Former Hotel Exec Gets Elected To Congress, Decides First Order Of Business Is To Destroy Airbnb

from the really,-now? dept

Ed Case represents Hawaii's 1st district in Congress. He was just elected in 2018, though he actually was in Congress once before, when he represented Hawaii's 2nd district from 2002 to 2007. He left Congress last time to run for the Senate, but that flopped. And he lost another attempt at rejoining Congress in 2010. In 2013 he announced that he was joining a Hawaii-based hotel operator, Outrigger Enterprises Group, as Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. At the time, he said that doing so "likely ends any further political career." In 2016, he joined the board of directors of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a large hotel trade group. AHLA has been among the leading hotel industry groups pushing to kill Airbnb. The hotel industry, as a whole, seems to have spent much of the last decade looking for any possible way to attack and kill Airbnb rather than improve its own products.

And now Case is back in Congress -- and apparently an early order of business is to continue to push for AHLA and his former employer's goals. As sent to me by a few people, Case has sent a letter around to his House colleagues, asking them to support and cosponsor a new bill that he has not yet released, that would strip Section 230 protections from any short-term rental platform like Airbnb:

Dear Colleague:

Is your community one of a multitude throughout our country suffering from the negative effects of illegal vacation rentals? Effects that include unavailability of affordable housing, avoidance of standard consumer protections and loss of state and local government revenue?

If so, please join me as an original cosponsor of the Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods (PLAN) Act. This bill would end abusive litigation by internet-based short-term rental platforms attempting to avoid accountability for profiting from illegal rentals and strike down local regulations aimed at curbing this illegal activity and its widespread negative impacts.

Over the past decade-plus, the short-term vacation rental industry has exploded through the internet-based marketing platforms of Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, Flipkey and others. While some communities welcome this activity, which is largely conducted in residential neighborhoods, many others are concerned with several negative consequences.

These include the loss of affordable housing as residential units are converted to transient accommodations for tourists, and the failure of many unit owners and rental operators to comply with basic consumer safety, public accommodations and tax requirements as must the legal lodging industry. A survey of related news also makes clear that commercial lodging activity in otherwise residential neighborhoods gives rise to serious community safety and disruption issues.

As a result, from Hawai‘i to Maine state and local governments are updating their land use laws to put parameters around short-term rental activity, tailored to reflect local concerns and as always has been the case with land use regulation. However, the short-term rental online platforms have repeatedly gone to court to strike down these laws, claiming Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) preempts local efforts to stop the listing and booking of illegal rentals by these platforms. They have sued cities large and small – including New York City, Boston, Miami, Anaheim, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Chicago, Miami Beach, Palm Beach and Santa Monica – to protect a business model they know relies in large part on concealing the illegal activity of their third-party operators.

The PLAN Act would amend CDA 230 to make clear the statute does not shield platforms when they facilitate illegal rental bookings. Platforms would also be accountable if they fail to stop booking rentals after receiving notice from a private property owner that short-term rentals are prohibited at that location.

This is a narrow, targeted change to the statute to ensure short-term rental companies and internet platforms comply with state and local planning, zoning, rental, labor and tax laws and end their abusive stretching of CDA 230’s original intent. State attorneys general, mayors, and local officials have called for similar updates to CDA 230 to enable them to uphold their local laws and protect citizens living and working in their communities.

This is yet another attack on Section 230. As we've discussed in the past, Section 230 absolutely should protect these businesses -- even as the 9th Circuit has ruled the other way -- because it's a classic Section 230 issue, in which city governments are holding platforms liable for the speech of their users. If cities want to limit small, local businesses and block short-term rentals, that's their business -- but they shouldn't get to leverage sites like Airbnb to be their enforcers (which is all these laws really do).

But it's seems highly questionable for Case to go from being an exec at a hotel company and a board member of the big hotel trade group (that has long attacked Airbnb and similar sites) to wasting little time in Congress to push for a law that directly helps his former employers. I'm sure he truly believes that this is the right thing to do, but it certainly stinks of the kind of "soft corruption" that makes people not trust their government at all. It's not illegal, but it sure looks sketchy. Case has done other good things in Congress, including trying to get the intelligence community to pay attention to basic civil liberties (which sure would be nice). But this new plan to modify Section 230 to help his former colleagues is not that.

Filed Under: cda 230, congress, ed case, hawaii, hotels, section 230, short term rentals, vacation rentals
Companies: ahla, airbnb, outrigger


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 1:35pm

    Under what authority?

    What he is asking for is for the Federal government to step into the affairs of state, city and smaller municipalities for their failure to collect local taxes.

    Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Which tells us that the requested legislation is not Constitutional and he has no business bringing this up at the Federal level.

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    • identicon
      Dan, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:11pm

      Re: Under what authority?

      What he is asking for is for the Federal government to step into the affairs of state, city and smaller municipalities for their failure to collect local taxes.

      That's about 99.44% incorrect. What he's asking for is a change in the scope of Section 230. As it now stands, Section 230 generally says platform operators can't be held accountable for the speech of their users. The proposed legislation, as he describes it, would amend Section 230 to say that it doesn't apply in certain cases. If Section 230 is constitutional at all, so is limiting its scope.

      Now, the proposal is stupid, wrong-headed, counterproductive, and quite possibly unethical, but it simply isn't doing what you say it is--if anything, it's doing the opposite, in that it's getting the federal government out of the affairs of state and local governments.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:40pm

        Re: Re:

        If Section 230 is constitutional at all, so is limiting its scope.

        This is a logical fallacy. The First Amendment is constitutional but limiting its scope is not. The same could be said of several other amendments.

        And in some ways you can call changes to Section 230 unconstitutional under the First Amendment. It's maybe a bit of stretch but saying that sites can be held liable for content of their users in some circumstances is very similar to telling them what they can and cannot allow on their sites. And that's in violation of the First Amendment.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:00pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's maybe a bit of stretch but saying that sites can be held liable for content of their users in some circumstances is very similar to telling them what they can and cannot allow on their sites. And that's in violation of the First Amendment.

          It's a fair point but not one courts have agreed with. Sites were held liable. Maybe they didn't push their First Amendment claims hard enough (the Stratton case didn't go to SCOTUS).

          Exempting AirBNB-type services from CDA 230 is legal, and puts them back in the situation we were in before the CDA existed. That doesn't mean they're liable or illegal; they can still claim Constitutional rights.

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        • identicon
          Dan, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The First Amendment is constitutional but limiting its scope is not.

          Well, the First Amendment is part of the constitution, so it's constitutional by definition--which means your analogy doesn't really work. Moreover, limiting its scope most certainly is constitutional. Defamation isn't protected by the First Amendment, for example. Neither are true threats. There are a few other known exceptions. They're few, narrow, and far between, and the Court hasn't shown any inclination to expand any of them, but they do exist.

          Section 230 is a Congressional creation. I haven't heard any argument of any substance that it's constitutionally required (i.e., that the First Amendment, or any other provision of the constitution, would require the substance of Section 230 even if Section 230 didn't exist). And if the substance of Section 230 isn't constitutionally required, reducing its scope would generally* be well within Congress's authority.

          • Yes, generally. Certainly if they did it in a way that discriminated based on, say, race or sex, that would be unconstitutional. It could be argued (though I'd consider it a fairly weak argument) that the proposal is effectively a bill of attainder, and unconstitutional for that reason. But as a general rule, what they can do, they can un-do.

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          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:35pm

            I haven't heard any argument of any substance that it's constitutionally required

            Then let me be the first: Without 47 U.S.C. § 230, websites would have to either allow all speech to go unmoderated — which can result in a site hosting speech its owners don’t want to host — or disallow all speech altogether, and all to prevent the site from facing legal liability for its moderation decisions (or lack thereof). Neither outcome is good. One would infringe upon the rights of the site owners (freedom of association); the other would take away a shitload of platforms for speech on the Internet.

            For the Internet to continue operating as it does now — whatever your opinion on that matter — 230 must stand. It must also remain untouched by anyone who would seek to change it for the sake of being seen doing something about a problem that changing 230 won’t actually solve.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 4:36pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Certainly if they did it in a way that discriminated based on, say, … sex, that would be unconstitutional.

            The equal rights amendment was never passed. Laws that discriminate on sex are generally considered constitutional by courts.

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            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 4:47pm

              The equal rights amendment was never passed.

              Title VII was, though.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 7:29am

                Re:

                That's employment law. It doesn't help if people don't like which bathroom you choose or complain about your topless protest.

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                • icon
                  Tanner Andrews (profile), 2 Sep 2019 @ 5:35am

                  Re: Re: You Might Be Surprised

                  or complain about your topless protest

                  For instance, City of Daytona Beach v. Elizabeth M Book, 14 FLW Supp. 5a (Fla. 7th Cir. 2006). The appeals panel upheld trial court dismissal of the charge, reasoning that the trial court's finding that the shirt removal was a protest was entitled to deference and agreeing that such protests were could not be prohibited consistent with the constitution.

                  Since the charge was a misdemeanor, the appeals panel opinion is of limited precedential value, but on the other hand it may be persuasive in other cases.

                  Not my case, but the protest was in the news locally when it happened.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 7:32am

                Re:

                Unless you are arguing that there is an employer/employee relationship somewhere in the interaction between the government, a site, and its users, Title VII is irrelevant.

                Even if there was, it would not be considered unconstitutional, as Title VII is not part of the Constitution.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 8:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The issue is that Section 230 is what allows the First Amendment to exist on the Internet without the operators fearing legal liability.

            Removing that status, even narrowly in scope, will have drastic consequences for all. The first issue would be what constitutes being "exempt" from protection? That's the first question everyone will start asking, both site operators and ambulance chasers. The next question will be what part of the exemption can be stretched to include more sites, will the exemptions be expanded by Congress the next time some idiot has an emotional fit, and the last question will be do we need to avoid liability?

            If the answer to that last question is "yes", you can expect those sites to permanently disable all user generated content. Or at the very least block anything that cannot be individually tracked back to a verifiable source that can be served a court summons / indictment, and they will be very reluctant to turn it back on even if their protections are restored. Effectively government censorship through an unwillingness to uphold the First Amendment on a guilty by association basis.

            There's been many an attempt to have guilt by association enshrined into US law. Techdirt has reported on this numerous times. Hotels wanting to destroy Airbnb is just a foothold that will be abused again and again if this goes through. The fact that Techdirt is downplaying yet another litigious incumbent industry that will usher in an era of corporate sponsored government censorship is disheartening.

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            • icon
              nasch (profile), 30 Aug 2019 @ 8:53am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The fact that Techdirt is downplaying yet another litigious incumbent industry that will usher in an era of corporate sponsored government censorship is disheartening.

              How is Techdirt downplaying that?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:54pm

        Re: Re: Under what authority?

        If Section 230 is constitutional at all, so is limiting its scope.

        Beyond this point, the definition of "interstate commerce" has been stretched really far but is straightforwardly applicable here. A California-based company collecting money from some likely-out-of-state person for a Hawaiian property... with various banks and credit card companies involved too.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:12pm

      Re: Under what authority?

      Corporatizing the federal government is nothing new. Corporations have been putting their people into key interests within the various multiple angencies to get laws passed that further encase their bottom lines for decades.

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 1:51pm

    A government for, of, and buy the corporations....

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  • identicon
    SirWired, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:19pm

    I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

    I don't think it's entirely out of line to declare that a transaction/money-handling intermediary is, in fact, selling something, and that this speech is not as deserving the same level of protection as a content pass-thru like a forum, search engine, or social media site.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:35pm

      Re:

      What does AirBnB, the website, sell? Nothing. They are a marketplace, like Craigslist, Amazon, ebay, etc... They are absolutely a "content pass-thru" site.

      Point to the product that they sell, that you pay AirBnB, the company, for and they in return provide you with a good or service. If you can't come up with that, then your argument falls flat.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:19pm

        Re: Re:

        They are definitely providing a service, and they're taking a cut of the rental fee as payment for that service. Although one could argue that it's not the renter that's paying AirBnB, it's the property owner, for advertisement and booking services.

        That said, it's not AirBnB's fault if someone posts an illegal rental, just like it's not eBay's fault if someone posts an auction for counterfeit jewelry. It's also not AirBnB's responsibility to proactively police its site for illegal postings, just like it's not eBay's responsibility to proactively police its site for illegal auctions. If you question this, it's already been decided in Tiffany v. Ebay, and in that case the issue was trademark infringement, which 230 doesn't cover. So if a site isn't responsible for something that 230 doesn't cover, it certainly wouldn't be responsible for something that 230 does cover. Also, based on the Tiffany decision, I'm not sure that excluding rentals from 230 would accomplish the goal being sought.

        Now, there are certainly reasonable scenarios that could favor liability. Should AirBnB possibly become liable if they're notified that a particular rental is illegal and they don't remove it? That doesn't strike me as unreasonable. Since AirBnB is serving a narrow section of an overall market (house rentals as opposed to ebay allowing just about anything), is it more reasonable to expect them to be able to review and comply with local laws? It doesn't strike me as extraordinarily difficult for AirBnB to implement some back-end verification that says "oh your unit is in City X, which doesn't allow rentals. You can't post that sale." I'm not saying I support either of these ideas (I think the homeowners should be the ones pursued, not AirBnB), but at least on the surface I don't instantly reject them.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 4:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So you agree that AirBNB should be free to "moderate" the listings on it's site, without exposing them to liability by them keeping "up to date" on every city, county, state law and ordinance?

          I'm sure there is a giant 'law data-base' in the cloud somewhere (someone probably put it in an exposed Amazon cloud server so that every one of the thousands of law making agencies could feed all their laws in, all in a standardized "law" format that AirBNB can just run a compare against... because all laws are worded the same and the implementation of the words doesn't matter (do = don't, No = Yes, etc).

          OOH, this must be what all the PACER revenue is going to, creating a massive database of all laws that can be applied to the internet... I can just see it now, here is the internet after applying the laws...

          NULL - operation not allowed, go outside and get some exercise you nerds (you can't nerd harder now, we broke it all) MUAHAHAHAHAHAH all your base are belong to us.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 5:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Now, there are certainly reasonable scenarios that could favor liability. Should AirBnB possibly become liable if they're notified that a particular rental is illegal and they don't remove it? That doesn't strike me as unreasonable."

          This is a somewhat dangerous position, actually, because, at the least, 1) it assumes that all "notifications" are valid (i.e., not fraudulently sent by someone for nefarious purposes), and 2) it doesn't scale - they can't investigate all of the "notifications" reliably when they begin getting thousands of them.

          Holding them liable is very problematic. It's like holding the toll road owners liable for criminals who use their highways to conduct their illicit business.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 5:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          They are definitely providing a service,

          Yeah but they aren't really selling it to customers now are they? Sure they take a cut of the transaction but that's really only to cover the cost of the transaction fees. You don't have to use AirBnB's pay system. You can pay the hoster directly and use the website and other services for free.

          That said, it's not AirBnB's fault if someone posts an illegal rental

          Exactly. And that's the point I'm making. Why should it be their fault?

          If you question this,

          I don't. That's kind of the whole point of my comment.

          Although one could argue that it's not the renter that's paying AirBnB, it's the property owner, for advertisement and booking services.

          Again, it's free to advertise and use their booking services. The only time you pay AirBnB is if you use their payment system, and that's just to cover the transaction fees.

          Now, there are certainly reasonable scenarios that could favor liability.

          Which are already covered by state and federal law.

          Should AirBnB possibly become liable if they're notified that a particular rental is illegal and they don't remove it? That doesn't strike me as unreasonable.

          This is already sort of part of the law. It depends on exactly how it is illegal but there are some requirements that they remove certain types of illegal content once notified. And most platforms just do that anyway because that's just good business. It's the rare site that deliberately flouts it.

          Since AirBnB is serving a narrow section of an overall market (house rentals as opposed to ebay allowing just about anything), is it more reasonable to expect them to be able to review and comply with local laws?

          No, it's not. I don't think you understand the sheer amount of laws they would have to pour over and vet. Every single city/town/village/municipality in the US has its own local laws that would have to be reviewed and coded into the system. That's a prohibitively large project to undertake, and how do you know if you got them all?

          It doesn't strike me as extraordinarily difficult for AirBnB to implement some back-end verification that says "oh your unit is in City X, which doesn't allow rentals. You can't post that sale."

          Then you don't understand what you are asking. Sure, coding that specific piece of it would be simple. But in order to get to that point, they would have to review ALL the relevant laws in ALL the various cities/towns/villages/municipalities in the US. That would likely take them several years to go through and document them all, then figure out which ones would allow the transactions and which ones wouldn't.

          I'm not saying I support either of these ideas (I think the homeowners should be the ones pursued, not AirBnB), but at least on the surface I don't instantly reject them.

          I hope I've offered up some reasons as to why this would be ridiculous to require them to do. But in either case, the biggest reason to instantly reject the idea you have already stated:

          it's not AirBnB's fault if someone posts an illegal rental

          That should be case closed right there.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 11:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah but they aren't really selling it to customers now are they? Sure they take a cut of the transaction but that's really only to cover the cost of the transaction fees. You don't have to use AirBnB's pay system. You can pay the hoster directly and use the website and other services for free.

            Again, it's free to advertise and use their booking services. The only time you pay AirBnB is if you use their payment system, and that's just to cover the transaction fees.

            But if you use AirBnB's system to find a place and then don't use their payment system to complete the transaction, you and the property owner are violating AirBnB's terms of service (Section 14.1). So sure, you can use the site for free, at the risk of getting banned from AirBnB entirely.

            I don't think you understand the sheer amount of laws they would have to pour over and vet.

            they would have to review ALL the relevant laws in ALL the various cities/towns/villages/municipalities in the US. That would likely take them several years to go through and document them all, then figure out which ones would allow the transactions and which ones wouldn't.

            I do understand the volume of law they'd need to review, but, speaking as devil's advocate - So what if it takes them years? If their business has legal requirements, should they not be required to comply with them? If they cannot, perhaps AirBnB has bitten off more than they can chew by making their service available over an area that's too large for them to make sure they're fully compliant with applicable laws? If they're only able to ensure they're compliant with the laws of one city, then maybe they should only offer their services to rental properties in that one city, and then only expand to other areas as their ability to review and comply with local law permits?

            This same logic would apply to any other online business (or any business really) - they should check to make sure that what they're doing is legal in whatever area they want to do it in, before they do it in that area, and then make sure that they keep up with any laws in that area that might affect them.

            I hope I've offered up some reasons as to why this would be ridiculous to require them to do.

            Fair points definitely. And overall I agree with you that AirBnB should not be liable for something illegal done by a user. At the same time, the counter-argument above regarding overextension of scope makes sense to me too. I don't have a solution that satisfactorily covers both ideas.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 12:02pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Any time I hear someone bellyache about how haaaard it would be for companies to abide by laws, I personally wonder how they feel about wage and payroll tax laws. In my opinion, if you cannot afford to run your business and keep things above board, then you shouldn't be in business.

              Now, obviously there should be a grace period so AirBNB wouldn't have to flip a switch overnight and suddenly be compliant with all laws in all areas, but if that's not something they can do (in this theoretical case of regulation), then they should scale their operations to something they can manage.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 1:01pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Show me the law then that AirBnB broke by allowing its users to make postings that were illegal the user's area, but not elsewhere in the US.

                AirBnB is perfectly compliant with all relevant laws. What you are asking them to do is make sure all their users comply with all local laws everywhere too. Those are two different things.

                To use your payroll example, it's the equivalent of making sure your employees obey speed limits or curfew. That's not the company's job or responsibility. And they definitely shouldn't be held liable for it if their employees break those laws.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 12:10pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Should banks be responsible for ensuring that the businesses that they serve comply with all aspects of the law? What you are demanding is that any service provider checks to see that the people they are providing a service to comply with the relevant laws for the business they are in.

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

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                No, that's not what my devil's advocate argument suggests. To use banking as the industry in question, the argument suggests that if you open an online bank that serves the entire country, you should be able to comply with all of the banking regulations for all of the states, cities, municipalities, etc. that your bank covers. If you can't do that, maybe your bank should stick to a smaller area where the number of applicable laws is small enough so that you can comply with them all, and expand later as your ability to comply permits.

                If someone deposits money to your bank that was obtained through a robbery, I wouldn't hold it responsible because there's really no way your bank could know that (though you wouldn't get to keep the money once the source became known). However, if some city passed a law that said "we don't allow euro deposits in banks in our city," and your bank had customers that lived in that city, I'd expect your bank to be aware of that law and not allow euro deposits from those customers.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 1:08pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  No, that's not what my devil's advocate argument suggests.

                  Well that's what the words you wrote mean. Use more accurate words then.

                  To use banking as the industry in question, the argument suggests that if you open an online bank that serves the entire country, you should be able to comply with all of the banking regulations for all of the states, cities, municipalities, etc. that your bank covers.

                  AirBnB currently complies with all laws and regulations in all states, cities, municipalities, etc... that apply to it. Laws telling residents what they can and cannot do with their property do not apply to AirBnB.

                  If someone deposits money to your bank that was obtained through a robbery, I wouldn't hold it responsible because there's really no way your bank could know that

                  Of course they can. They can do in-depth investigations into every deposit made, requiring receipts of the entire path the money transaction took, and auditing each point in that path to verify that's where it came from. To argue that they can't, yet say AirBnB should know all the housing laws in every city is hypocritical.

                  However, if some city passed a law that said "we don't allow euro deposits in banks in our city,"

                  Yes, but see, those laws apply to banks. The housing regulations that dictate how you can or cannot list your property for rental don't apply to AirBnB, they apply to the owners of the property. AirBnB is not making the listing, the owners are. You are comparing apples and oranges.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 12:52pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              But if you use AirBnB's system to find a place and then don't use their payment system to complete the transaction, you and the property owner are violating AirBnB's terms of service (Section 14.1). So sure, you can use the site for free, at the risk of getting banned from AirBnB entirely.

              This still ignores the fact that the cut they take is pretty much only to cover transaction fees. Regardless of both of those, the service they offer is free. Neither the host nor guest are paying AirBnB to post listings or make bookings.

              I do understand the volume of law they'd need to review, but, speaking as devil's advocate - So what if it takes them years?

              Because it's not their responsibility and undue burden. You're forcing a company to police and enforce laws. That is the job of local police departments.

              If their business has legal requirements, should they not be required to comply with them?

              Yes they should. This is not one of them. Companies are only required to comply with laws that relate to them running their business. They are not required to force users to comply to any other laws as that's not part of their business and is NOT required by law.

              If they cannot, perhaps AirBnB has bitten off more than they can chew by making their service available over an area that's too large for them to make sure they're fully compliant with applicable laws?

              They currently are complying with all relevant laws. AirBnB has done nothing illegal. There is no law that says they have to police their site for users who make illegal postings. In fact, there's a law that says they don't have to do anything of the sort.

              If they're only able to ensure they're compliant with the laws of one city, then maybe they should only offer their services to rental properties in that one city, and then only expand to other areas as their ability to review and comply with local law permits?

              That's literally not how the law works for this type of service.

              This same logic would apply to any other online business (or any business really) - they should check to make sure that what they're doing is legal in whatever area they want to do it in, before they do it in that area, and then make sure that they keep up with any laws in that area that might affect them.

              That's literally not how the law works for this type of service. Again, AirBnB has not broken any laws here. It is LEGAL for AirBnB to offer their services in an area that has restrictions on how you rent your space. Note, the law applies to residents of the area, not online business services. It is up to the user to make sure they are obeying the laws that apply to them.

              And overall I agree with you that AirBnB should not be liable for something illegal done by a user.

              Then why are you making counter arguments? There is no counter argument to be made here. You've admitted AirBnB has done nothing illegal and should not be held liable for actions they didn't commit. Case closed. Anything else is nonsense and illogical.

              At the same time, the counter-argument above regarding overextension of scope makes sense to me too.

              The only over-extension of scope is trying make an innocent party liable and responsible for the actions of someone else. That's not how the law works.

              I don't have a solution that satisfactorily covers both ideas.

              Because they are completely incompatible with each other. There is no solution that ever will.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 1:49pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                This still ignores the fact that the cut they take is pretty much only to cover transaction fees. Regardless of both of those, the service they offer is free. Neither the host nor guest are paying AirBnB to post listings or make bookings.

                That doesn't seem to be the case, according to this link: "The primary source of Airbnb’s revenue comes from service fees from bookings. Depending on the size of the reservation, guests are required to pay a 6-12% non-refundable service fee. A more expensive reservation will result in lower service fees for guests... With every completed booking, hosts are also charged a 3% fee to cover the processing of guests payments." So I guess it's not free.

                Then why are you making counter arguments?

                Because I don't think it's wise for AirBnB or anyone else to rely too heavily on Section 230 or get too complacent about its protection, since there are dumb lawmakers who don't understand it running around trying to get media attention and/or votes (and/or campaign contributions) by using 230 as a scapegoat. So, I think it's beneficial to consider possible counter-arguments, especially ones that might sound somewhat reasonable to a layperson that would otherwise say "yeah let's do that. Let's exempt AirBnB from 230 protections because Ed Case says we should."

                Thanks for your thoughts. Have an insightful vote!

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 2:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  That doesn't seem to be the case, according to this link:

                  I stand corrected then. However, according to AirBnB's own site, at most they take 5%. However, that's only for actual bookings. It's still free to list and use it to search for bookings. Still, the other AC is correct, AirBnB doesn't really sell anything, they provide a marketplace (like Amazon or eBay) and take a percentage to cover costs of providing it. What's actually being bought and sold are the places to stay.

                  Because I don't think it's wise for AirBnB or anyone else to rely too heavily on Section 230

                  Why not? That's literally the purpose of it existing in the first place is for online sites and services to rely on it.

                  or get too complacent about its protection, since there are dumb lawmakers who don't understand it running around trying to get media attention and/or votes (and/or campaign contributions) by using 230 as a scapegoat.

                  That's not a valid argument. That just means people need to fight for their rights and proper laws and against stupidity. If anything that means they should rely even more heavily on it so they can say "Hey! That's a really stupid idea because we rely on it to do our business.".

                  So, I think it's beneficial to consider possible counter-arguments, especially ones that might sound somewhat reasonable to a layperson that would otherwise say "yeah let's do that. Let's exempt AirBnB from 230 protections because Ed Case says we should."

                  No, it's really not. The only benefit of even giving them the time of day is so that you can come back and say "That is one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard, and here's why.". It bears NO benefit in considering at as a viable alternative.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 2:40pm

      Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

      So, by your logic it is up to your bank to make sure that all your transactions are legal. That will for sure limit your ability to use a credit/debit card to pre-approved companies.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:05pm

        Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

        So, by your logic it is up to your bank to make sure that all your transactions are legal.

        No. By the above logic, the bank's involvement is not protected by the CDA.

        Communication is protected; that's clear and settled law. Maybe it should protect the money-sending too, and maybe the Citizens United ruling means courts will say it already does; but it's less clear this was intended.

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

      • identicon
        SirWired, 29 Aug 2019 @ 7:19pm

        Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

        Under money-laundering laws, the bank most certainly can be held liable for my transactions. Fines in the $B have been levied against banks that don't pay enough attention.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 3:23am

          Re: Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

          If a city wants to place restrictions on property rentals, they should also do their own policing. It's not as if they cannot look up rentals by area on Airbnb.

          Would you expect you bank to check that any shop you use is in full compliance with local regulation before authorizing a payment?.

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

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 30 Aug 2019 @ 6:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

            It's not as if they cannot look up rentals by area on Airbnb.

            That's what I was thinking. If a city is really concerned about it, just have a cop or prosecutor look for illegal listings on the site, and then file suit. If it's not worth their time to do that, then it can't be that important.

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

      • identicon
        SirWired, 29 Aug 2019 @ 7:23pm

        Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

        Oh, your bank is liable if somebody commits fraud with your credit card, and the merchant's bank is liable if the fraud comes from that end instead.

        So your example actually demonstrates the opposite of what you think it does since you have things 100% backwards.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

          Oh, your bank is liable if somebody commits fraud with your credit card, and the merchant's bank is liable if the fraud comes from that end instead.

          Sure, but that's just a part of the contract the bank signed, not part of the law. The bank could, tomorrow, decide they no longer like that contract and cancel it, then replace it with a contract in which the merchant is always liable, or the cardholder is always liable, or the payment processor is always liable, or any combination thereof (assuming of course, they could convince those other parties to agree to the new contract, and not just move their business elsewhere).

          That is, it's the bank itself that holds itself liable for that fraud because the bank believes that said liability is a good business decision. The government is not holding the bank liable for the fraud... nor can the government hold the bank liable for the fraud.

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

    • icon
      Cdaragorn (profile), 30 Aug 2019 @ 8:26am

      Re: I can't say I wholly disagree with the idea

      forums, search engines and social media sites are all selling things just as much as anyone who directly accepts payments does. The idea that if someone is selling something they shouldn't get this protection is ridiculous.

      The only point of the protection here is to force people to hold those who are actually responsible for actions or speech accountable and not some other party that didn't do anything wrong. The fact that they were involved in the transaction doesn't make them party to the illegal acts.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 5:40am

    Yup, no conflict of interest there.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 8:38am

    The solution to illegal listings on AirBnB is so simple it's stunning that they're not taking the more appropriate approach to the problem:

    Law enforcement can reserve AirBnB listings they believe to be illegal and when the owner shows up to hand off the keys, boom, arrested. Even if the owner doesn't show up (key drop or some such) they still know who the owner is and it's game over.

    AirBnB might even be willing to work with law enforcement and either make sure the reservation fees are refunded in such cases or simply tell law enforcement where the listings are located and avoid the reservation sting altogether.

    We don't need to damage S230 to solve this problem. This politician is purely grandstanding and trying to make his campaign funders happy in the wrong way.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2019 @ 10:01pm

      Re:

      This was a thing ever since 2012 when Megaupload was taken down.

      Megaupload's arrest came hot on the heels after SOPA failed to pass in the US. No extra laws were needed to take down one of the most notorious websites for copyright infringement - except that by the RIAA's own stats, Megaupload wasn't even the worst offender. Megaupload's cooperation with law enforcement and provision of tools to rightsholders to verify infringement of their stuff was well-documented. Despite this, the RIAA demanded a full pound of flesh and Kim Dotcom was left at the sacrificial altar. At no point was SOPA needed, nor were any extra laws required, just some extralegal surveillance okayed by the NZ government (which they later admitted was not kosher) and a couple of judges willing enough to permit evidence from the poisoned apple tree.

      The same thing happened with FOSTA and Backpage, of course, except this time you have prostitutes and policemen on the street literally pointing out that FOSTA didn't solve any of the issues it was purported to. It just made it harder to find and prosecute pimps. Meanwhile copyright advocates gloated that if the government could be convinced to put up one law that allowed for website closure based on accusation, others skewed towards their personal goals weren't far behind.

      The "by any means necessary" approach to dismantle Section 230 isn't a coincidence. It's entirely intentional to punish online platforms for being a thorn in the side of Cary Sherman's meal ticket.

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

  • identicon
    Kamakani, 30 Aug 2019 @ 4:09pm

    FYI -

    Ed Case is the (older?) brother of the founder of AOL, Steve Case.

    Ed Case has been running for office in Hawaii for decades. Back in the 90s his campaigns were big on spamming stolen mailing lists, like the list of alumni from his (private) high school (yeah, I got his spam).

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

  • icon
    Steve Landess (profile), 31 Aug 2019 @ 10:32am

    Funny how renting a room not in a hotel is considered an "illegal" activity by Ed Case.

    IMHO, both local, state, and Federal legislation such as what he is pushing seems to border on violating the "takings" clause in the United States Constitution.

    (But so does taxing the person's property who is living on a fixed income. Eventually they will be required to sell the property, not being able to afford owning it...)

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 Sep 2019 @ 8:20am

    From what I've read from the comments the duiscussion revolved around whether Airbnb should be held liable or not but I think the more important part here is: why the hell can a guy with obvious interests legislate over the issue? It should be plain obvious: you are from a telco you can't vote or propose bills that will mess with your competitors (ie: muni broadband). I know it's not that simple but this is an issue democracy needs to deal with.

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


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