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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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Sex Bot with coding errors especially in Autoplay, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:21pm

    Oh, baloney! -- It'll MOST benefit the already obscenly RICH.

    Section 230 is NOT "Law" in the classic American tradition of prohibiting specific actions, but is sweeping immunity and (according to masnicks) unaccountable authorization to control users / "natural persons". Look at in that light:

    "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of-

    (A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected..."

    First, the text only says react to "restrict access to or availability of material": it doesn't authorize "a priori" withholding of all "service" to "natural" persons for arbitrary or no reason. But it's not limited in the view of pro-corporate masnicks.

    Now let's make slight addition which is implicit in Masnick's view: "whether or not users are in a constitutionally protected class of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation..." -- It's not even a step change, because once dropped "constitutionally protected" there's no limit! -- Anyone still want to take Masnick's side? -- Oh, you can try "he doesn't mean that", and "it doesn't say exactly that so courts won't go along"...

    But here's the clincher where Masnick showed that he intends there be NO limits to corporate power: in arguing with me, Masnick simply DELETED the "in good faith" requirement!

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20190201/00025041506/us-newspapers-now-salivating-ove r-bringing-google-snippet-tax-stateside.shtml#c530

    How did those characters get removed from the middle of a quote? They're vital, show intent of legislators besides who's to benefit (the Public). And why were they removed except to try and affect the argument? -- If Masnick did that in court, it'd be a crime of literally falsifying evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Sex Bot with coding errors especially in Autoplay, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:22pm

      Re: Oh, baloney! -- It'll MOST benefit the already obscenly RICH

      [Length limit! Had to make two. Blame you know who.]

      But he's not done. In next reply to me, Masnick doubles down to affirm that without the "good faith" requirement is how he, corporations, and courts interpret it!

      Without "good faith" [to The Public] is NEVER American law. It's New World Order fascism.

      This is not academic. Corporations mean business. They'll "give you the business" by taking complete control of all speech so that there's not even outlet to oppose their power grab.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re: Oh, balls- It'll MOST benefit the already crazy like you

        Sup bro. Ain’t seen you much lately. You have another three day “vacation” with the nice men in white coats?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:51pm

        Re: Re: Oh, baloney! -- It'll MOST benefit the already obscenly

        Ok first of all John blue whatever multiple personality you have in there:

        I don’t even know why he has to have these conversations with you. Because you seem to think 230 means PEOPLE HAVE TO GIVE A SHIT WHAT YOU THINK AND POST IT UNDEE PENALTY OF LAW.

        No it does not. You don’t know anything about the law. What a good or bad faith argument is. What you are even arguing about. And really it’s annoying. And if mike was acting in bad faith? Not only could he because this is his crib. He could could tell you that and it would 100 percent legal. Just like the others. But he does not because he is trying to keep things together.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:02pm

        Section 230 is NOT "Law" in the classic American tradition of prohibiting specific actions

        But it does prohibit a specific action — specifically, the act of suing a person or company for the actions of a third party. Under 230, someone can’t sue Twitter for defamation if a third party posted (allegedly) defamatory content without Twitter’s direct knowledge or aid.

        the text only says react to "restrict access to or availability of material"

        You put the actual text in your post, yet you still have the audacity to lie about it in your next sentence. The text of the law says nothing about “reacting”; any action, proactive or reactive, counts. A Mastodon instance that bans the use of, say, a racial slur and filters it out before someone’s post goes through is a proactive measure that is 100% allowed under 230.

        it doesn't authorize "a priori" withholding of all "service" to "natural" persons for arbitrary or no reason

        No law exists that allows someone to force their way onto a privately-owned third party platform and use it for their own speech. Banning someone who breaks the rules is an “action voluntarily taken in good faith” to keep the platform from being overrun by rulebreaking content. That is as true for Twitter as it is for, say, some kind of family-friendly forum.

        It's not even a step change, because once dropped "constitutionally protected" there's no limit!

        Which is exactly the point of “constitutionally protected”: We recognize that discrimination based on inherent traits (or their chosen religious creed) is bullshit. You can choose to be Republican or Democrat. You can choose to act like an asshole. You can’t choose to be gay, which is why people shouldn’t have to face discrimination based on sexual orientation — and yes, that includes straight people.

        Masnick simply DELETED the "in good faith" requirement!

        And as he explained: “[T]he courts have made it clear that ‘good faith’ means ‘whatever the platform wants’. And, as you know, ‘common law’ actually means what the courts say about the law, and so — you'll love this — under the common law you insist is so important, ‘good faith’ means as long as the platform has a reason to moderate your bullshit content, that's clearly allowed.”

        How did those characters get removed from the middle of a quote?

        He used either the Delete key or the Backspace key.

        show intent of legislators besides who's to benefit

        Let’s go to the legistlator himself, then:

        We want to encourage people like Prodigy, like CompuServe, like America Online, like the new Microsoft network, to do everything possible for us, the customer, to help us control, at the portals of our computer, at the front door of our house, what comes in and what our children see.

        [O]ur amendment will do two basic things: First, it will protect computer Good Samaritans, online service providers, anyone who provides a front end to the Internet, let us say, who takes steps to screen indecency and offensive material for their customers. It will protect them from taking on liability such as occurred in the Prodigy case in New York that they should not face for helping us and for helping us solve this problem. Second, it will establish as the policy of the United States that we do not wish to have content regulation by the Federal Government of what is on the Internet, that we do not wish to have a Federal Computer Commission with an army of bureaucrats regulating the Internet because frankly the Internet has grown up to be what it is without that kind of help from the Government. In this fashion we can encourage what is right now the most energetic technological revolution that any of us has ever witnessed. We can make it better. We can make sure that it operates more quickly to solve our problem of keeping pornography away from our kids, keeping offensive material away from our kids, and I am very excited about it.

        Those are the words of Chris Cox, the legislator who co-drafted what would become 47 U.S.C. § 230. You can even read them yourself; they’re on the Congressional record.

        why were they removed except to try and affect the argument?

        Because, as Mike explaned, the words are effectively meaningless in the context of this argument. So long as a platform can offer a reason for their moderation decisions, the courts consider those decisions to have been made “in good faith”.

        It's New World Order fascism.

        No, fascism is the United States federal government telling a company like Twitter that the law will force it to host all speech, no matter what, and any attempt to moderate speech will result in legal and financial punishments. Fascism is the government saying Twitter must associate with White supremacists and other such scum because to “disassociate” (read: ban) such people from the platform is also an illegal attempt to moderate speech. If you think Twitter banning an asshole from the platform for being an asshole is fascism, you have proven how far out of your depth you are in this argument.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:38pm

          Re:

          But it does prohibit a specific action — specifically, the act of suing a person or company for the actions of a third party.

          It doesn't prohibit the suit. It says they can't be treated as the publisher or speaker, or held liable for certain actions. Most suits will get thrown out on this basis and your example w/r/t defamation is correct. But 230 doesn't preclude liability for other things, like intellectual property.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:57pm

            Re: Re:

            Semantics. It's still prohibiting something from happening. If you want to get technical, it's prohibiting the site from having to pay fines or have employees serve jail time. Those are all actions being prohibited.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:47pm

              Re: Re: Re:

              "Only in certain cases" is the important part. It's not just semantics that they can pay fines or even go to jail for copyright infringement, sex trafficking etc.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:53pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re:

                No, it's not important at all. That's goal post moving. The fact remains that it is STILL prohibiting actions.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:40pm

          Re:

          He used either the Delete key or the Backspace key.

          Not even that. Mike was quoting a different paragraph from 230 that doesn't contain those specific words.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:20pm

        Re: Re

        [Length limit!

        And the comments in this thread longer than yours got past it how?

        But he's not done. In next reply to me, Masnick doubles down to affirm that without the "good faith" requirement is how he, corporations, and courts interpret it!

        Actually, that's a lie. He said:

        So far the courts have made it clear that "good faith" means "whatever the platform wants."

        That's not interpreting it without it. If you're going to lie, maybe don't link to the comment showing you to be a liar.

        Without "good faith" [to The Public] is NEVER American law.

        Yeah it is. Regularly. Regardless, 230 is interpreted WITH "good faith".

        This is not academic. Corporations mean business.

        That is generally what corporations do, is business.

        They'll "give you the business" by taking complete control of all speech

        On their platform they are entitled to do so.

        so that there's not even outlet to oppose their power grab.

        You have yet to show how that precludes someone from going to another platform, or hosting their own to speak.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:11pm

      Re:

      Section 230 is NOT "Law" in the classic American tradition of prohibiting specific actions, but is sweeping immunity

      What is immunity other than prohibiting actions being taken against you?

      First, the text only says react to "restrict access to or availability of material": it doesn't authorize "a priori" withholding of all "service" to "natural" persons for arbitrary or no reason.

      Yeah it does. You just quoted it: "otherwise objectionable".

      Now let's make slight addition which is implicit in Masnick's view: "whether or not users are in a constitutionally protected class of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation

      No, that's not implicit. A person being a member of protected class has nothing to do with what they say. Kicking someone out of a restaurant for what they say is different than kicking them out because of the color of their skin.

      once dropped "constitutionally protected" there's no limit!

      Exactly. There is no limit as to what user content websites can or cannot block.

      Anyone still want to take Masnick's side?

      Yep. Because the law doesn't say what you think it says, and you're lying.

      Oh, you can try "he doesn't mean that",

      Yeah, because you made it up whole cloth.

      "it doesn't say exactly that so courts won't go along"...

      Funny thing about the courts, they generally are required to go with what the law exactly says.

      But here's the clincher where Masnick showed that he intends there be NO limits to corporate power: in arguing with me, Masnick simply DELETED the "in good faith" requirement!

      No, he didn't. I've explained this to you MULTIPLE times before. He quoted the paragraph down from the one you're talking about. Plus the "good faith" requirement doesn't mean what you think it means.

      How did those characters get removed from the middle of a quote?

      Because they weren't in the paragraph he was quoting.

      They're vital,

      Not in the paragraph he was quoting.

      show intent of legislators besides who's to benefit (the Public).

      So companies aren't part of the public? Individuals who host their own websites aren't part of the public?

      And why were they removed except to try and affect the argument?

      Because they didn't exist in the paragraph he quoted. You can't remove something that wasn't there to begin with.

      If Masnick did that in court, it'd be a crime of literally falsifying evidence.

      If he submitted that exact post in court, it would be accepted without question because he quoted the exact text of the paragraph BELOW the one you keep whining about. He never quoted the entirety of the paragraph with the "good faith" requirement. Plus his argument is correct and yours is wrong.

      If you did in court what you are doing now, you'd be disbarred for lying to a judge.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:25pm

    Staggering

    Why does the mere mention of Section 230 produce such an overwhelming flow of nonsensical bullshit and "Common Law" craziness?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:39pm

      Re: Staggering

      If you're talking about the above comments that's just Blue, and nonsensical bullshit and common law craziness(though I repeat myself) are to them what breathing is to other people.

      If it was a more general observation that's likely due to the multitude of people making laughably flawed arguments and/or statements on the subject giving people extremely warped views of what the law actually is and does.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:43pm

      Re: Staggering

      Because he believes that without it his comments would not be hidden, not realizing that without it he would have nowhere to post those comments.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:08pm

        It’s like that meme with the guy sweating over which of two buttons to push: One button is “destroy 230”, and the other is “post bullshit”.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 9:38pm

      Re: Staggering

      Because according to copyright enforcement, Section 230 is the next obstacle stopping them from suing whoever they want.

      Section 230 prevents platforms from being sued based on user actions. Without it, copyright enforcement envisions a utopia of lawsuits and subpoenas based solely on accusation. It's why John Herrick Smith keeps ranting about calling women hookers and threatening the President as reasons for why IP address evidence is equivalent to God's words.

      So when dumbass politicians bitch about not being allowed to nuke the sites they dislike from orbit, it makes our usual trolls wet themselves in delight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:42pm

    Well, yeah...

    Much like with the first amendment popular speech and content doesn't need protections and shielding, so of course those in the fringes are likely to suffer the most if sites have to worry about being held liable for any content posted on their platforms and are therefore incentivized to take down anything that might put them in the crosshairs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      radix (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Well, yeah...

      The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
      H. L. Mencken

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:44pm

    Pretending Censorship Is Free Speech

    To placate perhaps 4 percent of us. Brilliant. No wonder so many folks are leaving the US that can afford it. It's turning into a fascist nightmare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Pretending Censorship Is Free Speech

      “4 percent of us”

      4 percent? You ain’t got a penny lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:04pm

      How does “the operators of a privately owned platform kicked an asshole off the platform for being an asshole” constitute fascism?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      Pretending Censorship Is Free Speech

      Because it is. Unless the government does it. Then it's not allowed. But I can and will kick you of my house if you spout off this kind of BS.

      No wonder so many folks are leaving the US that can afford it.

      Such as? Leaving the US is no more expensive than a plane ticket. I assume you've already left then?

      Got some spine to put your money where your mouth is for once?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:23pm

      Re: Pretending Censorship Is Free Speech

      “It's turning into a fascist nightmare.”

      But enough about your fever dreams bro. The adults are having a discussion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 12:14am

      Re: Pretending Censorship Is Free Speech

      Good riddance!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:58pm

    I am one of the 99% of people who:

    (1) don't have my own website
    (2) depend on the kindness of strangers to host the content I'd like to share
    (3) don't want that content to be buried in irrelevant spam

    I really appreciate the ability SEC 230 gives to websites to be kind to me. In my experience, it has always been simple to find a site where my content is welcomed and appreciated. Of course, anyone who produces a wide variety of content will have to spread it out over multiple sites. But that is a much simpler problem than administrating my own site.

    Some people seem to specialize in finding ways to make themselves unwelcome online. SEC 230 gives the rest of us a place to hold discussions without them--while still giving them the right to find or create sites where they can decide who is unwelcome. But "I want to be not just a jerk but a public jerk" is not the kind of goal that will gain the enthusiastic support of idealistic people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 12:59pm

    Know Your Enemy

    "Pay attention to whose voices are left out of the debate on Section 230. It is the marginalized and the oppressed."

    Pay attention to who's promoting the re-marginalizations and re-oppressions. To them, twisting Section 230 to undo its proper intent quashes those pesky upstarts from the lower castes, who almost got some empowerment. Vote with your money, vote with your vote - condemn these asshats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 1:45pm

    Now that it's been brought to Congress attention, you can bet your bottom dollar that mrmbers will be all over 230 now to ensure it IS gutted! You know the rules, if there's something you want done, something that is needed, an injustice that needs righting, bring it to Congress attention when members are trying to justify doing the opposite and whatever reasons they are given fuel their fire and they use those reasons to achieve what they have been trying to all along!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:20pm

    Scaling back speech that wouldn't otherwise have a voice is a feature of these proposals, not a bug.

    The internet, and in particular user-generated media, has leveled the playing field making once-loud voices softer, and once-quiet voices louder. The problem some people have with this isn't that Facebook/Google/Twitter are now gatekeepers, it's that people are foregoing the traditional gatekeepers altogether.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:43pm

      Re:

      The other problem more relevant to politicians wanting to gut 230 is that it's made the voices that they like quieter and made voices they don't like, louder.

      It's also made voices that nobody likes louder and has created an opportunity for politicians to "do something", no matter that that something will end up doing the opposite of what they want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Aug 2019 @ 2:52pm

      operate within the law

      What law is Twitter breaking when it boots a White supremacist from the platform?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:16pm

      Re:

      Speaking out against censorship

      What censorship?

      Tech giants need a touch of the anti-trust stick and boost smaller competitors willing to operate within the law

      As Stephen said, what law is social media breaking when they ban someone from their platforms for what they said?

      rather than authoritarian control

      Tell me again how if I get banned from any or all social media how that prevents me from starting my own blog and saying what I want to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Aug 2019 @ 3:24pm

      Re:

      “Masnick is dosing too much on the opium of the intellectuals these days.”

      And you’re just straight up high bro.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:33am

    "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."

    Now who is it that wants a closed broadcast internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      The MPAA, RIAA, Hollywood, lots of politicians, and a smattering of conservatives. But not Mike and the entire rest of the world population.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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