Gutting Section 230 Will Harm The Most Marginalized

from the a-warning dept

Elliot Harmon, from EFF, has an excellent op-ed piece over at the Hill pointing out that nearly all the talking heads are getting it wrong when it comes to Section 230. It's not a gift to big internet companies. Indeed, as the piece argues, Facebook lobbied strongly for gutting 230 with FOSTA, and then took advantage of the gap in the market that was created after FOSTA became law:

Politicians on both sides of the aisle routinely treat Section 230 as a handout to tech companies — or a “gift,” as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently put it. It’s a mistake to characterize large internet companies as the primary beneficiaries of Section 230. Let’s not forget that Facebook and other big internet companies actively lobbied for FOSTA, a law that made it considerably more difficult for a startup ever to unseat Facebook. You can’t make this up: Just a few weeks after the president signed FOSTA and multiple dating sites shut down, Facebook announced that it was entering the dating business.

There's a larger point in his piece as well. Pay attention to whose voices are left out of the debate on Section 230. It is the marginalized and the oppressed.

Section 230 isn’t a gift to big internet companies. It’s a gift to rural LGBTQ teenagers who depend every day on the safety of their online communities. It’s a gift to activists around the world using the internet to document human rights abuses. It’s a gift to women who rely on dating apps to meet people more safely. Yes, Section 230 is the First Amendment of the internet, but it’s also the Fourteenth Amendment of the internet. Section 230 says, “You are legal here.”

Section 230’s real beneficiaries are the historically disadvantaged communities that would risk exclusion from online discussions without it. Congress must listen to those voices before it’s too late.

Of course, in the minds of too many, Section 230 has come to represent "big internet." This is both misguided and misleading. Section 230 is what enables the rest of the internet to work, so that anyone can speak out. Without it, we move from an open internet for communications, to a closed broadcast internet, in which the marginalized and the oppressed have no safe space to speak.

Filed Under: cda 230, free speech, marginalized, oppressed, section 230

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:47pm

    Masnick is dosing too much on the opium of the intellectuals these days. Speaking out against censorship does not require divisive oppression Olympics. The work benefits by including the largest possible population. We're only looking at desire for the globe's largest corporations to control and censor speech to an ever greater degree. Tech giants need a touch of the anti-trust stick and boost smaller competitors willing to operate within the law rather than authoritarian control wrapped in Tipper Gore language.

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