Jeffrey Toobin's Zoom Dick Incident Is The Perfect Example Of Why We Need Section 230
from the look,-it's-2020,-okay dept
I know that it’s 2020 and the normal concepts no longer make any sense, but on Monday of this week, quite a story broke that spread quickly through the media world. CNN and New Yorker famed legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was apparently suspended from both companies, after it was revealed that he was caught masturbating on a Zoom call with New Yorker colleagues, in which they were playing an election simulation game (that appears to be similar, but not identical to the election simulation game we created — though I swear that ours does not involve any masturbating legal analysts).
Shoshana Weissmann noted that this story — as horrific as it might be — is also a perfect example of why we have Section 230.
Revealing one’s self in a work setting can invariably lead to lawsuits. And if lawsuits are filed, Toobin, rather than Zoom, should be liable. Zoom likely had no knowledge of the incident until it was reported, nor did Zoom have anything to do with his actions. Toobin is also not an employee of Zoom. It is this same principle that Section 230 protects: that platforms should not be liable for content published by users. But platforms are liable for their own content that they publish, such as tweets from @Twitter or any static pages on Facebook.com created by Facebook.
It’s this fairly simple concept that so many people seem to be having difficulty grasping: Section 230 is about the proper application of liability. The person who actually did the thing should be held responsible, rather than the tools that they use. That’s Section 230 in a nutshell, and the reasoning is bizarrely demonstrated by what is now being called the Zoom Dick Incident.
Weissmann’s piece goes on to explain why this is so important for free speech:
Furthermore, if Section 230 protections were removed, that would mean that websites would face liability for all user content if they moderated any user content. Websites would then moderate nothing, so they’re not liable, or they would moderate so much that users would face massive barriers to posting. If conservatives think that too much of their content is being censored now, just wait until Facebook becomes liable for everything its users post. This is known as the “moderator’s dilemma.” In terms relevant to the Toobin news, Zoom would either have to allow everybody to show their genitals on the platform or strictly police meetings to ensure that none made it through. This regulatory burden would likely be crushing to new market entrants who lack the resources for a robust moderation program. As we learned from the GDPR regulations in Europe, these types of regulations harm competition by squashing startups and entrenching existing players.
If you read Techdirt enough, you know this already. However, if you hear people talking about the Zoom incident, now you have yet another way to talk about the importance of 230. Toobin should be held responsible for his own actions. Not Zoom.