Senators Warner, Hirono, And Klobuchar Demand The End Of The Internet Economy

from the daft-drafting dept

Just because Senators Warner, Hirono, and Klobuchar are apparently oblivious to how their SAFE TECH bill would destroy the Internet doesn’t mean everyone else should ignore how it does. These are Senators drafting legislation, and they should understand the effect the words they employ will have.

Mike has already summarized much of the awfulness they propose, and why it is so awful, but it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the individually odious provisions. This post focuses in particular on how their bill obliterates the entire Internet economy.

In sum, and without exaggeration: this bill would require every Internet service be a self-funded, charitable venture always offered for free.

The offending language is here:

(iii) by inserting before the period at the end [subsection (c)(1)] the following: ??, unless the provider or user has accepted payment to make the speech available or, in whole or in part, created or funded the creation of the speech???

Subsection (c)(1), for reference, is the “twenty-six words that created the Internet.” It’s the clause that does nearly all the heavy lifting to give Section 230 its meaning and value. And what these Senators propose is that any value that it could still somehow manage to provide, after all the other changes they propose turn it into swiss cheese, now be conditional. And that condition: that the site never, ever make any money.

It’s the first part of that bill text that is most absurd, but even the second part is plenty destructive too. To the extent that the latter part is even necessary ? because if a platform did create the offending content then Section 230 wouldn’t apply anyway ? it would still have a huge impact. For instance, could Patreon be liable for helping fund someone’s expression? If these Senators have their way, quite possibly.

But it’s the first part that nukes the entire Internet from orbit because it prohibits any site from in any way acquiring any money in any way to subsidize their existence as a platform others can use. That’s what “accepted payment to make the speech available” means. It doesn’t care if the platform actually earns a profit, or runs at a loss. It doesn’t care if it’s even a commercial venture out to make money in the first place. It doesn’t care how big or small it is. It doesn’t even care how the site acquired money so that it could exist to enable others’ expression. Wikipedia, for instance, is subsidized by donors, who provide “payment” so that Wikipedia can exist to make its users’ speech available. But if this bill should pass, then no more Section 230 protection for that site, or any other site that didn’t have an infinite pot of money at the outset to fund it forever. Any site that wants to be economically sustainable, or even simply recoup even some of the costs of operation ? let alone actually profit ? would have to do so without the benefit of Section 230 if this bill were to pass.

It’s possible, of course, that some of this effect is just the result of bad drafting, and the Senators really mean to tie payment to the specific speech in question that may be unlawful. But (A) if they can’t even draft this part correctly to not have these enormously destructive collateral effects, then there’s little reason to believe their other provisions won’t be equally ruinous, carelessly if not deliberately.

And (B), it would still be a problem constitutionally because it would make platforms’ own First Amendment rights contingent on financial arrangement, which has never before been the case. It is, after all, the First Amendment that allows a platform to choose to carry or refuse any particular content, and not actually Section 230. Section 230 only helps make that First Amendment protection meaningful.

That money might influence a platform’s decision does not obviate its constitutional protection. Editorial discretion is editorial discretion, regardless of whether it is affected by financial interest. Because of course editorial discretion always is affected by it, and always has been: newspapers run articles they think people will read because it will sell more papers, and media outlets refuse ads they think will offend. The First Amendment has never been contingent on charitable altruism, and any bill that would try to now make it so deeply offends it.

The sad irony is that it was Trump who declared that he wanted to “open up” First Amendment law and weaken its protections. But with bills like these it’s the Democrats who actually are.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Senators Warner, Hirono, And Klobuchar Demand The End Of The Internet Economy”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
101 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Funny, you'd think politicians would be all for accepting money

‘If you accept money from others then it’s open season for any lawsuits sent your way for anything you host’, to say that the senators in question aren’t fans of the first amendment, internet or open platforms and everything they involve would seem to be a ‘the surface of the sun is kinda toasty’-level understatement.

If this is the sort of legislation that this trio is throwing out then it seems that they need to be voted out and replaced at the soonest opportunity, because the damage they stand to do, whether indifferently or maliciously is anything but minor.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

BoKnows says:

Chicken-little garbage

There is no freedom of speech to be protected when operating on a privately owned platform. The internet does not exist within the confines of the United States and it’s constitution has no power over it.

The companies that host these sites and services, however, need to be held to the same standards that all publishers of content have been held to for decades. They need to be accountable for the content they promote and profit from.

Internet "protectors" need to grow up. The internet was never "free" and the protections these private corporations have enjoyed are far too empowering.

Every public space has rules in place that everyone must follow to be allowed to participate. Twitter, Patreon, and every site in between are no different.

Next time you feel like this is a problem go take a crap on a floor at a Walmart and see how "free" you are to do what you want inside of a private company.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Chicken-little garbage

Their words are probably far more accurate and necessary than this "I am not a lawyer" interpretation of them.

Damn, son, you really don’t know that C. Gellis is a considered to be a top-level lawyer, do you? Look her up on that thing you believe is nothing more than so much digital toilet paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Chicken-little garbage

"Next time you feel like this is a problem go take a crap on a floor at a Walmart and see how "free" you are to do what you want inside of a private company."

In the recent past, the above might have been considered to be not serious or an appeal to extremes. However, when discussing the extremes there is no extreme to appeal to and therefore the fallacy is not applicable.

In addition, in the past I would never have thought anyone would actually do such a thing as you suggest. However, this naivety has been corrected.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Chicken-little garbage

I— Wha—? First you say that the Constitution doesn’t have power over the internet, then you say that internet companies have too much power, and then you say that Twitter, Patreon, etc. is allowed to have and enforce rules? Do you not see the blatant contradiction? What is your actual point here?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Chicken-little garbage

He has no point. He just keeps trying to turn private property into public space again, by claiming that as long as a place is sufficiently popular it should belong to the people as a whole.

Ironically the arguments of the alt-right are still outright marxist narrative when it concerns free speech.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Chicken-little garbage

He just keeps trying to turn private property into public space again, by claiming that as long as a place is sufficiently popular it should belong to the people as a whole.

And yet he wraps that up by pointing out that private companies can enforce rules on their property, such as no crapping on the floor. He is very confused.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Chicken-little garbage

"And yet he wraps that up by pointing out that private companies can enforce rules on their property, such as no crapping on the floor. He is very confused."

"Confused" doesn’t cover it. One of the clearer tells Baghdad Bob possesses is that he always manages to bring arguments to the topic which decisively scuttle his own conclusion, or argues against himself. All the while trying to cover the screaming gaps of logic with ad homs and bad snark.

At some points he just snaps and reveals his unhealthy fascination with sadism, small children, and rape. There’s a reason he has to post anonymously – every account he’s ever actually owned or opened gets closed faster than his old Angry Kitten Troll Kit can open them.

Where free speech issues are concerned he has, for many years, been that angry drunk with bad bladder and sphincter control screaming incoherently at the bar he just got thrown out of, because in his own entitled mind he has a right to shit on the floor of private properties. And is religiously convinced that any day now, THE LAW will sanctify his "rights".

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Shel10 (profile) says:

Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

Find it hard to understand why these idiots keep getting re-elected! On the other hand, it’s time to redefine a news source (news paper, radio/TV broadcast station, magazine, fiction & nonfiction literature as having the right to protected speech under our 1st Amendment.

When the Constitution was first created, we only have a few forms of speech: person to person; one person to a crowd; books; opinion leaflets; news papers; news journals; paintings. 220 years later we have (in addition to all of the above): commercial broadcasting regulated by the FCC; cable news and opinion shows; Facebook; Twitter, plus other forms of Twitter; You Tube. It’s time to regulate these entities. They don’t need protection from lawsuits, but do need to be held responsible for taking away the right to protected speech of others. Especially because they are monopolies.

When other try to offer alternatives, the monopolies work together to control the competition. Most egregious the actions of AWS in taking control of Parler’s ability to manage their customer records and database plus other items AWS controls.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

taking away the right to protected speech of others

The First Amendment protects your rights to speak freely and associate with whomever you want. It doesn’t give you the right to make others listen. It doesn’t give you the right to make others give you access to an audience. And it doesn’t give you the right to make a personal soapbox out of private property you don’t own. Nobody is entitled to a platform or an audience at the expense of someone else.

To be clear: We have far worse issues to deal with if Twitter banning some douchecanoe can genuinely “tak[e] away the right to protected speech”. But Twitter can’t do that. It can only revoke the privilege of being able to use Twitter. And nobody — not you, I, or anyone else — has a legal right to use Twitter.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Except for, y’know, people who didn’t make defamatory statements. They’re entitled to that immunity. Or would you like to kill that legal principle, too?

Might as well. Considering that you’ve given yourself the authority to define who’s legally able to speak, what they are allowed to speak about, where and when they are allowed to speak it.

What was that? Oh, don’t think you have? Sorry can’t hear you. That’s not an approved talking point. I’m afraid you’ll have to fund your own acquisition of virtual air along with the energy to carry it to those willing to listen to you if you want others willing to listen to you to be able to do so.

Law? Don’t care. It’s created by morons like you to suit your own interests. Don’t like what I have to say? Well, then just banhammer away. I try to go somewhere else? Send the owners a nasty letter threatening a massive negative PR campaign unless they ban me. I try to make my own place? Have the infrastructure yanked out from under me. I try to get support from anyone? Pass laws to make it impossible for me to do so legally.

It’s so fun when you’re the one on top. You get to fucking piss off everyone with impunity. But all good things must come to an end. I’m looking forward to the inevitable destruction of 230, because at the end of the day, it will have been you and others like you that ensured you could not speak yourself. And I’ll be laughing my ass off in silence over it.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Call your GP

Tell your GP you took yourself off the meds and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder is back. You would like your prescription renewed.

And I’ll be laughing my ass off in silence over it.
Laughing isn’t silent, and only a narcissist or a douche tells other people "I’ll be laughing over it." Nobody cares. Nobody has ever cared. Not even the idiot staring at you in the mirror when you shave.

So, politely, get back on your meds please. You have no understanding of the laws of which you attempt to speak; you’re a narcissist (feel free to look up King Narcissus); you’re self-absorbed; time for those meds.

Check out how many times you said "I" and "me" and go cry yourself you sleep on your big pillow that has a pink pony and the words "Life is all about me" on it, why don’t you.

Note that wasn’t a question. You’re not even bright enough to sign your name. You KNOW your swill isn’t welcome.

Bye troll.

E

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Call your GP

"Check out how many times you said "I" and "me" and go cry yourself you sleep on your big pillow that has a pink pony and the words "Life is all about me" on it, why don’t you."

The sad part is that Baghdad Bob – Bobmail, Jhon, Out_of_the_blue and whatever else he calls himself – has been going on like this for ten years now. Building up to a cycle which always ends in a few rants like the one above after which he has himself a grand old meltdown and promises – again – to leave and never come back.
He’s beyond help.

It’s a sad fact that he’s never managed to realize that if 230 goes away, he’ll be one of the people guaranteed to never be allowed to write a comment anywhere. Or that half of his harping for desired changes in legislation to make it more draconian regarding free speech, copyright, threats etc, would target himself first and foremost, as the first victim.

He lacks the self-awareness of the average brick. Your well-intentioned advice is wasted effort.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No one’s given anyone the authority to decide who can speak or what they can say anywhere, merely who can say what on privately-owned platforms. You can say all the crap you want on publicly-owned property like a public street, but if you want to speak on my property, you have to follow my rules or I’ll have you kicked off.

Also, you can always set up your own infrastructure, and there are no laws that prevent you from asking for support to build your own website.

Literally everything you said is not reflective of reality or Stephen’s arguments.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"I’m afraid you’ll have to fund your own acquisition of virtual air along with the energy to carry it to those willing to listen to you if you want others willing to listen to you to be able to do so."

That is how free speech works, yes. You are allowed to say your piece. But no one owes you a bullhorn and a soapbox.

And when you have proven yourself such a blatant asshole that you are no longer welcome anywhere among the civilized community that’s all on you. You’ll have to exercise your free speech in whatever media you yourself are able to build because no one else wants to extend you a place.

"Don’t like what I have to say? Well, then just banhammer away. I try to go somewhere else? Send the owners a nasty letter threatening a massive negative PR campaign unless they ban me…"

Yes? That’s how freedom of speech and association is supposed to work, you unmitigated MORON. The government can not deny you your right to speak. Or others the right to not have you speak on their premises.

Your whole problem stems from you being such an unvarnished piece of garbage literally no one wants anything to do with you, and that’s neither a problem nor was free speech meant to address it.

"It’s so fun when you’re the one on top. You get to fucking piss off everyone with impunity."

That’s how freedom works, yes. You, the minority, do not get to ruin the day of the majority by being a douchebag and exerting your "right" to piss on absolutely everybody. You get the right to stay unharrassed within your own private place and in actual public spaces. You do not get to force entrance into other people’s private spaces.

"I’m looking forward to the inevitable destruction of 230, because at the end of the day, it will have been you and others like you that ensured you could not speak yourself. And I’ll be laughing my ass off in silence over it."

Ah, this is the same gloating rant you’ve held for ten years or more over pirates, free speech, liberals, anyone disagreeing with you, people with NPF’s and gays, isn’t it? Soon we’ll all be very sorry. SOON. Any day now. As soon as you can get your ass off the couch and deliver, to a DA, your long list of painstakingly collected "evidence" of people calling your anonymous nicks bad names for being a fuckwit we’ll all be hauled off in chains and punished.

All I can say, Baghdad Bob, is the same I said back on Torrentfreak – that you certainly got your moneys worth out of whatever shit you’re on because none of it will ever happen in reality.

You’ve spent ten years now being the guy who shits himself and points at other people while throwing shrill hysterics. Isn’t it at the point where you should seriously consider professional help, before your delusions compel you to do yourself or others an injury?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"No one is entitled to immunity from defamation liability either."

Do you understand why someone may be wary of the potential outcomes resulting from third party liability?

Can you explain to me why you wish to charge someone for an offense that was caused by someone else? I do not know about you, but I would not like that one bit.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Do you understand why someone may be wary of the potential outcomes resulting from third party liability?

You have those outcomes now. More so than ever. It’s just not a predefined legal penalty so much as it is a chaotic social one.

Can you explain to me why you wish to charge someone for an offense that was caused by someone else?

At least with a defined legal limit and penalty for passing it the social penalty will lessen. As it stands the "limit" is whatever the person with power to wield wants it to be, and the "penalty" is whatever punishment they deem fit. Regardless of the severity of the "crime" committed.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Lawsuits

Yeah, can’t wait for the whiner-in-chief, Guiliani and the Faux News airheads being sued by Dominion

Dominion sued for 1.7B.

Smartmatic sued for 2.3B.

Are you still "can’t wait"[ing] or does this scratch that itch?

BTW, Smarmatic’s filing is 285 pages, a bit repetitive, but quite brilliant. I’d give their lawyers a 98% on that one. Masterful filing. I’m sure Fox’s litigation insurance will have a great number of days going through that one.

Did I mention the FIVE BILLION DOLLARS in two lawsuits? You can stop waiting now.

E

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

Find it hard to understand why these idiots keep getting re-elected!

Because political office optimizes for fund raising.

But also because a politician has to develop laws that affect every aspect of life the country allows to be regulated. Any given politician would be a phenomenon were they an expert in more than 3 or 4 fields, yet they are expected to opine (create law) on hundreds.

Thus, they farm out expertise. And groups of the public – as corporations or as special interest groups – games the system towards their own benefit. Experience with law, vision to forecast side effects, and empathy to care about the fallout are all optional.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

Ultimately that strategy is defined by the effectiveness of spending funds on elections. Breaking the effective use of cash campaigns to gain votes would make it no longer politically defining.

Possible mechanisms include a sufficiently rational population could make it largely irrelevant, advertising overexposure could eventually reach a point of ubiquitous resistance without larger rationality, and fundraising or using personal funds for election campaigns stigmatized enough to be countereffective. They all unfortunately fall in the bucket of theoretically perfectly possible but unlikely.

By current status quo it takes quite a bit of bad reputation for the significantly more funded candidate to reliably lose. Being more funded isn’t an assured victory but it helps.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

Find it hard to understand why these idiots keep getting re-elected!

Most electoral systems have a big flaw, you can vote for one of the candidates or not vote. You do not have the option of saying none of them, and forcing another election with a new slate of candidates. The claim that you get the politicians you vote for is only partly correct, as you can only vote for those who volunteer for office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

A new slate is only required if none of the above wins, so hardly a hecklers veto.

Ranked voting does not solve the problem of ending up having to choose only those on the slate, or not vote. Its like proportional representation handing control of who is actually elected to the parties.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

"A new slate is only required if none of the above wins, so hardly a hecklers veto."

What happens when none of the above wins? idk, but I can guess.

Hypothetical situation that would never happen:
Let’s say there is an incumbent administration that really screwed up and is fearful the voters will not cast their votes properly resulting in a stolen election. The only way for them to win again is to disenfranchise the voters that are not on board with the proper loyalty. So they encourage their cult followers .. errr sorry, party members to vote no confidence in the hopes of keeping the present admin in office. Rinse, repeat.

Brilliant!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

"if NOA wins re run with all the other participants to be permanently bared from public office"

That is ridiculous, and what is the rational for being barred?

Point being that the present admin could potentially become a permanent dictatorship, just like the GOP wanted, all they have to do is get a few people to vote no confidence and their guy stys in office another … how long a time period do you propose between these attempts to fix a failed democracy?

If it weren’t for those damned people who got up off their couches, well – some of them anyway, and voted. How dare they do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Senators Demand End of Inter

For the president, the constitutions deals with the issue, if no president is elected, or both the president elect and their vice president are unable to take office, the office goes to the leader of congress. Therefore if Trump has invalidated the election, Nancy Pelosi would have taken over pending one being elected.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Senators Demand End of Internet Economy

"Hecklers veto?
How about ranked voting"

How about both? It would be an almost utopian dream to see every candidate pre-approved by vested interests booted off the playing field, leaving only those whose politics are popular among the citizenry rather than the various segments of industries eager to purchase political protection against common sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

when are people going to realize that as long as people are voted into office who dont understand a damn thing about the Internet, how it works and what is needed to make it continue to work, when it all goes shit-shaped and they stop making money from it just as they want everyone (else?) to stop making money, it will fold completely. do they really want the greates invention on the Planet to be thrown in the bin? what the fuck is wrong with them? or could it simply be that because they dont understand anything about the Internet, they are ashamed to admit it and then learn? whichever the reason, they and all the rest who keep trying to dispel section 230, they need some serious education, keeping mouths shut until afterwards!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

as long as people are voted into office who dont understand a damn thing about the Internet

Actually, it’s more a problem of electing people who don’t want to understand a damn thing about the Internet.

They have their idea of what it is, and actively resist learning better information. That is not a problem exclusive to republicans. Even democrats similarly resist understanding the world beyond their current knowledge of it.

Neither is it exclusive to technology matters. Politics and economy subjects are treated the same as they were 20-30 years ago. As if they were right then (which they weren’t already) and as if nothing changing since.

As for social issues, republicans still live in the 80s. The 1680s.
The democrats are a little late on these subjects as well, but they at least try to show some progress on this front.

So, resistance to change is prevalent across most of the political landscape. Only a few of the most recent entries in the democrat-side of the Congress are actually trying to push for modernization, for long-overdue change. The majority of democrat are still trying to catch up with the 90s and the republicans are trying to pull the country backwards.
How is surprising that they can’t cope with such a "revolutionary" concept as actual free speech for everyone? (Not just the few that the newspaper and TV deign to glorify.)

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

First Amendment

Yes, if Congress repeals CDA §230 they can then pass laws creating liability on content servers regardless of the source of the content. This is bad.

However, the first amendment article seems specious to me.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Nothing there prohibits any NON-Congress [legal] body from creating such laws.

Nothing there prohibits a site from having its own T&Cs [advertised or not] and working according to same.

CDA Section 230, specifically found at 47 U.S. Code § 230 found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230 has section (b) about the Policy of the United States.

Section (e) goes into great lengths as to what is NOT covered, including (1) criminal law, (2) intellectual property law, (3) state law[s], (4) privacy laws, (5) "Sex trafficking" [anything they don’t like apparently], etc.

SO again, I’m confused. Other than PREVENTING CONGRESS from passing laws, how is CDA Section 230 creating the open Internet?

The Internet was invented in the 1970s. That’s a fact.
Internet access was available to supercomputer centers and the agencies that needed access in the 1980s.
The commercial Internet was enabled in 1993.
The telecommunications act that enacted a bunch of stuff but was repealed except for the CDA was 1996.

It’s 2021. Pick your start date and figure out if the 25 year old act that prevented the US Congress from passing laws changed anything. If they allow themselves (don’t they "represent ‘us’"?) to pass whatever laws they want, how does this fundamentally change the Internet?

Very fashionable to complain that my first amendment rights are being trampled… but Congress has passed no law doing so. They sure could, and first they’d have to trample §230. Not a high hurdle to jump.

Very fashionable to complain that without the CDA 230 "protections" there would be no user-generated content (UCG) such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Techdirt comments, etc.

I would love to see a post that describes in detail how CDA 230 provides protection to private sites from having T&Cs. That’s not in there.

All I see is that Congress wants to pass laws about sites hosting content, so first they want to remove the protections (§230) that prevent them from doing so. I disagree with the entire effort.

That having been said I still am not grokking any 1AM issue here.

Can someone explain that last part? How is 1AM part of this discussion?

E

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

how is CDA Section 230 creating the open Internet?

Before 47 U.S.C. § 230 became a thing, a little thing known as the Prodigy ruling threatened to set a dangerous precedent: Services that moderated third party speech could be held liable for speech that they didn’t moderate. Section 230 was written specifically to prevent that ruling from becoming a standing legal precedent.

230 is what allows a service to moderate speech as it sees fit. Without 230 protections, a service like Twitter would be on the hook for lawsuits if its moderation efforts missed illegal/unlawful speech. Right now, Twitter can afford to handle such lawsuits. It couldn’t back when it was a startup.

And therein lies the importance of 230: It gives a service that could be the next Twitter or Facebook or YouTube or SoundCloud or whatever the freedom to experiment with moderation without risking a lawsuit that would kill the service in the cradle (so to speak). Without those protections, all services would have to decide between overmoderation, undermoderation (including none at all), or refusing to accept third party content. Smaller services would most definitely choose the third option…which would most likely kill those services.

The Internet of today — the same Internet that houses 4chan and Twitter, Stormfront and Facebook, PornHub and YouTube — exists because 230 gives those services (and more) the latitude to determine what speech they will and will not host without risking legal liability. Take away 230 and the Internet will be far worse off. I mean, if you think Google and Facebook and Twitter are “too big” now, wait until they’re the only real players out there because all the others either shut down voluntarily or got sued out of existence.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Then there are men like Guy Babcock, who had to suffer internet defmation horrors because of one woman with an axe to grind and sites with no incentive to stop her. To many pro-230 types, he’s considered acceptable collateral damage.

Every country BUT the US functions just fine without Section 230. That they don’t have the first amendment doesn’t mean anything becuse the claim was that they couldn’t do business in countries without 230 yet they do so all the time in India, UK, AUS, etc.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
danderbandit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The obvious solution to the situation you are describing is to sue the person posting the defamation, not the service that hosts it just because it’s easier and they likely have deeper pockets.
And you have referenced a situation from England and Canada. 230 isn’t enforceable in either of those countries AND they have much looser, especially England, libel & slander laws.
Just because this kind of thing can happen quicker and ‘deeper’ with the internet isn’t a reason to get rid of the internet. Gossip, slander & libel have been around a long time. The internet didn’t invent it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

every country BUT the US functions just fine without Section 230.

Section 230 is important in the US specifically because the courts had decided that moderation created liability. Other countries did not decide that moderation created liability… and so had no need to create a law clarifying that it does not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Claims usually are accompanied by evidence.
I have read several such claims over the past several years both here and elsewhere but none of them contained any supporting evidence.

How might other countries deal with things that section 230 addresses in the US? Do they simply go along with accusing third parties? Are the potential third party targets then silencing themselves in order to avoid the accusations? Are these examples of other countries actually showing their internet is working just fine?

In summary, I do not think the internet is working just fine .. anywhere and it appears that current events agree.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Internet working fine (or not)

In summary, I do not think the internet is working just fine ..

The Internet is a communication medium. If you can communicate (you know, send and receive information) it’s working just fine.

If you’re upset about content, moderation (or lack thereof) or regulation of content, that’s not the Internet’s problem.

Think "phone network" for example. You can call up anyone you want and say stupid ****. That doesn’t make the phone networks bad, nor your choice of provider nor that of the recipient. It’s just a communication medium.

The Internet is the same way.

Stop blaming it for stupid **** politicians do.

E

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

In other countries, suing third parties does not get far, and lawyers advise their client that such cases will likely fail. Also, costs are frequently awarded, making it expensive to bring baseless cases. The evidence for a 230 law would be a lot of cases against websites over contents, and lack of that evidence means a 230 like law is not required.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

In other countries, suing usually doesn’t happen in the first place, but when it does, the Plaintiff gets very far:

https://www.mondaq.com/australia/libel-defamation/931462/google-is-a-publisher-and-can-be-sued-for-defamation

Guy Babcock’s case as spelled out in the NYT article recently shows why 230 is a horror show.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Fee shifting under federal law for content lawsuits would win.

The evidence for a 230 law would be a lot of cases against websites over contents, and lack of that evidence means a 230 like law is not required.

The evidence for a 230 law would be a lot of cases against websites over contents, and lack of that evidences means 230 is working just fine.

That sophistry aside, if litigation law were changed to provide speedy adjudication for quick dismissal (like SLAPP laws) and if costs and fees were awarded to the victor, THAT would probably help more than 230.

E

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"How might other countries deal with things that section 230 addresses in the US?"

Other countries do not possess 3rd-party liability concerns in tort law. The US is bloody unique in that aspect.

Thus no other nation in the G20 is likely to ever find itself in the same position as the US of actually needing a section 230 to safeguard against what only the US even has as a problem.

"I have read several such claims over the past several years both here and elsewhere but none of them contained any supporting evidence."

It’s one of those very self-evident statements, like looking out the window and stating that it’s raining. But for those persistently locked in the basement, the answer is to be found in the difference in civil litigation law. You literally can not sue, in Sweden, Germany or France, an intermediate for the actions of a user. It’s written right into basic telecommunications law – and in some cases right into the national charter.

"Do they simply go along with accusing third parties?"

No, it’s easier than that. in order to accuse a 3rd party you, the accuser, need to prove 3rd-party direct complicity. With lawsuits not being a potential windfall of income it means only real such grievances are ever even addressed.
Section 230 isn’t needed elsewhere because the danger 230 protects from simply doesn’t exist in other nations than the US.

"In summary, I do not think the internet is working just fine .. anywhere and it appears that current events agree."

No, Baghdad Bob, the fact that grifters, racists, neo-nazis and shady politicians agree with you that private online platforms should be prevented from dictating their own terms on who gets to use their services still isn’t "current events agreeing with you". It just means you’ve found a bunch of similarly malicious assholes who think it’s a shame they can’t complain too loudly about the jewish conspiracy or chat about the <N-word> online without being tossed out of the civilized community.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"E "Jewish but don’t control space lasers dammit" Gavron"

A damn shame, really. I mean, after reading a bit of the neo-nazi narrative I was set to convert already. They make "being jewish" sound as if that alone would grant you the power set of half the Justice League or Avengers.
I also wanted the reality-bending super-powers, mind control abilities, time machines and space lasers the white supremacy/nazi/antisemitic crowd insists are part of the Global Jewish Conspiracy. ????

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Hey, you can have that all you want, all you need to to ignore objective reality, suspend all critical thinking abilities and train yourself not to feel cognitive dissonance, and you can believe any Q / white supremacist propaganda you want!

If you want to remain in the world of reality, where it’s an incompetent and corrupt power company that keeps triggering California wildfires rather than some supercabal of space faring laser wielding synagogues causing them, that’s you’re choice 😉

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

"If you want to remain in the world of reality, where it’s an incompetent and corrupt power company that keeps triggering California wildfires rather than some supercabal of space faring laser wielding synagogues causing them, that’s you’re choice ;)"

Well, yeah, that’s a much more flat and uninteresting narrative than the neo-nazi belief, where the Big Bad is basically Thanos with a yarmulke.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Every country BUT the US functions just fine without Section 230"

Once again, that’s only true because the US is unique in needing it. Every other country has its protections baked into existing law.

I know your entire bullshit argument depends on pretending that no section 230 means that the things enacted in that law don’t exist elsewhere, but no matter how much you wish this to be true, it’s not.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Appeal to Over There fallacy."

It’s not so much that fallacy (though he using one), as it is the pig ignorant refusal to learn from reality. He seems to think that section 230 is only needed in the US because they’re being specially discriminated against. In reality, it’s only necessary there because it’s the only place litigious enough for it to be needed to be spelled out explicitly.

He’d almost be making a good point if his claim was that there needs to be legal reform to ensure that things like third party liability are brought into line with other countries. But, since his argument is that they should jettison what few protects already exist, he’s making his usual bad faith argument based on debunked claims that will need to be corrected again next time he crawl out of his hole.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Every country BUT the US functions just fine without Section 230. "

Because every country but the US has the functions of 230 built right into their basic telecommunications law or national charter.

We keep telling you this; The US is damn unique in that it needs section 230 to exonerate platforms from 3rd-party liability because it’s the only country which allows 3rd-party liability in this way in the first place.

It’s not a good sign when every argument you posit against 230 is an outright and obvious falsehood, Baghdad Bob, and it’s arguments like those that earned you your nickname.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"The Internet of today — the same Internet that houses 4chan and Twitter, Stormfront and Facebook, PornHub and YouTube — exists because 230 gives those services (and more) the latitude to determine what speech they will and will not host without risking legal liability. "

Um, you do realise that PornHub is not an American site? Please stop trying to apply US law to other countries, eh?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Without 230 protections, a service like Twitter would be on the hook for lawsuits if its moderation efforts missed illegal/unlawful speech. Right now, Twitter can afford to handle such lawsuits. It couldn’t back when it was a startup.

Which is why 230 needs to go. The problem was liability for user created content. A true correction of that problem would have stopped at merely holding users accountable for their own actions. Instead the consequences of that law’s enactment actively created a culture of permission-seeking. Now instead of speech being allowed by default, as was the law’s intent, it’s only OK to speak if the owners (and their owners, and their owners’s owners, etc.) are willing to protect you.

Take away 230 and the Internet will be far worse off. I mean, if you think Google and Facebook and Twitter are “too big” now, wait until they’re the only real players out there because all the others either shut down voluntarily or got sued out of existence.

Oh, stop it. You and others like you gleefully cite that the law doesn’t mandate a place for people to go and demand that it shouldn’t. While those who’s concerns you dismiss were talking about amending the law to require such places, because others are explicitly abusing that fact. I.e. You are citing the problem as the reason why there can be no solution. If people call you out on this fact you immediately jump into red-herring tactics and breakout every last strawman argument you possibly can. "BuT wHaT AbOuT tHe WhItE sUpReMaCiStS oN 4cHaN!?!?!?!" Newsflash: That will happen anyway. It’s going on right now, and YOU’RE an avid cheerleader for it. You already have major networks being shuttered because of social outcries and moral panics. The lawsuits have never been more prevalent in the news. Why do you think that Facebook, Twitter, Google, et. al, are all supporters of "reforming 230"? They know that if reform passes, their businesses will be the only game left in town. Face facts: Your doomsday scenario for the loss of 230 is playing out in front of your eyes. You’re just too absorbed in ensuring your side "wins" to notice it.

Speech being protected from the government is worthless if others with just as much power are free to silence it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Now instead of speech being allowed by default, as was the law’s intent

That was never the law’s intent. You can go look in the Congressional Record at what Wyden and Cox actually said to see that it wasn’t. 230 is about allowing site owners to moderate content without being liable for those moderation decisions, not about "speech being allowed by default."

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 More Troll Stuff

That was never the law’s intent. You can go look …

No, you can go look. You’re a nobody with claims that aren’t held up by either history (what’s on the books) words (what Wyden and Cox have said for years) or anything.

If you can’t be competent enough to

  • provide links proving your points (good luck with that, troll!)
  • sign your name

Go find a place where an audience will support you. I hear Marjorie Greene has one. If not, maybe Fox News. On this one we actually read real news and even unaffiliated readers (like me) try to keep the record straight.

Bye Troll. [Feel free to read that as "Bye, Felicia."]

E

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Chickenshit

I know why TD offers anon postings and it’s not for worthless trolls.

Face facts: Your doomsday scenario for the loss of 230 is playing out in front of your eyes. You’re just too absorbed in ensuring your side "wins" to notice it.

Face facts. Anonymous trolls waste time in front of everyone’s eyes. You have no idea what is in front of anyone’s eyes or what we (readers) are absorbed "in".

You’re just anonymous trash.

Time to take out the trash.

E

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Instead the consequences of that law’s enactment actively created a culture of permission-seeking."

Yes, you need permission to use someone else’s private property. Is this a new concept to you?

"Speech being protected from the government is worthless if others with just as much power are free to silence it."

So, what’s your solution here? Government seizure of private property (a.k.a. communism) or just no private property rights at all? Because your idiotic arguments don’t seem to leave many other options.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Which is why 230 needs to go.

“Twitter couldn’t afford to handle lawsuits when it was a startup, which is why we need to kill 230 now: To make sure Twitter can’t be replaced by a new startup!” That’s you. That’s you right now.

The problem was liability for user created content. A true correction of that problem would have stopped at merely holding users accountable for their own actions.

That…that’s what 230 does. It helps make sure liability for third party speech goes where it belongs: on the shoulders of the third-party user.

Now instead of speech being allowed by default, as was the law’s intent

Per the on-the-Congressional-record words of Chris Cox, who helped craft 47 U.S.C. § 230: “[O]ur amendment will do two basic things: First, it will protect computer Good Samaritans, online service providers, anyone who provides a front end to the Internet, let us say, who takes steps to screen indecency and offensive material for their customers. It will protect them from taking on liability such as occurred in the Prodigy case in New York that they should not face for helping us and for helping us solve this problem. Second, it will establish as the policy of the United States that we do not wish to have content regulation by the Federal Government of what is on the Internet, that we do not wish to have a Federal Computer Commission with an army of bureaucrats regulating the Internet because frankly the Internet has grown up to be what it is without that kind of help from the Government.”

it’s only OK to speak if the owners (and their owners, and their owners’s owners, etc.) are willing to protect you.

Well…yeah. You don’t have the right to make a soapbox out of private property that you don’t own. Play by the rules or get kicked out — it’s your choice.

You and others like you gleefully cite that the law doesn’t mandate a place for people to go and demand that it shouldn’t.

Yes, we do. Like I’ve said before: Nobody is entitled to use Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you don’t like those sites — or you’re banned from those sites — you can find another one to use. The government has no business in ensuring you a spot on those services.

While those who’s concerns you dismiss were talking about amending the law to require such places

We have such places. They’re called “actual public property”. Requiring any privately owned service such as Twitter to host speech it doesn’t want to host is communism. The reasoning for that requirement is irrelevant.

If people call you out on this fact you immediately jump into red-herring tactics and breakout every last strawman argument you possibly can. "BuT wHaT AbOuT tHe WhItE sUpReMaCiStS oN 4cHaN!?!?!?!"

I’ve explained this approach before. You obviously didn’t get it, so I’ll explain it again.

I use those extreme examples because they’re examples of the extreme speech that a good number of services already prohibit. (Twitter once suspended me for saying an anti-queer slur in the context of mocking someone else’s view of queer people.) To say Twitter must become a “public square” and allow all speech “or else” is to say Twitter must host that extreme speech.

Whenever I ask a question that mentions this speech, it is intentionally provocative. Talking about generalized “bad speech” is one thing. Drilling “bad speech” down to a more specific example (e.g., racial slurs) makes people confront the actual speech and, by proxy, defend the forcing of that speech upon others. That you can’t deal with such a confrontation isn’t my fault. I’m not the one running from the question.

It’s going on right now, and YOU’RE an avid cheerleader for it.

People turning social media services into 4chan clones is not happening en masse right now, and I’m not cheerleading it regardless of whether it is.

You already have major networks being shuttered because of social outcries and moral panics.

Parler isn’t a “major network”. And last I checked, it’s back up and running again.

Why do you think that Facebook, Twitter, Google, et. al, are all supporters of "reforming 230"? They know that if reform passes, their businesses will be the only game left in town.

Why do you think I am a supporter of keeping 230 as-is? I know that if reform/repeal passes, Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. will be the only games left in town.

Your doomsday scenario for the loss of 230 is playing out in front of your eyes. You’re just too absorbed in ensuring your side "wins" to notice it.

Keeping 230 in place isn’t about “sides”. (Don’t you think I’d be supporting Democrats and their efforts to reform 230 if it were?) It’s about ensuring that websites aren’t forced to host speech they don’t want to host and aren’t sued to oblivion for their moderation efforts. It’s about making sure “the next Twitter” can become the next Twitter instead of a flash-in-the-pan service that dies only because it couldn’t handle a lawsuit that 230 should’ve stopped.

Speech being protected from the government is worthless if others with just as much power are free to silence it.

I’ll leave this here and hope you get the point without my having to explain it to you like you’re a five-year-old: http://leftycartoons.com/2018/08/01/i-have-been-silenced/

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: First Amendment

SO again, I’m confused. Other than PREVENTING CONGRESS from passing laws, how is CDA Section 230 creating the open Internet?

By giving platforms more leeway to work with in what they allow, what forms of moderation they try, and how they deal with users. If a site has to worry about nuisance lawsuits for keeping content up, taking content down, or both, then they are likely to be much more restrictive in what they allow, which is going to have serious side-effects both in what is allowed to be posted and what is allowed to stay posted.

Where the first amendment comes into play is in a couple of ways. First, as private property platforms already have the right to decide which speech and speakers they will and will not allow, what 230 does(all it does really) is make it so that that right actually matters, because a right you cannot afford isn’t much of a right and without the ability to short-circuit lawsuits early a site could easily be driven under or forced to cave to demands even if they won or would have won every lawsuit relating to moderation choices.

The second is somewhat related to that, and that’s when the government comes into play and starts making not-even-remotely veiled threats against platforms and how it sure would be nice if they were to moderate less/more, and if they don’t moderate ‘correctly’ then the government will have to step in and strip the lawsuit shield that is 230, which effectively leaves the government making demands on what speech platforms are and are not allowed to host and how they interact with that speech, a pretty blatant first amendment violation.

Doug Burbidge (profile) says:

GPT-3

Can somebody who has access to GPT-3 do an experiment? Feed it the 26 words ("No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.") as a seed, and see what it produces. Then see if the ruminations of a neural network are more or less sensible than any of these proposed changes.

Thanks.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...