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
    Anonymous Coward, 14 May 2019 @ 4:43pm

    Dear Ms. Coaston,

    You are wrong about Section 230. The law makes people defenseless against defamation, and it immunizes distributor liability that applies everywhere else in the world. Perhaps this is above your IQ grade.

    What do you tell a woman whose ex-boyfriend floods Google with claims she did porn or turned tricks, and does it from a "burner IP” that makes it impossible to find out who posted it? Female victims of revenge porn have committed suicide because anyone who searches them by name found pictures that led to the women being fired, ostracized, harassed, or threatened.

    Look up “reputation blackmail,” where people from other countries demand payment from white-collar professionals in exchange for not ruining their reputations online by posting negative reviews. Some have threatened to call pediatricians pedophiles or similar if the ransom is not paid: https://marketingland.com/increase-extortion-fueled-reputation-attacks-points-need-legal-change-2288 98

    You support a law which has ruined lives and businesses for twenty-five years (one plumber can defame another by lying that they cut corners, and the liar then gets the job and does faulty work), and which does not exist in other countries.

    Why you think someone who spreads lies about people (like a search engine or social media service) should be immune from this is beyond me. Talk to female victims of revenge porn and ask them what they think of Section 230, the law that allowed those who ruined their lives to escape liability, or talk to a doctor who was threatened with being called a pedophile by people who weaponize Google. Your views might change.

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