Biden Falsely Claims That Removing Section 230 And Forced Transparency Will Stop Hatred; He’s Dangerously Wrong

from the stop-it dept

On Thursday, the White House hosted the United We Stand summit, to bring together people to take action against what they refer to as “hate-fueled violence.” This seems like a good idea for a summit, at a time when so much of politics is focused on grievances and culture wars that seem to inevitably lead to bigotry and violence. It’s good to see that the White House can actually talk about some of this and take a stand, rather than cowering behind traditional platitudes.

Indeed, in addition to the summit, the White House announced a bunch of initiatives that… actually sound pretty good, in general. More funding for education, and for community organizations that combat violence and hate, and more tools for helping digital literacy. I’m perhaps less convinced that some of the other plans make sense, including funding for law enforcement (which has been a bastion of hatred itself lately) and efforts to “increase school security,” which seem to be about turning schools into prison-like atmospheres with security theater that makes children less safe.

As part of the summit, a bunch of the big social media platforms announced new policies to be more aggressive towards hatred, and most of those sound pretty reasonable.

YouTube is expanding its policies to combat violent extremism by removing content glorifying violent acts for the purpose of inspiring others to commit harm, fundraise, or recruit, even if the creators of such content are not related to a designated terrorist group. YouTube will also launch an educational media literacy campaign across its platform to assist younger users in particular in identifying different manipulation tactics used to spread misinformation – from using emotional language to cherry picking information. This campaign will first launch in the U.S. before expanding to other countries over time. Finally, YouTube will support the McCain Institute and EdVenture Partners’ Invent2Prevent program with ongoing funding and training. The program challenges college students to develop their own dynamic products, tools, or initiatives to prevent targeted violence and terrorism.]

Twitch will accelerate its ongoing commitment to deterring hate in the livestreaming space this year by releasing a new tool that empowers its streamers and their communities to help counter hate and harassment and further individualize the safety experience of their channels. Twitch will also launch new community education initiatives on topics including identifying harmful misinformation and deterring hateful violence.

Microsoft is expanding its application of violence detection and prevention artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools and using gaming to build empathy in young people. The company has developed AI/ML tools with appropriate privacy protections that can help detect credible threats of violence or to public safety, and is making a basic, more affordable version of these tools accessible to schools and smaller organizations to assist in violence prevention. Microsoft is also developing a new experience on Minecraft: Education Edition to help students, families and educators learn ways to build a better and safer online and offline world through respect, empathy, trust and safety.

Meta is forging a new research partnership with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism to analyze trends in violent extremism and tools that help communities combat it. Meta will also partner with Search For Common Ground to provide trainings, workshops, and skill-building to equip community-based partners working locally to counter hate-fueled violence with tools to help amplify their work.

And… that’s all good? But, it’s weird, because part of what enables all of the above companies to do this sorta stuff is the fact that they know they have Section 230 which, along with the 1st Amendment, helps protect them against frivolous lawsuits over their content moderation decisions.

And even though it’s Section 230 that helps enable sites to do this… in his own speech, Biden lashed out at the tech companies and Section 230.

I think most of the speech is actually pretty good, honestly. But, not for the first time, Biden gets weirdly focused on internet companies and Section 230, as if they’re the problem. At minute 22:40 in the video above he says:

And hold social media platforms accountable for spreading hate and fueling violence.

{crowd gives standing ovations}

And I’m calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements on all of them.

This is all extremely confused and ridiculously counterproductive. We’ve explained this before, and have even had Biden advisors insist that they understand these issues, but it appears that no one is able to explain it to the President.

First of all, if you want social media companies to figure out the best ways to deal with hate and fueling violence, you need Section 230, because it’s what allows them the freedom to experiment and put in place the other ideas mentioned above. It allows them the ability to test different ideas, and not face crippling liability for mistakes. It allows them to see what actually has an impact and what works.

Removing Section 230 goes against all of those wishes. Because of the nature of the 1st Amendment, without Section 230, many websites are more likely to take a totally hands off approach to moderation. Because they only liability they can face under the 1st Amendment standards endorsed by the courts is if they have actual knowledge of law-violating content on their site. The easiest way to avoid that is not to look and not to moderate much at all.

In other words, this call to remove Section 230 will encourage many sites to do less moderation and to allow more hatred to roam free.

Biden seems to falsely believe that removing Section 230 will magically make hate illegal, and create a cause of action with which people can sue websites. That’s just fundamentally wrong. Whether we like it or not, such hate speech remains protected under the 1st Amendment, so there’s no direct legal liability anyway. Removing Section 230 doesn’t change that. And, again, even if the content somehow reaches a level that it does break the law, the website cannot be held liable for it under the 1st Amendment unless they had knowledge that it was illegal.

Getting rid of Section 230 makes things worse, not better.

Second, Biden is simply lying when he says it’s a “special immunity for social media.” It is not. He’s wrong. Very wrong. Section 230 protects smaller companies way more than it helps the big companies, and it protects users and their own speech way more than it protects any company (by enabling sites to host third party content in the first place). Indeed, getting rid of it would do more to harm the most marginalized than protect them.

It’s bizarre that the President still gets this so wrong.

Finally, on the claims of “transparency,” once again, this is extreme ignorance. Forcing websites to be transparent about their content moderation practices makes it harder to stop malicious actors because you’re giving them the roadmap to how to game the systems. It also makes it that much more difficult for websites to adjust and adapt to the dynamic and ever-changing methods of malicious actors (i.e. those wishing to spread hate on the platform).

So, both of these proposals would almost certainly increase the amount of hateful speech online. And I know that people in the Biden administration know this. And yet they let the President continue to spread this counterproductive nonsense.

It’s all really too bad. A summit like this is a good thing. Countering hatred and violence is a good thing. Many of the programs announced at the summit sound quite helpful.

But the attacks on the 1st Amendment and tech (ironically at the same time that so many tech companies announced new programs) is not just silly, it’s actively counterproductive to the overall goal.

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Comments on “Biden Falsely Claims That Removing Section 230 And Forced Transparency Will Stop Hatred; He’s Dangerously Wrong”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“And I’m calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements on all of them.”

I’m pushing them outside of the US, where they will be fully able to ignore our stupid laws that don’t actually solve anything because the problem is society not the platforms.

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

It’s bizarre that the President still gets this so wrong.

In before 50 vapid variations about how Biden knows hes wrong or his salary is reliant on him not understanding this and Mike is stupid for using soft language and not skewering Biden to the podium with the US flag.

Dan Poltard says:

Where is Senator Ron Wyden?

Considering it was Ron Wyden (D) and Chris Cox(R) who wrote section 230. WHERE IS RON WYDEN? Senator Wyden is the finance chairman in the Senate. He has plenty of power and input to the President being the chairman. Senator Wyden needs to explain to President Biden why removing section 230 is wrong. Senator Wyden is in the same party and President Biden. Yet on his Twitter page Wyden is attacking Respublicans over section 230 and abortion which is fine but being part of the same party Prez Biden is, Wyden needs to explain section 230 and make it clear to Biden he is going to fight to keep section 230 in place. WHERE IS SENATOR WYDEN.

Anonymous Coward says:

Because of the nature of the 1st Amendment, without Section 230, many websites are more likely to take a totally hands off approach to moderation.

Only if they do not make sites liable for content when the remove sections 230. If they do make sites liable for content, moderation will remove a lot more, or sites will not allow user content.

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

Re:

Yes, just look at the recent example of hatred inspired by a fairy tale character not being depicted with the same racial characteristics as a previous cartoon, despite literally not being human or real.

The choices would be not to allow comments on a story about a new movie, or put up with the most vile racial hatred on a story that’s likely to be read by children.

It’s bad enough when sites can show these people the door, but without that choice most would choose to not open the door in the first place. Then, if the business depends on people coming through that door to pay the bills, there’s not going to be so many of them left.

I can understand the desire to stop hatred fermenting online, but when even a fairytale can whip people up into a racist frenzy, I don’t think that creating liability for people not directly participating in that speech can be anything but harmful in ways that are not understood by the people suggesting that.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Probably lol.

But, seriously, the amount of vitriol because a trailer for The Little Mermaid had someone who looks different to a 30 year old cartoon portraying her… wow. I can’t imagine what some places would be like if they couldn’t moderate, but I guarantee they wouldn’t be places most people would visit.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

I’ve seen some screenshots of the 90s TV series now that have non-white mermaids. So, the racists can bugger off for sure. Imagine being so bereft of a reason to live that you get offended by cartoons from 30 years ago…

I’ll go for objections that are related to money grabbing remakes that block more original movies and funnel money to the Disney complex that seems to be taking over all cinematic entertainment. But, if the objection is that a creature that literally doesn’t exist looks different to how people 150 years ago might have imagined them, then I have no sympathy. Financially support them or not, then pay to support the next thing you want to see more of…

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

Re: Re:

America has refused to deal with white supremacy in any meaningful way, probably because the elite who fund both parties ultimately still profit from it. This has been consistent since slavery, and until they stop treating it like its a valid point of view rather than an extremist ideology, it will not go away.No amount of banning or moderating speech will do that. You have to fundamentally and radically change the culture that lets it exist.Germany did this. Japan did it. America prefers to brush it under the rug.

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Nero, or Not, aka Klaus Schwab says:

Re: Re: Re:

the elite who fund both parties

And….who might “they” be my friend? Who are “they!?!”

Because, apparently, in your vision–

This has been consistent since slavery

Which slavery? The Roman Empire, or the pre-Flavian slavery? Egypt? Be specific!

And, wow, great sales pitch for Empire here!

Germany did this. Japan did it

So did the CIA via Operation Gladio-maybe read up on how the “global elites’ pit us all against each other, calling us racists, until they bastardize and conquer everyone.

But WHO ARE THEY!!!?

Lol.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Japan needed two nukes and an American occupation to push out the extreme nationalist mindset, and there’s still a loud fucking minority that remains in power.

Same with Germany, but replace the nukes with the threat of the Soviet Union.

And with both, they needed a World War to actually get that done.

Maybe you’d like to trigger Civil War 2: Orange Man Boogaloo to get that to happen?

(Don’t.)

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Ticket To Martha's Vineyard! says:

Re: Re:

Only racist frenzy is bad frenzy? Shadenfreude….

hatred inspired by a fairy tale character not being depicted with the same racial characteristics as a previous cartoon, despite literally not being human or real

Well, if the fairy tale character is not real in some way, then I wonder what your views on sex robots might be, lol. Or the Talmud, for real laughs. But we all know the hate discussions always end up in a Jesus love bombing session, and some “Hopes-n-Prayers.”

And you might have you noted the ethnic/tribal/religious wars that rage around and within your treasured Big Tech and Section 230 as a cure all–holding corporations less liable than the average person IS the problem, along with its HYDRA of hate(s), not merely racism.

I can understand the desire to stop hatred fermenting online, but when even a fairytale can whip people up into a racist frenzy…. I don’t think that creating liability for people not directly participating in that speech can be anything but harmful

Fermenting, or fomenting? That’s the question.

Even casual observers can acknowledge that Big Tech is dominated by those who use it to insert religious beliefs into every single online narrative, anywhere, ever. That the concept of hate itself is primarily religious in nature, not racial per se.

These tech CEO’s all have ulterior motives, as does Joe Brandon–a Catholic whose roots stem from moral posturing, sexual prudery and Inquisitions, as he confronts what he sees as hate for those his tribe is in bed with–my money is on Catholic converts from India who grew up in the Mother Theresa era.

I wonder what their feelz might be about these fast rising Asian exec’s, like Gautam Adani– or the Muslim’s? again–my money is on they hate them with the love of Jesus, shrouded in b.s. about a need to rein in section 230.

Scratch any tech argument about race, hate, free speech, sexuality and you find religion seething beneath it as the underlying infection. And all of that starts with whose holy books are racist, and whose are not–it’s a thing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

One of our regulars has opted to use a keyboard instead of meds, and the rest of us humour him instead because it seems better than letting him take his issues out on the real world.

I’m still not sure if he’s completely nuts or a sad, pathetic example of a human being who gets his kicks from acting like he’s nuts, but in the end does it matter? As Vonnegut said, we are who we pretend to be…

ECA (profile) says:

hate and transparency?

wow, My fingers spelled it right the first time.

Hate? How far do you want to go with that. The Word itself can consider Anything as Hate.
Most religions have Allot of Hate in them. Allot of groups love pointing fingers at ‘Groups’ They say are Causing another groups PROBLEMS, not considering, that the Corp fired all those people Just to create more jobs in another country. How far do you want to go with Hate?

Transparency? Now that is interesting as it Can be the opposite of ‘HIDING HATE’.
Which would be better? Letting groups and Discussions continue, and either having someone to AD FACTS to this conversation about Who did what, or Just monitor the group until someone kills someone? But you monitored the group thru the net, and sent Agents out to recon the subjects, to discover WHO is full of the BS they are passing around, and Who is agro enough to Act on the BS being passed around.

You have 40 different groups of Christian religious groups. Many of which have different bibles, based on Slightly different concepts. ANd many dont get along with each other and have fought over Semantics MANY times. The New testament hasnt been completely translated, Annotated, Brought up to Current Lingo.
That alone is a Hate filled group.

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Martha's Vineyard Welcome Committee says:

Re:

You hit the nail on the head–

Hate? How far do you want to go with that…You have 40 different groups of Christian religious groups. Many of which have different bibles, based on Slightly different concepts

Then you throw in the fact that many Big Tech exec’s come from other religious belief systems (Hindu’s, Jews, Zoaroastrians, Muslims, etc.), and you can see that this plastic word hate is meaningless–but extremely valuable for those that seek to divide and conquer dialectic spaces and platforms.

It is merely a code word for those whose ultimate goal is to control the way we interact with ideas, and the end product is always censorship, which allows religion to prevail in every argument or discussion in every generation.

Those without religion are easily conquered and their beliefs easily co-opted, whereas those with religious systems of censorship then prevail, by sheer numbers. It’s why the marginalized voices should be heard, even in their extremist forms.

David says:

The Internet is a magic place

We’ve seen it with patents: lots of patents take an existing method and tack on “on the Internet”, imagining this to be an all-new idea. Previous to that, the magical phrase had been “with a computer”.

But the Internet is not magic. So when someone proposes to cure some problem one sees on the Internet, the first question one should ask is “did that cure work with the same problem outside of the Internet?”.

Now I realize that this is dangerously close to a variation of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. The Internet is, after all, disruptive technology. So it is not clear that what worked for keeping people behaving before the Internet would still work in times of the Internet.

However, it is a reasonably safe bet that what didn’t work before will most certainly still not work.

Politicians are just in disagreement about what color lipstick the pig should be wearing.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Hate is bad! Unless it's something we hate!'

There’s something rather funny about an event about how bad hate is using it as the motivation to go after the strawman of a political punching-bag…

Since it apparently still needs repeating what he’s attacking is ultimately not 230, it’s the first amendment. Remove 230 entirely and a massive amount of that speech is still going to be legal, hateful as it is, and it’s still going to be constitutional for platforms to host it so going after the platforms is still going to involve going after their first amendment rights.

This is a ‘war’ that neither political party is going to win, not only because they are at complete opposite sides in what they want but because in spending so long beating up a fictional version of the law they’ve completely lost track of what it actually says and does and therefor what it’s removal will actually do for online platforms.

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