Vox Admits It Got Section 230 Wrong, Fixes Its Mistake

from the good-work dept

Last week we wrote about how annoying it was that major media publications were misrepresenting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and suggesting -- completely without merit -- that the law was designed to keep platforms "neutral" or that they were mere "pass through" vehicles, rather than actively engaged in moderation. We pointed out that online trolls and grandstanding politicians were making this incorrect claim, but it was not an accurate statement of the law, and the media should know better. In our comments, some people called me out for not suggesting that the media was being deliberately dishonest, and in response I noted that there wasn't any evidence of deliberateness from most of them (not so much with the trolls and especially grandstanding politicians like Ted Cruz, who have been told, repeatedly, that they are misrepresenting CDA 230). I hoped that it was just a mistake that would be corrected.

Perhaps surprisingly, the author of the Vox article that I called out, Jane Coaston, did exactly that. After a few others called out her article, including Harvard's Jonathan Zittrain, Coaston has now apologized and done a massive rewrite on the original article to make it more accurate:

In this era when so many people seem to want to dig in and defend incorrect things, I think it deserves recognition and kudos when people (especially reporters) can admit they made a mistake and to then correct those mistakes.

Filed Under: cda 230, jane coaston, section 230


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2019 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Blaming Google for defamation that others caused is like suing a restaurant because somebody wrote defamatory graffiti in their bathroom stalls. Do you think a restaurant should be shut down if somebody wrote defamatory graffiti on their walls? Because that's exactly what you're arguing!

    Even in the US, the restaurant can definitely be sued if it does not remove defamation from its bathroom walls. It's called "distributor liability." The harm caused by the restaurant refusing to do this is wholly separate from the harm caused by the original publication.

    Google choosing to leave lies in its search results is also a separate harm from the original publication of the lies. That's why it's called "distributor liability." In India, Article 79 protects intermediaries only until they are put on notice.

    As I noted above, anyone can use a "burner IP" to defame someone, making it impossible to sue the original publisher, and making the damage done by republishers impossible to enjoin again due to 230. The example of the woman who was called a hooker or porn actress by her ex ten years ago and now loses a nursing job is one example of how search engines can be weaponized.

    Either you do not understand this, or you are pretending not to understand this.


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