CNN Shutting Down Its Facebook In Australia Shows How Removing 230 Will Silence Speech

from the liability-is-too-great dept

It remains perplexing to me that so many people — especially among the Trumpist world — seem to believe that removing Section 230 will somehow make websites more likely to host their incendiary speech. We’ve explained before why the opposite is true — adding more liability for user speech means a lot fewer sites will allow user speech. But now we have a real world example to show this.

Last month, in a truly bizarre ruling, the Australian High Court said that news publishers should be liable for comments on social media on their own posts to those social media platforms. In other words, if a news organization published a story about, say, a politician, and then linked to that story on Facebook, if a random user defamed the politician in the comments on Facebook… then the original publisher could face liability for those comments.

It didn’t take long for Rupert Murdoch (who has been pushing to end Section 230 in the US) to start screaming about how he and other media publishers now need special intermediary protections in Australia. And he’s not wrong (even if he is hypocritical). But, even more interesting is that CNN has announced that it will no longer publish news to Facebook in Australia in response to this law:

CNN says it will no longer publish content to Facebook in Australia. The decision comes after the country’s highest court ruled that media companies are liable for comments people post under articles on the platform.

Of course, this is also amusing, because CNN is owned by Turner Broadcasting, which is owned by WarnerMedia which (for the time being) is owned by AT&T… which has also been a recent critic of 230 (despite being protected by 230). Of course, in the process CNN made sure to try to blame Facebook for this decision:

After that ruling, CNN approached Facebook and asked if the tech firm would “support CNN and other publishers by disabling the comment functionality on their platform in Australia,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Facebook “chose not to do so.”

“We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users,” the CNN spokesperson said, adding that the media outlet will continue to publish on its own platforms in Australia.

Of course, this now raises a separate question. Remember, earlier this year, Australia passed its ridiculous (Murdoch designed) link tax, forcing Facebook to pay news organizations if they post news to Facebook.

But if, under this recent court ruling, it forces news orgs to stop posting their news to Facebook… does that mean Facebook no longer needs to pay them?

Either way, CNN’s decision to withdraw its content from Facebook in Australia is a perfect example of how increasing intermediary liability means less speech overall. Removing Section 230 wouldn’t lead to more speech online, it would lead to a lot less.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: at&t, cnn, warnermedia

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 “CNN Shutting Down Its Facebook In Australia Shows How Removing 230 Will Silence Speech”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

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

Koby (profile) says:

Wrong Pairing

seem to believe that removing Section 230 will somehow make websites more likely to host their incendiary speech. We’ve explained before why the opposite is true

The Australian situation is that the authorities are removing intermediary liability protections, while also demanding more censorship. As discussed at length, this seems undoable. However, not everyone wants to take this same approach. The alternative is to remove intermediary liability protection FOR those that engage in censorship. And that part can be easily accomplished by content hosts, as evidenced by the Cubby v Compuserve era of a hands off style.

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

Re: Wrong Pairing

Dude, you haven’t the foggiest goddamn clue of how §230 works. Case in point, you thought that facebook could use 230 as a means to dismiss a court case where it was facebook’s own speech over which they are being sued.

In case you don’t remember what you said, let me help you:

Instead, they will seek a dismissal based on grounds that their speech did not reach the level of actual malice, or perhaps 230.

Please tell us how you think §230 would help dismiss a lawsuit over a platform’s own speech….

I’ll wait…

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

Re: Wrong Pairing

Explain how you can have your cake and eat it. If a site is possibly liable for third party speech, how can ignoring that speech eliminate the liability for it appearing on their site. It is an even worse liability if the site can be sued for both removing and leaving up the same speech, as the only way to avoid liability is not to host third party speech.

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

Re: Wrong Pairing

Why you comment here is a mystery. I mean, tp and blue seem to get some kind of bizarre sado-masochistic thrill out of being wrong all the time, but you rarely post anything after you’re piled on and proven to be wrong. You just post easily debunked nonsense then go silent till the next thread… yet you’re always in the next thread.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wrong Pairing

"You just post easily debunked nonsense then go silent till the next thread… yet you’re always in the next thread."

That’s basically the common playbook of cheap astroturfing – copy/paste any of the premade arguments, expand it by a personalized sentence or two, duck out of the thread. Rinse&repeat a thousand times on various forums. Collect paycheck. do it all over next day.

You can’t rule it out completely given that as a "job" it holds the same status as that of a "representative" in an indian call center. It’s not implausible that vested interests (Facebook, more or less) who want 230 gone have dropped a small budget on poisoning the debate on any publicly accessible forum.

However, the plentiful examples provided by Koby so far imply a less implausible explanation than that. Although he, like a paid astroturfer, knows damn well he’s repeatedly bullshitting people, he’s in it for ideological reasons. His friends back on Stormfront want an audience forced to hear them expound on the virtues of racial purity. And he’s just here trying to push the idea that it’d be a good thing to get them that.

No wonder he never tries to actually argue. He’s just the guy shouting the inflammatory one-liner from the crowd, not the guy on stage trying to present a debate.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Wrong Pairing

"Left unchallenged, Koby and his type might appear to the uneducated to have a point."

That’s how it works, yes. Repeat the same line often enough for long enough and eventually it becomes part of the public debate.

Like the current confusion around there being "two sides" in a debate about whether evolution should be taught in school or basic science accepted as the foundation of climate change research.

You can’t debate people who bring outright falsehood to the table, or that falsehood becomes part of the argument. Just shut them down immediately.

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

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Governments: We’re interested in an adult conversation on the subject of encryption.

Experts in the field: Alright, here’s just a sampling of the reasons you’re not just wrong but dangerously wrong in your arguments and positions.

Governments: Shut up, we weren’t talking about or to you, we’re only interested in an honest conversation by which we mean ‘with people who already agree with us’ since we can’t possibly be wrong and anyone who says otherwise therefore must be lying and isn’t worth our time.

ECA (profile) says:


HOW many online sites in Australia,
Have locked down the comments section?
Dear Mr. Murdoch, how is your editorial section doing?
How do you have a news agency IF’ your news is NOW liable? As now you are the Publisher and the Commenter.
Your Actions to lock down the comments sections, tells allot. Then expecting OTHERS to allow the comments, WHEN YOU WONT?
Strike 3.

Anyone signed up for the Aussie News services? Can you tell us how they are doing?
Do they still have OPINION programs on TV?

So you publish another opinion, are you Liable?
YOu also have comments, Can this young lady NOW SUE YOU for what your comments said?
OR does LLC still cover you, but NOT the Corp.

Anonymous Coward says:

the land of oz seems to make laws designed to break the internet, or reduce free speech and also reduce the public s right to privacy.
americans take for granted the right to free speech.
maybe if 100 media organisations follow cnn the australians might think about it,is this a good law.why the f should cnn be responsible for all comments on facebook, sue the person who makes the comment ,its common sense

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nuke Australia Now

All the shit that’s coming from here is thanks to the LNP arse kissing and bending over to happily letting Rupert park his bike between their cheeks.

It’s sort of a corrupted Gollum: "We be nice to him if he be nice to us." They’ll sell themselves to anyone who owns a, basically, right wing media network and has loads of cash.

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...