If You Want To Know Why Section 230 Matters, Just Ask Wikimedia: Without It, There'd Be No Wikipedia
from the also-just-grow-up,-china dept
It sometimes seems that Techdirt spends half its time debunking bad ideas for reforming or even repealing Section 230. In fact, so many people seem to get the law wrong that Mike was moved to write a detailed post on the subject with the self-explanatory title “Hello! You’ve Been Referred Here Because You’re Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act”. It may be necessary (and tiresome) work rebutting all this wrongness, but it’s nice for a change to be able to demonstrate precisely why Section 230 is so important. A recent court ruling provides just such an example:
On September 15th, in a victory for the Wikimedia movement and for all user-driven projects online, a Florida judge dismissed claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and infliction of emotional distress against the Wikimedia Foundation. The judge found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes the Wikimedia Foundation from liability for third-party content republished on Wikipedia. In other words, Section 230 helps Wikimedia safely host the work of Wikipedia’s contributors and enables the effective volunteer-led moderation of content on the projects.
As the Wikimedia blog post notes, this was an absolutely crucial result. If collaborative projects that are created, maintained, and curated by volunteers could be held liable every time a user contributed something that was inaccurate or offensive, none of them would last very long — not least because they generally lack the resources to fight expensive court cases. Back in 2017, Wikimedia wrote a detailed post on Section 230, and why it made Wikipedia and other sites possible
The court’s ruling is a big win for Wikimedia. On the other hand, in something of a (minor) defeat, China has yet again blocked the Wikimedia Foundation’s application for observer status at WIPO — the only country to object. This is the second time it has done so, and for the same reason:
As in 2020, China’s statement falsely suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation was spreading disinformation via the independent, volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter. The United States and the group of industrialized countries at WIPO — which also includes many European Union member states, Australia, Canada, the Holy See, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom — expressed their support for the Foundation’s application. Since WIPO is generally run by consensus, any one country may veto accreditation requests by non-governmental organizations.
China’s blocking of a small, apolitical organization that aims to promote knowledge around the world just looks incredibly petty, and is hardly befitting for a world power.