What A Shame: Legacy Newspapers Want To Take Away Free Speech On The Internet

from the tarnished-reputation dept

This one is just shameful. The News Media Alliance (the organization formerly known as the Newspaper Association of America) represents a bunch of old school newspapers. Like other legacy companies which failed to adapt to the internet, it’s now advocating for the removal of Section 230 protections from internet services.

According to a written testimony provided to Axios, NMA will tell parties on Wednesday at the Justice Department’s upcoming workshop on Section 230 that policymakers should limit the safe harbor exemption within the law that protects tech platforms from being sued for the content that other people post on its site.

What’s most shameful about this is that newspapers have a long history of being the most prominent free speech supporters. And the whole point of Section 230 is that it helps enable more free speech online. Removing 230 will inevitably lead to greater censorship and difficulty in enabling the public to speak out.

While you can see — cynically — why this might appeal to legacy newspapers that have lost their position as the gatekeepers for what public speech is allowed to reach the wider world, it really casts a huge shadow on the legacy of those newspapers as free speech supporters. This is little more than a cynical ploy by angry newspapers to try to hobble internet platforms that enable speech that have taken away some of the monopolistic gatekeeper control those newspapers had. It’s a sad coda to decades of free speech support.

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Comments on “What A Shame: Legacy Newspapers Want To Take Away Free Speech On The Internet”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

News Media Alliance: Not big fans of free speech

‘How dare they succeed where we failed, someone needs to force them to have less protections than us so they can no longer compete with us!’

Oh if only someone could bottle those sour grapes and turn them into whine, they could create a trillion dollar industry…

Still, nice of them to drop the mask and make it clear just how much they aren’t fans of free speech I guess, that’s a rare moment of honesty these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: News Media Alliance: Not big fans of free speech

How can those news agencies enjoy the protections of the 1st amendment and propose to decimate the public’s protection by it? Might these agencies have other even more nefarious agendas they are hiding?

What does this mean for Techdirt? Not really a news agency, but more of a mirror, Techdirt may need to form a coalition with other internet platforms to do battle over this afront to freedom on the internet.

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Seems like a perfectly cromulent opportunity

The many legacy newspapers that have an online presence (many of whom went the paywall route) and no longer have comment sections (where Section 230 would protect them) and lost traffic are trying to make themselves more respectable. They want the old system where letters to the editor are ‘edited’ (by which I mean we print those we like, or are mildly antagonistic, and don’t print those we don’t like, or are ‘radically’ antagonistic) by those that edit the editorial page. Control was so much nicer than lack of control, and look at all those bucks we had to spend ‘moderating’ user comments.

Well, dump Section 230 and not only do we not have to moderate user comments (which we dumped when the majority of the comments opposed our editorial views) but user comments disappear altogether, everywhere, unless we approve the occasional letter to the editor that doesn’t hurt our feelings.

Now, to get those users back, we will print more government provided stenography and titillating celebrity articles, both of which will be provided by AP and Reuters. News??? What do you mean you want to know what’s going on? What do you mean by investigative journalism? Where did you get the idea that we were the Fourth Estate?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not helping yourself

"How can something that does not exist, be taken away?"

That’s not really true. De facto the online environment is – by far – a greater platform for free speech than any which has previously existed.

Newspaper history fondly speaks about the newspaper publishers in france in the 17th century which fought censorship by closing down and reopening under a new name almost as often as they started a print run. The internet offers even greater ability to circumvent state censorship in this way.

Which is, essentially, why we have all these governments and private interests today desperately trying to shut down most online freedoms.
It’s not exactly a new conflict, just that it’s conducted through a medium which has less vulnerability to censorship than its predecessors.

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: so what if it's dicriminatory

I would call your interpretation of how Section 230 works…studly…if it wasn’t bass ackwards. It’s the little companies that get the greatest benefit from Section 230, the big ones can afford to fight and create moderation algorithms (that only sorta work). Then, making law based upon economic status seems like the antithesis of free market (other than tax rates, that is…well according to the pundits).

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: so what if it's dicriminatory

And really, it’s the public who really receives the protections of section 230, because any company can just turn into a limited content gatekeeper, while we no longer have a voice on the internet. Companies will no longer need to compete on how they give the people a voice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: so what if it's dicriminatory

"the public who really receives the protections of section 230"
The public is not afforded any protections that do not also benefit the rich elite ruling class.

"while we no longer have a voice on the internet"
We never had a voice anywhere.

"Companies will no longer need to compete on how they give the people a voice."
Companies do not want the people to have a voice, they want you to think you do.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The public is not afforded any protections that do not also benefit the rich elite ruling class.

As it should be. At the end of the day, the "rich elite ruling class" people are just that, people. You can’t have equality if you say "well these free speech protections only apply to us and not you", even if you really don’t like those people and think they are a bunch of sleaze bags.

We never had a voice anywhere.

I submit to you the internet and the hundreds, if not thousands, of grass-roots, public-interest, action sites/forums that have wrought a lot of change in the last 20ish years. You can even go back before the internet and find where individuals who chose to speak out against things also wrought great change.

WE DO have a voice. There are other issues that impact its effectiveness but saying we never had a voice anywhere is disingenuous and straight up false.

Companies do not want the people to have a voice, they want you to think you do.

This assigns far too much malice and evil intent to all companies. Some may, others do not. And I think with some decent research you can tell which ones do and which ones don’t, and which ones don’t but end up supporting legislation and rules that take away your voice unintentionally anyway by stupidity and/or following what is common business practice in America: "you always have to make MORE money".

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 so what if it's dicriminatory

"The public is not afforded any protections that do not also benefit the rich elite ruling class."

The only reason that is an issue is because the vast herd of sheeple tend to afford the "rich ruling class" more credibility than actual facts will offer. And whose fault is that?
At the end of the day democracy is in trouble mainly because too many voters eagerly defend their right to be easily led ignorant sheep.

If you were born into a democracy, you’ve got One Job. Vote. Not for the leader your grandfather liked, not for the leader of the party you like, but for one person you’ve investigated and found trustworthy enough. You fail doing that you end up with the leadership you deserve, usually a sock puppet or populist tossed up as a sop to the braying mob so the major parties can keep embezzling from the public purse in the name of nepotism and personal profit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'No no, I just want an inch, I would never ask for more...'

"[W]e should start by limiting the exemption for just the very largest companies who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 and have the greatest capacities to take legal responsibility for their commercial decisions around content and reach," the testimony says.

In addition to what others have noted about how 230 in fact protects the smaller platforms more than the larger ones, that argument is all sorts of dangerous because once that exception has been made it’s not ‘if’ it will be removed from more and more platforms but ‘how soon’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: so what if it's dicriminatory

"for just the very largest companies who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 "

How do you define that? What are the "benefits" and how do you assess them? What is the threshold where a company goes from having those protections to not having them? If an existing company drops below that threshold do they regain the protections?

Your oversimplified attempt to pretend you’re not opposing free speech actually makes the issue vastly more complicated.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Reagan was right about one thing.

"Nuclear weapons do keep away other nuclear weapons."

In much the same way that putting round rocks in your garden keeps away werewolves and stray unicorns. It obviously works since I have seen neither.

Correlation is not Causation.

Nuclear weapons are usually kept away because nuclear war isn’t, in the long run, winnable, even if only one side of the conflict is armed with those weapons.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Another reason they want to get rid of 230 is because when politicians say stupid shit online they get dunked on by people who prove them wrong then they act all offended and cry about how the internet was mean to them.

But if 230 goes away well no one is gonna counter their obviously false statements.

Anonymous Coward says:

Most news papers are online now, lets see section 230 is gone,
they will get hit with dozen,s of lawsuits if they have a comments section,
or letters from the public .
Maybe they just want to reduce competition from smaller sites, blog,s
and sites like slate.com , salon,com etc
newspapers can be sued for articles they publish right now,
the point of section 230, is to say only the person or user who writes the comment on a platform can be sued ,facebook or youtube is a platform.websites can remove content they think is extreme or illegal eg fake news, hate speech or racist content without getting sued by the user for censorship.

Section 230 protects free speech ,if its gone companys will likely
block content that might be critical of certain politicians or corporations
in case they might get sued .
right now theres plenty of examples of legal content thats taken down from youtube , eg a video that contains 3 seconds of music .
if section 230 is gone we might as well say goodbye to free speech by minority,s and other groups on the web.
Rich people and politicans like trump,biden, bloomberg have easy acess to
make their views known.

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Maurice Michael Ross (profile) says:

Section 230

The knee jerk belief that Section 230 must be protected to preserve free speech on the internet is mistaken. Free speech must be protected but that does not mean different standards should apply to internet publishes than legacy publishers. Facebook and Twitter are publishers—not just platforms for user generated comments. They make billions and should be required to expend the same resources as legacy publishes spend to eliminate content that violates our laws, including intellectual property laws, defamation laws, election laws and others. It is a mistake to apply different standards to legacy publishers than to internet publishers. First Amendment protections should be sufficient, but Section 230 immunity goes too far, immunizing billion dollars platforms from any obligation to protect the public from attempts to misuse their platforms to violate the law, including, for example, limits on campaign contributions and limits on foreign intervention in U.S. political campaigns. The internet will survive just fine without Section 230, the elimination of which will require executives for Facebook and other such platforms to expend resources similar to those of legacy publishers to assure compliance with law.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Section 230

I do love the repeating of bare assertions that fly in the face of the great many discussion that have been had on this very site as to why they’re wrong.

Do you have anything new, or at lest that can’t be waved away with the same words that have been typed before?

"immunizing billion dollars platforms from any obligation to protect the public from attempts to misuse their platforms to violate the law"

Wrong. It immunises them from other peoples’ actions that break the law. If Facebook themselves are breaking laws, section 230 does not immunise them in any way.

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Rocky says:

Re: Section 230

The internet will survive just fine without Section 230, the elimination of which will require executives for Facebook and other such platforms to expend resources similar to those of legacy publishers to assure compliance with law.

Facebook have 2.5 billion active users, if Facebook would use the same minuscule amount of resources as a legacy publishers to moderate all content, a user of Facebook may expect their post to show up sometime during the next millennia.

If you aren’t aware, all the major platforms actually pour hundreds of millions of dollars into moderating content every year, and that sum far outstrips any piddling sum the legacy publishers expend in comparison. Google for example, have invested more than 100 million dollars into content id alone, which doesn’t encompass moderation of comments and such.

And the whole tired argument that a platform is immunized falls flat because it’s actually people using it that breaks the law, not the platform.

Why is it so hard for people like you to put the blame on the guilty party? Do you sue car-manufacturers when people use their cars to speed? Do you sue a city when someone jaywalks?

And campaign contributions or election meddling from foreign interests has ZERO to do with Section 230 which makes that kind of argument just plain stupid.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Section 230

"Why is it so hard for people like you to put the blame on the guilty party?"

Because to bobmail, who once again presents a new sock puppet to carry his message, above, section 230 is highly inconvenient since it means the business models of shady extortionate copyright trolls such as his heroes and idols in outfits such as Prenda are jeopardized.

If 230 goes away he knows damn well that means FB and Google will have to disallow ANY form of political commentary, customer review, or criticism of shady extortionate lawyers out to abuse IP law for a quick buck.

He’s been screaming about the "collectivist responsibility" of Google and Facebook ever since he was nagging about his mailing lists and broken investment schemes back on Torrentfreak.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Facebook and Twitter are held accountable for speech attributed to Facebook and Twitter, not for speech where Facebook and Twitter act only as intermediaries for third-party speech. Take away 47 U.S.C. § 230 and they will be held liable for being intermediaries — and so will YouTube, Discord, Telegram, Tumblr, Mastodon instances, Techdirt, DeviantArt, Pinterest, and every other website/web service that allows user-generated content regardless of size.

Once that legal liability confers to the intermediaries, they will have two options: Cease moderation to avoid liability for speech they don’t moderate¹ or stop accepting UGC altogether. Neither option will bode well for those intermediaries. And if you use any of those sites/services, they won’t bode well for you, either.


¹ — The authors of 230 felt interactive web services needed to have protections against such liability so they could moderate content as they saw fit. They had “family friendly” services in mind, but the principle applies to all websites.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Section 230

They make billions and should be required to expend the same resources as legacy publishes spend to eliminate content that violates our laws, including intellectual property laws, defamation laws, election laws and others.

Those resources are people to look at submissions until they find something to publish, and ignore the rest. A legacy publishers publishes at best 1% of what is submitted. So what you are proposing results in a person being able to speck if and only if some publisher approves their speech. that result will suite legacy publishers, by eliminating 99% plus of what is published on the Internet, thus largely eliminating the competition.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Section 230

"Free speech must be protected but that does not mean different standards should apply to internet publishes than legacy publishers. Facebook and Twitter are publishers—not just platforms for user generated comments."

You just keep repeating that lie, Baghdad Bob. We’ll just keep debunking it and flagging your repetitive falsehoods.

1) No, to be a "publisher" requires a stringent set of criteria to be fulfilled, none of which are fulfilled by Twitter or Facebook. To begin with, they do not generate their own content.

2) Last I checked, no pub owner will be considered guilty of slander if any of his patrons calls someone a fucking nut on his premises. Section 230 does nothing but extend that immunity to the online community.

Once again, Jhon/Bobmail…that you feel personally attacked by section 230 since it means people in the US can still google a fraud scheme and be informed is NOT an "assault on the public" as you keep implying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Section 230

Oh, Maurice Ross isn’t bobmail. He’s appeared on FCT and DieTrollDie singing the praises of Prenda Law and Malibu Media, but even he knew to backpedal like fuck before he went down with the sinking ship.

I’d recommend doing a search of FCT and DTD’s sites for a collection of Morry’s top notch commentary on how porn producers just can’t help but sue all the grandmothers.

Anonymous Coward says:

is there actually a single industry, that has had everything it’s own way since time immemorial, that purports to be a supporter of free speech, privacy and a million other things that are in the public’s favor, that allows comments and music and video and everything else you can think of, that suddenly changes it’s mind, changes it’s stance and becomes the biggest asshole going as soon as it is affected itself, that is honest enough to keep the original opinion(s)? i dont think there is! and when you have the movie industries, the biggest two-faced bunch of hypocritical cunts going, that do whatever they can think of to maintain the control they’ve had since moving to California to avoid law suits against them for copyright infringement, when is it going to be admitted that they want to stop everything that they dont like, regardless of the harm done to everyone else because of them? they wont be content until they’ve got the internet how they want it and it’s all greed and control induced. we, joe public, are not supposed to have anything or have any rights and what we do have are being removed daily, never to be returned!

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