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.