take complete control of the Internet and reduce it to a shadow of what it is now, all to protect their own portions with total disregard for anything and everything, anyone and everyone else, to make the Internet an instrument that is only able to give what the entertainment industries are in agreement of giving, all ably backed by those who make the various laws, even though they have no clue how it works or the harm they are doing, just to keep their own individual coffers from drying out! greed, selfishness and corruption abound from most governments over this same subject (controlling the Internet) and it has to be to stop the ordinary people from knowing about the corruption in all the high places, involving all the rich, the famous and the powerful, just to keep themselves, as always, above the law, all the while throwing ordinary people under the bus and into jail for the slightest of reasons!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am not so sure, as once you make third parties liable, you can force ISP’s to block sites if they are notifies that they contain infringing material. Also as may ISP’s have a content side to their business, that might not be too hard to do, especially with net neutrality eliminated, or a law padseed with an exception for sites with illegal material in the new net neutrality laws.

CHRoNoSS says:

lets play pretend

so holly stupid gets 100% control of everything

ARE YOU SO STUPID YOU ARE GONNA BUY THERE BULLSHIT ???

star wars last jedi pff by nearly 300 million
EA star wars battlefront 2 7 million unites sold

total number of internet users 3.39 billion

and the above movie is under its last movie sales now by nearly what 400 million in world wide sales

IF ALL YOU HAVE ARE LAWYERS PROTECTING THE PRECIOUS….YOU ARE NOT GONNA MAKE ANYTHING WORTH MY MONEY AND ILL JUST KEEP WHAT I HAVE AND NOT BOTHER….

Anonymous Coward says:

Ten to twelve years ago, there was a much more vociferous defense of this sort of nonsense in the comments at TD. IP and media lawyers, and a certain ‘Average’ law student, argued vigorously that filtering was a righteous way to protect authors/artists (and IP attorneys). If you were concerned about 1st Amendment or 4th Amendment issues, you were just a silly tinfoil-hat paranoid, worried about the gubment.
Those who used to argue here are largely gone, because they lost those arguments on the merits. Since the media companies could never convincingly claim they were innocent victims, they had to find another more sympathetic group who the public would identify as victims. Protecting the innocent is always the best way to suppress a popular freedom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: HA on you, AC! NOW that it's being put in place as statute,

no need for the defenders of copyright to argue for it, is there? THEY HAVE WON!

Back then, outright pirates would have made dozens of brazen false justifications. That’s the key part which is GONE. Masnick is no more than wearily resigned, having seen ALL of his piratey notions ruled illegal, and the Wild West phase now trimmed.

YOU PIRATES HAVE LOST.

After consuming Hollywood’s content during those ten to twelve years, you can’t even see reality.

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