Hollywood Front Groups Decide To Kick Facebook While It's Down, Advocate For More Internet Regulations

from the this-will-surprise-basically-no-one dept

It’s no secret at all (though, they tried to hide it) that Hollywood and various MPAA front-groups were heavily involved behind the scenes in getting FOSTA/SESTA passed and signed into law. It all goes back to Project Goliath, the plan put together by the MPAA a few years back to use any means necessary to try to attack the fundamental principles of an open internet. While there have been all sorts of attempts, SESTA (i.e., misrepresenting the problem of sex trafficking as being an internet problem, and then pushing legislation that won’t stop sex trafficking, but will harm internet companies) was the first to make it through.

But it’s unlikely to be the last. Immediately on the heels of everyone now hating on Facebook, various MPAA front groups led by CreativeFuture and the Content Creators Coalition — both of whom will consistently parrot complete nonsense about how the internet is evil (amusingly, sometimes using the very platforms they seek to destroy) — have now sent a letter to lawmakers demanding more regulation of the internet and, in particular, more chipping away at intermediary liability protections that enable the free and open internet (the letter was first reported by TorrentFreak).

Most of the letter continues to play up the exaggerated moral panic around Facebook’s actions. As we’ve noted many times, there are reasons to complain about Facebook, but so many of the complaints are on bad solutions, and that’s absolutely true with this particular letter. Specifically, this letter presents three demands:

Last week?s hearing was an important first step in ensuring that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other internet platforms must (1) take meaningful action to protect their users? data, (2) take appropriate responsibility for the integrity of the news and information on their platforms, and (3) prevent the distribution of unlawful and harmful content through their channels.

On number one: yes, companies should do a better job protecting data, but the real issue is that companies shouldn’t be holding onto so much data in the first place. Rather individual internet users should have a lot more control and power over their own use of data, which is very different than what these Hollywood groups are demanding. Besides, given Hollywood’s history of being hacked and leaking all sorts of data, it certainly seems like a glass houses sort of situation, doesn’t it?

As for number two: “take appropriate responsibility for the integrity of the news and information on their platforms.” Really? This is Hollywood and content creators directly calling for censorship, which is truly fucked up if you think about it. After all, for much of Hollywood’s history, politicians have complained about the kind of content that it puts out, and demanded censorship in response. Is Hollywood now really claiming to call for other industries to go through the same sort of nonsense? Should we apply the same rules to the MPAA studios? When they put out movies that are a historical farce, such as the very, very wrong propaganda flick Zero Dark Thirty, should Hollywood be required to “take appropriate responsibility” for spewing pro-torture propaganda? Because if they’re insisting that internet platforms have to take responsibility for what user’s post, it’s only reasonable to say that Hollywood studios should take responsibility when they release movies that are similar nonsense.

And, finally, number three: preventing the distribution of unlawful and “harmful” content. Again, one has to wonder what the fuck happened to the legacy entertainment industry that it would now be advocating for some sort of legal ban on “harmful content.” Remember, this is the same industry that has regularly been accused of producing “harmful” TV shows, movies and music. And now they’re on record speaking out against harmful content? How quickly do you think that’s going to boomerang back on Hollywood concerning its own content.

It’s almost as if Hollywood is so focused on its hatred of the internet that the geniuses they brought in to run these front groups have no clue how their own arguments will end up shooting content creators right in the foot. I mean, if we’re going to stop “harmful” content, doesn’t that just give more fodder to religious groups attacking the legacy entertainment industry over “blasphemy,” sex and drugs? Won’t groups advocating against loosening morals use that to demand that Hollywood stop producing films that support these kinds of activities. Or what about violence, which Hollywood has glorified for decades.

Now, some of us who actually support free speech recognize that Hollywood should be able to produce those kinds of movies and TV shows and musicians should be able to record whatever music they want. But we also think that internet platforms should be open to decide what content they allow on their platforms as well. It’s a shame that Hollywood seems to think free speech is only important in special circumstances when it applies to professionally produced content. Because that’s exactly what this letter is suggesting.

The letter also includes this nonsense:

The real problem is not Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg, regardless of how sincerely he seeks to own the ?mistakes? that led to the hearing last week. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet and fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on businesses that are built around monetizing other people?s personal information and content.

This is… wrong. There isn’t a “different set of rules.” CDA 230 and DMCA 512 are both rules designed to properly apply liability to the party who actually breaks the law. Both of them say that just because someone uses a platform for illegal behavior it doesn’t make the platform liable (the individual is still very much liable). That’s not a different set of rules. And to argue that internet companies are not “accountable” is similarly ridiculous. We have a decently long history of the internet at this point, and we see, over and over again, when companies get too powerful, they become complacent. And when they do dumb things, competitors spring up, and the older companies fade away.

Hollywood, of course, isn’t quite used to that kind of creative destruction. The major studios of the MPAA are 20th Century Fox (founded: 1935), Paramount (founded: 1912), Universal Studios (founded: 1912), Warner Bros. (founded: 1923), Disney Studios (founded: 1923) and Sony Pictures (which traces its lineage back to Columbia Pictures in 1924 or CBC Film Sales Corp in 1918). In other words, these are not entities used to creative upstarts taking their place. They work on the belief that the big guys are always the big guys.

And, really, at a time when many of Hollywood’s biggest names are being brought down in “me too” moments, when it’s clear that they had institutional support of their abuse going back decades, is it really appropriate for Hollywood, of all places, to be arguing that the tech industry needs to take more responsibility? This seems like little more than a hypocritical attempt by the usual MPAA front groups to kick Facebook while its down and try to use the anger over Facebook’s mistakes to try to chip away at the internet they’ve always disliked.

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Companies: content creators coalition, creativefuture

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Comments on “Hollywood Front Groups Decide To Kick Facebook While It's Down, Advocate For More Internet Regulations”

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27 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

propaganda war

Is it not human nature that people will seek to destroy anything they don’t control?

When young people (the most coveted by advertisers) are spending more time on Facebook or Youtube (or whatever else) than consuming Hollywood product, then that’s naturally going to be seen as a problem that needs to be fixed. Since it’s now too late and too expensive to buy out these companies (and risky, as Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of Myspace demonstrated) then the only way for Hollywood to compete with them is to destroy them.

The main problem is that the tech companies don’t know how to fight back against Hollywood’s below-the-belt attacks, which the best defense against would be to launch a similar campaign against Hollywood. Yes, such a counterattack would by necessity be dirty and dishonest, but taking down Hollywood would literally be a gift to humanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The real problem is not Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg, regardless of how sincerely he seeks to own the “mistakes” that led to the hearing last week. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet and fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on businesses that are built around monetizing other people’s personal information and content.”

While you disagree with this statement, it’s not particularly out of bounds. Banks and other financial entities have a duty to assure that their ecosystems are not used for money laundering and fraud. Pharmacies and drugstores have a similar duty to prevent over the counter cold remedies to be purchased in large quantities and used as precursor chemicals for meth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Apart from excessive data gathering, but that applies to almost all businesses these days, Facebook and their like are more like a phone company or the post, than a pharmacy. A phone company is not held liable for what its customers arrange to do over the phones, nor is the post held liable for the contents of letters and parcels. Similarly, Facebook and friends should not be held liable for what their users post.

It is one thing for them to remove objectionable posts when they notice, or they are brought to their attention. It is an entirely different thing to make the responsible for what their users post. Making them liable will reduce your ability to arrange a night out with your friends to use of the phone, because liability for the user actions will kill social media.

takitus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As reasonable as it seems, it’s clearly an attempt to present the usual MPAA line in terms of the current panic. The second sentence (“The problem is endemic…”) is key—it’s basically a familiar attempt to portray the Internet as a Wild West that needs to be brought into line. Minus the “personal information” wrinkle, this is the same talking point that Hollywood was using 10 years ago to attack file-sharing services.

This kind of co-opting unfortunately muddies the waters. There’s no way in hell that the copyright-enforcement lobby is a friend of Internet privacy, but, with statements like these, they’re cynically trying to cast themselves in that light.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No, no.

He(?) didn’t say that “every song and movie hosted there is there illegally”.

He(?) said that “every song and movie is hosted there, illegally”.

I.e., that there exist on YouTube illegal copies of every song and movie ever made.

Of course, even if we allow for the existence of songs (etc.) which are so 100% free that there’s no such thing as an illegal copy of them, and for ones which aren’t available at all, there are still things which aren’t available on YouTube. For one prominent example, try looking for various classic Beatles songs; you’ll probably find covers of them, or occasionally recordings of later (possibly live) performances by original members of the group, but – unless things have changed from every previous time I’ve gone looking- you won’t find any of the familiar recorded versions, period.

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder how long it’s gonna take before every company and industry world-wide realises that Hollywood and the entertainment industries will do whatever it takes, even destroying if possible giant companies like Facebook, if it gets them the control of everything, including the most desired item, the Internet? nothing is safe and nothing is sacred from this bunch of assholes!

Rico R (profile) says:

The REAL reason MPAA supported FOSTA/SESTA

Site blocking may not be enough to get the MPAA to give up their SOPA-in-disguise efforts. Remember the LiveJournal case? That court ruled that because there was moderation involved in selecting what was and was not posted to the site, they lost their DMCA safe harbor.

Imagine now the burden that FOSTA/SESTA has imposed on both old and new online platforms. Depending on their nature, they may be required to screen out content as to not fall afoul under this new law. As a result, the MPAA could turn this into a “Gotcha!” situation and turn FOSTA/SESTA compliance into a loss of DMCA safe harbor.

In this world, being forced to chose between immunity from sex trafficking liability and immunity from copyright infringement liability would be too much, and the whole platform is taken down. As a result, the free and open Internet as we know it is dead, all in the MPAA’s effort to kill the Internet in the name of stopping online piracy. Very convenient for SOPA-loving, Net Neutrality-hating Comcast (who owns NBC and Universal Studios)!

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