Rep. Cicilline Wants To Remove Section 230 Protections For Platforms That Host 'Demonstrably False' Political Ads

from the the-1st-amendment-callling dept

What is it with politicians (and other commentators) who keep confusing the 1st Amendment with Section 230? The latest is Rep. David Cicilline, who wants to remove Section 230 protections from internet platforms that host "demonstrably false" political ads:

Rep. David Cicilline is drafting legislation to take away a broad tech liability protection for online platforms that knowingly publish “demonstrably false” political ads, he says at a National Association of Broadcasters’ event.

This has been an issue a bunch of folks have been raising of late. Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi have both expressed anger that Facebook has chosen not to fact check political videos. However, as we've noted repeatedly, there are all sorts of problems with a proposal like this.

First, and perhaps biggest, is the 1st Amendment. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, many false statements are still protected under the 1st Amendment -- and while internet platforms have their own rights to take down or leave up what they want, having the government step in and create an effective mandate to take down "false" information will almost certainly violate the 1st Amendment, as it's not a content-neutral regulation. As the Supreme Court noted in United States v. Alvarez, plenty of "demonstrably false" information is still Constitutionally protected:

In light of the substantial and expansive threats to free expression posed by content-based restrictions, this Court has rejected as “startling and dangerous” a “free-floating test for First Amendment coverage . . . [based on] an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits.”... Instead, content-based restrictions on speech have been permitted, as a general matter, only when confined to the few “‘historic and traditional categories [of expression] long familiar to the bar,’” ...These categories have a historical foundation in the Court’s free speech tradition. The vast realm of free speech and thought always protected in our tradition can still thrive, and even be furthered, by adherence to those categories and rules.

Absent from those few categories where the law allows content-based regulation of speech is any general exception to the First Amendment for false statements. This comports with the common understanding that some false statements are inevitable if there is to be an open and vigorous expression of views in public and private conversation, expression the First Amendment seeks to guarantee.

Later in that ruling, Justice Kennedy notes:

Were the Court to hold that the interest in truthful discourse alone is sufficient to sustain a ban on speech, absent any evidence that the speech was used to gain a material advantage, it would give government a broad censorial power unprecedented in this Court’s cases or in our constitutional tradition. The mere potential for the exercise of that power casts a chill, a chill the First Amendment cannot permit if free speech, thought, and discourse are to remain a foundation of our freedom.

And thus, once again, it appears that a politician is confusing the power of the 1st Amendment, and assuming that it is coming from Section 230. This is incorrect.

The second issue with such a law is that while "demonstrably false" seems like an easy classification, it's not at all easy in practice. As we've discussed many, many times in the past, content moderation at scale is impossible to do well, and it only seems easy until you actually have to do it. Case in point: just last week there was an uproar and controversy over an edited video that the Mike Bloomberg campaign posted to social media. The video shows Bloomberg on the debate stage last week, asking if any of the other candidates on stage had started a business -- and then places clips of each of the other candidates looking around awkwardly, with an overlay of cricket sounds. The video is obviously meant to imply that this extended silence after Bloomberg asked the question is what actually happened on stage -- though it is not. The clips were obviously taken from other moments in the debate.

Is that "demonstrably false"? Well, that depends on your perspective. It's absolutely misleading. But, it could also be seen as a joke or satire or making a point. Indeed, in the link above, Twitter told reporters that the video would violate its policies as "manipulated media," but Facebook says it would not, since its policies do "not extend to content that is parody or satire, or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words." And, while you may agree or disagree with either platforms' decision on this, how would Cicilline's proposal handle such an issue? If put in place, it's likely that all platforms would then seek to remove this video, out of fear of it opening up the potential for massive liability.

The courts are extremely loathe to get involved in political speech -- which, quite frequently, involves misrepresentation, false, or misleading statements by candidates about each other. Trying to put an extra burden on social media platforms by potentially removing Section 230 protections for not magically being able to determine "truth" is not only unconstitutional, but likely putting internet platforms in an impossible position.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, david cicilline, demonstrably false, intermediary liability, liability, political ads, political speech, section 230


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 7:57am

    Demonstrably False

    "Were the Court to hold that the interest in truthful discourse alone is sufficient to sustain a ban on speech, absent any evidence that the speech was used to gain a material advantage,..."

    One could reasonably argue that lying to gain political office is to gain material advantage. That alone could eliminate around 99% of all political ads and speeches.

    However, leaving Section 230 out of it, and going with the theme 'demonstrably false', let's see what legislation Congress can come up with that holds candidates to their campaign promises as well as their rhetoric while in office that will not only satisfy those of us who think politicians lie with impunity (and all the time), but also pass 1st Amendment muster.

    While they are at it, how about promises made by private entities to gain monetary or marketplace advantages (tax breaks, etc.) that never come to fruition. Those are also demonstrably false and to gain material advantage.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 9:11am

      Re: Demonstrably False

      However, leaving Section 230 out of it, and going with the theme 'demonstrably false', let's see what legislation Congress can come up with that holds candidates to their campaign promises as well as their rhetoric while in office that will not only satisfy those of us who think politicians lie with impunity (and all the time), but also pass 1st Amendment muster.

      You're the one asking for it; why don't you come up with something that satisfies the requirements? If you're the one setting the requirements, and you can't explain how to meet them, what chance does anyone else have?

      First: define what constitutes a campaign promise.

      Second: define what constitutes a broken campaign promise.

      Third: define a restriction on those things that is consistent with the First Amendment.

      Fourth: define how this would even work, within the structure of the legal system. Can any constituent sue any politician for breaking a campaign promise? Is there some sort of time restriction? Can I start suing my senator for failing to keep her campaign promises on her first day in office? Do I have to wait a few months? How far into her term does she have to be?

      Fifth: define how this would work within the structure of our legislative system. If a candidate promises to do x, and introduces a bill to do x, but the bill doesn't pass Congress, is the candidate liable for a broken campaign promise? If no, doesn't that mean that any candidate can satisfy the "kept campaign promise" requirement by introducing a bill, even if there's no chance of it passing? If yes, doesn't that mean that no candidate can ever say they're going to do anything in office unless it's absolutely guaranteed to pass?

      And that's without even getting into your suggestion that we should punish "rhetoric while in office". Good Lord.

      Not for nothin', we've been over this before. Should Kennedy not have pledged to land on the moon before the end of the 1960s? After all, he couldn't guarantee that was going to happen. (And even if he'd lived, the moon landing happened six months after he would have been term-limited out of office. Should presidents not pledge to start projects that won't be completed until they're out of office? Posit an alternate universe where Kennedy lives, gets a second term, and leaves office in January 1969. If the moon landing still happens in July 1969, did Kennedy keep his campaign promise? It didn't happen while he was in office, but it did happen before the end of the decade. If, say, Nixon decides to delay the moon landing six months, now has Kennedy broken his campaign promise because it happened after the end of the decade, and not within the timeframe he promised? Is Kennedy still liable even though he's left office? If yes, doesn't that mean Nixon can delay the moon landing just to fuck with him, because he's Nixon? If no, doesn't that mean that any president can avoid being held liable for broken campaign promises by just making sure to promise it won't be complete until after they leave office?)

      Fact is, we've already got a mechanism for holding elected officials accountable for their performance in office. It's called an election. If a politician gets reelected, that generally means that most voters think it would be better to keep them in office than go with somebody else*. Lord knows I don't always agree with the results of elections, but that's democracy for you. I think this is one case where substituting the opinion of a judge (who, incidentally, have their own biases and their own candidate preferences) for the judgement of the electorate is not a reasonable solution to the problem.

      * there are caveats, including FPTP elections; candidates often win reelection without a majority, and in the case of presidential elections can win without even a plurality (though no president has ever won a second term without at least a plurality of the popular vote). I think improving how we conduct elections would be a much better solution to the problem than handing something as nebulous and subjective as "broken campaign promises" over to the legal system.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 9:26am

        Re: Re: Demonstrably False

        "You're the one asking for it; why don't you come up with something that satisfies the requirements? "

        I cannot, though I have tried at various times. The thing is, they keep trying, but they ignore the Constitution every time. So my challenge stands. Let them come up with something that satisfy's their need to control 'disingenuousness' yet does no harm to the root rules of our society.

        I would be happy if they could, as the electorate keeps depending upon statements made during campaigns to make their choices, but the elected keep pandering to large contributions to enable their reelections. For me, money should not equal speech as speech is evenly distributed (access to platforms recently became more so to the disdain of those who seek power), but money is not.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Demonstrably False

          How many times have politicians made campaign promises who never fulfilled those promises and it became crystal clear those promises were nothing more than election ploys? When they stop lying, maybe the rest of the country will try it.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re: Demonstrably False

          I had an idea last night that might satisfy, but I am fairly certain that the flaws in my thinking will be pointed out.

          Let the candidates bloviate all they want during their campaigns. Then when in office if they backtrack on one promise or another they are automatically scheduled for a recall vote 30 days later with a new election for that office one week later.

          They have 30 days to explain their actions to their constituents while at the same time other candidates for that office will have the same 30 days (plus seven) to explain why the reversal was improper to the constituents and why they should have the job.

          The 1st Amendment is preserved and actions are left to the ones in power, the constituents, while a control on lying in campaigns is put in place.

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:28pm

        Re: Re: Demonstrably False

        I believe Anonymous Anonymous Coward was presenting a challenge to people like the anti-230 crowd.

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

  • icon
    rw (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 8:00am

    Maybe it would be easier to just ban politicians from the internet in general?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 9:43am

    If something is demonstrably false and threatened to be taken down, the obvious next step is to make a religion out of it to make it true again.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      the obvious next step is to make a religion out of it to make it true again.

      Or sometimes a simple Sharpie marker will work.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 9:45am

    A better question, what will they define as "demonstrably false"?

    It's one of those vague terms that could be abused in so many ways it's not funny which I suspect is the intent.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 10:01am

    Ignoring the 1st Amendment implications for a moment, and assuming that "demonstrably false" can be defined and easily applied everywhere:

    knowingly publish

    How do they propose to enforce this?

    Facebook has chosen not to fact check political videos

    If they're not fact-checking the ads how could they be thought to "knowingly publish" a false ad? All this smoke and mirrors "hey look, I'm doing something!" bullshit is so easily defeated as to be utterly pointless. Simply publish all political ads regardless of whether they're true (don't bother checking) and you're golden. Is that the true goal of this proposed legislation? Are they feeling shut out for trying to publish false or misleading ads?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 10:49am

    Abusing the first amendment to push false narratives and lies that push people to act in damaging ways should already be covered.

    The pizzagate shooter got sentenced to 4 years... but what about all the organizations that kept pushing that lie that drove this person to do this that trusted these 'news' sources. Amendments aren't something to be abused to cause such violence giggle and go "haha what a dummy" and continue saying bullshit.

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      Actually, you’re factually wrong about that.

      As far as them being lies, unless the people broadcasting them knew they were lies (and from what I can tell, most of the people and “news” sources genuinely believed they were true or at least not yet unproven) and the claimant is able to prove both that and that the claims were actually and clearly false, it still receives First Amendment protection (since the claims were about public figures, mere simple negligence would be insufficient).

      Regarding the incitement part, only speech that is likely and foreseeably capable of inciting imminent lawless action (meaning really soon) is still punishable under the First Amendment.

      Despite the fact that I think the whole Pizzagate thing was complete and utter baseless nonsense with no evidence favoring it and tons of evidence against it (not to mention the fact that the claims were themselves difficult to believe, anyway), my distaste for those who spread the story, and the fact that it did eventually lead to the aforementioned shooter’s lawless actions, I also strongly believe that, whatever my opinion about what the law should be, the fact is that the First Amendment does protect the ones who spread the Pizzagate story from any liability for it or the shooter’s actions. I’m not exactly happy about that, per se, but current FA jurisprudence is pretty clear on this, and I don’t think it’s likely for the SC to change that or for a new amendment to be proposed, passed, and ratified that would change that, either.

      This whole “abusing the FA” isn’t really a thing, either.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:42am

    Call the bluff

    Someone should point out that making 230 protections contingent on not publishing any 'demonstrably false political ads' has a very easy solution for the platforms: Do not host any political ads ever again.

    You don't even need to dig into the proposal to find the fatal flaws(the first amendment and 'false according to who?' being the big two), if hosting the 'wrong' political ad will make a platform liable for any and all content posted to it then platforms will simply bar political ads in their entirety rather than risk allowing anything on that might cost them their protections.

    I get that it's popular to attack 230 to play up to gullible fools, and I get that there are no good anti-230 arguments to be made(or at the least I've yet to see one), but you'd think that those jumping on the bandwagon would at least spend five minutes to avoid making such monumentally stupid arguments.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:48am

      Re: Call the bluff

      It's more likely they'll allow all ads rather than none. Same end result and they still make their money.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:33pm

        Re: Re: Call the bluff

        Uhh, no, that's like saying going through all the chambers of a revolver during russian roulette and going through none of them has the same end result.

        When any political ad has the possibility to strip legal protections then the more you host the larger the possibility to lose those protections, so hosting all of them would be the exact opposite of what they'd want to do.

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

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Call the bluff

          It depends on whether it must be knowing or not. If there is no knowledge requirement, then yeah, that would lead to the removal of all political ads. If there is one, however, it’s at least as likely that they’ll just not remove any.

          In the latter case, it’d be as if you had some sort of magical protection against any bullets that works as long as you don’t know that the gun has a bullet in that chamber, and in any particular round, it’s possible that the gun had only blanks inserted rather than any actual bullets, but you don’t know which rounds. (Well, maybe once every thousand or so attempts, the barrier doesn’t function perfectly, but it still blunts the damage enough that it doesn’t cause significant damage so long as you didn’t know that particular chamber had an actual bullet in it when you pulled the trigger.)

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:15pm

            Facing one poisoned M&M in a barrel, how quick do you dig in?

            If there is one, however, it’s at least as likely that they’ll just not remove any.

            I'm not seeing it. Even if the law required them to 'know' that the ad was 'wrong' carrying ads would still involve a risk and extra work that not hosting any wouldn't. Sure it might be more profitable short-term to carry all the ads but if even one of them has a chance to strip 230 protections and make them liable for everything on their platform or require them to defend themselves in court to maintain those protections the safe choice is not to carry any of them.

            You talked about 'blunting' the force but win or lose going to court can still be ludicrously expensive, and facing that potential for any political ad they host to incur that cost the smart choice would be to remove the risk entirely.

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

            • icon
              bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:39pm

              Re: Facing one poisoned M&M in a barrel, how quick do you dig in

              For sufficiently large companies, the costs aren’t that great for the type of lawsuits that I was referring to as being blunted: objectively frivolous lawsuits (the sort that have no chance of making it past dismissal, period).

              As for what you’re talking about, it depends upon the knowledge requirement. After all, knowledge requirement or no, there is still one decision that has to be made about the ad if they are going to be removing all political ads: what constitutes a political ad? I’m saying that, under the hypothetical situation presented and depending on various factors, it may be more or similarly costly for some companies to simply ban all political ads, period, than to simply allow all ads through without examination. Under those circumstances, such companies are at least as likely to go for the passive approach.

              There’s also another factor to consider: money from the ads. Depending upon several factors, it’s possible for a company to make enough money from political ads as a whole (accurate or not) to offset any legal costs incurred as a result.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:43pm

              Re: Facing one poisoned M&M in a barrel, how quick do you dig in

              Even if the law required them to 'know' that the ad was 'wrong'

              It does, as described in the article above. From corporate execs' point of view, if all they have to do is blindly publish all political ads and pay no attention to whether they're truthful and they can still collect all the fees for publishing those ads, what do you think they're going to do? If you think they'll panic and stop carrying any political ads then I'd love to take your wager of any size you like.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:46am

    Cunning plan

    The politicians make social media lose section 230 if they host misleading ads. Politicians post misleading ads, and social media loses section 230 protection.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:50am

      Re: Cunning plan

      Only if they're "knowingly publish[ed]" as false or misleading ads. If the "publisher" (read: Facebook, et. al) has no idea whether the ads are false/misleading then there is no liability in publishing them all.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re: Cunning plan

        That knowingly bit will take an expensive court case, and all the available appeals to decide, and in forcing the social media companies into court, politicians have the means of attacking their finances while having the citizens pay for the politicians side of the fight.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: Cunning plan

          All of which is pointless. If you want to sue Facebook for posting a false political ad and your goal is to strip them of their S230 protections then it is up to you to prove they knew the ad was false. Not up to them to prove they didn't. How do you propose to do that?

          Unless Facebook leaked info backing up your claims you're pretty screwed. And Facebook's legal fees here won't even come close to what they make carrying those ads. They really don't give a damn. Chances are your suit will get thrown out before it ever goes to trial anyway.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 4:24pm

      Re: Cunning plan

      Politicians get banned for knowingly putting misleading ads on social media lol

      The internet for the fist time knows peace it has not seen since the scum invaded it

      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, 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:50am

    Bernie?

    I'll give you free everything and taxes on the rich and lawsuits against big corporations will pay for it!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:40pm

      Re: Bernie?

      Is that what he has said?

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 4:55am

        Re: Re: Bernie?

        "Is that what he has said?"

        Not really but if you've got a republican around pot odds are he's convinced himself Bernie is a kruska-eating marxist fanatic.
        ...and probably has based all of this on Trump's twitter feed.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 10:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Bernie?

          Bernie Sanders (if that's who he is) looks like he is going to blow a gasket at any second.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 3:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Bernie?

            "Bernie Sanders (if that's who he is) looks like he is going to blow a gasket at any second."

            Well, it IS rare to see a 78 year old politician with the same drive and furor as a 25 year old.
            Biden is about the same age and gives off the impression of confused, mild-mannered dementia.

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

  • icon
    urza9814 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:06pm

    Partly makes sense

    Aren't they ALREADY liable for these kinds of ads? Section 230 protects against liability for USER content. Ads aren't user content, are they?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:34pm

      Re: Partly makes sense

      You have a slight misunderstanding there. Section 230 protects against liability for third party content, and that is anything published by somebody else via the platform.

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

      • icon
        urza9814 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:47pm

        Re: Re: Partly makes sense

        OK...so how do I go post my ad on Facebook by myself without going through any Facebook staff? Because I would think that is what is meant by "user content". The ad model -- I pay them, I give them some specifications, we agree to contract terms, they review the content of the ad, and they they publish it themselves -- doesn't look like user content to me. By that definition why couldn't a newspaper could say that every article they publish is just "user content", with the individual journalists being the users?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

          Facebook negotiates how an advertiser will pay to use their target selection system, and how much per advert delivered the advertiser will pay. That is they sell a platform for delivering ads to targetted audience. While that works in a different fashion to user posts, and money changes hands, Facebook exercise no more control over adverts than they do over user posts.

          Also note, if you target audience is you followers on Facebook, just write up your ad and post it on your page. This also means that the distinction between user posrts and adverts is not always clear cur.

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

          • icon
            urza9814 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

            "Facebook exercise no more control over adverts than they do over user posts."

            Facebook's own website seems to say otherwise:
            https://facebook.com/business/help/2115855188432216

            "Also note, if you target audience is you followers on Facebook, just write up your ad and post it on your page. This also means that the distinction between user posrts and adverts is not always clear cur."

            Right, but that's posted from a user account, distributed the same as any other post by that user account, and doesn't go through any kind of approval process. So yes, those shouldn't be restricted, because they're published by the user and not by Facebook itself. And this law wouldn't restrict those either, since they wouldn't be "knowingly" published by the service provider. Whether or not they could as advertisement is debatable as well -- it depends how the bill actually defines "advertisement", as it's not uncommon for that term to be defined in a way that requires a payment of some kind.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:34pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

              A more significant question, when have newspapers been held responsible for the truth of any advert? Why should Facebook be given that responsibility, when like the newspapers they do not have the information or expertise necessary to decide the truth of an advert.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:50pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

                Careful with that argument. Newspapers don't have S230 protections. Arguing that inequality is why FB shouldn't have to verify all political ads implies that same inequality to either give newspapers S230 protection or that everyone else should lose it.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 3:43pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

                  Newspapers are not held responsible for third part content, like ads, unless they are obviously false or illegal. Attempting to hold social media sites responsible for third party content is to require them to do more that newspapers and other traditional publishers.

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

                • icon
                  That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 4:00pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

                  Newspapers don't have S230 protections.

                  Only because it didn't need to be made clear in the law with regards to newspapers that they are only responsible for what they write, not what someone may write on their papers. 230 simply applies the same protections regarding liability to online platforms that offline ones get by default.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 10:23am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

                    Every channel on TV that hosts questionable content post a message that they are not responsible for the content.

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

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 11:38pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

                  "Newspapers don't have S230 protections"

                  Assuming you mean print newspapers - because a newspaper is small enough to have an editorial staff that reviews all content before publication, and they assign part of their privately arranged space to that content. This is generally not possible with a platform that's provided for public use. Hence the different standards. If you mean online newspapers, they have different liabilities depending on whether it was an editorially approved piece or a user generated comment.

                  There's a fundamental difference between a "letters to the editor" page where the editor pre-selects a couple of things he agrees to be published, and a blank page where anyone can write anything at any time without an editor knowing about it. So, they need to be treated differently in law.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:48pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Partly makes sense

              Facebook's ad posting is entirely automated. You don't ever have to speak to anyone at FB to put an ad on their platform.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:19pm

    if politicians make bad laws like this ,
    then the tech companys should ban all political ad,s .
    Imagine if a tv or radio station could be closed in america or lose its licence if it was shown that a commentor or a guest on a program
    made a false statement .people read fake news or lsiten to extremist content and presume the content is true.
    A law like this is a great restriction on free speech and it would effect
    any platform or website whether its liberal or conservative in content.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:52pm

      Re:

      I'd love for all political ads to be banned. Everywhere. Not just Facebook and elsewhere online. Fucking everywhere. That includes those butt-ugly signs along roadways everywhere, unsolicited phone calls and texts, all that recycling that shows up in my mailbox and everything else with a candidate's nome on it apart from legit news stories and ballots. Shut it all down, and the sooner the better.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous, 26 Feb 2020 @ 12:56pm

    The Internet has made publishers of us all. The problem is publishers were always held to a known and understandable standard for defamation which evolved over a 1,000 years of law. By conferring blanket immunity against defamation suits, Big Tech Giants could care less about what gets put on their billboards or front pages. This immunity really messed up our society because now anybody with a smart phone can post someone else is a murderer and it remains online forever. No vetting, no questions asked. To get back our civility and sanity, CDA Section 230 must be repealed. If left in place, Big tech will never act responsibility (on it's own) and monitor obvious defamatory comments because they draw clicks and eyeballs and make them even richer. They do not need to monitor every post, but when a legitimate complaint of defamation is made, they should remove the hurtful, ruinous, false content.

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

    • icon
      urza9814 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:08pm

      Re:

      "when a legitimate complaint of defamation is made, they should remove the hurtful, ruinous, false content."

      The only legitimate way to determine what is a "legitimate complaint of defamation" is in a court of law, and such courts already have the authority to compel the removal of such content. And if the content is actually illegal, it is not protected by section 230 to begin with.

      Otherwise, you have to leave the determination of what is "legitimate" up to the service providers, and let them decide what to remove...which they would not be able to do without the protection for content moderation contained in section 230.

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, unless it violates a federal law (or a few other exceptions also inapplicable here), Section 230 does not have an “illegal content” exception; if the content was provided by a third party (not created by the service provider), the service provider is still protected from liability as a publisher, period.

        That said, most of the time, most platform holders will remove illegal or unlawful content upon receipt of a court order, regardless of whether there’s any actual legal obligation to do so, and in most cases, a court order forcing the speaker to remove the unlawful comment should suffice, anyway, and the speaker receives no §230 protections for their speech at all.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 5:05am

        Re: Re:

        "Otherwise, you have to leave the determination of what is "legitimate" up to the service providers, and let them decide what to remove...which they would not be able to do without the protection for content moderation contained in section 230."

        Oh, he knows this. Bobmail/Jhon/Blue has been very consistent in his nagging on every thread with a header containing "230".

        And for obvious reason, looking at his historical hobbyhorses. He wants copyright gatekeepers back and the world back to the way it was when it wasn't possible to discover a fraud scheme by googling the names of the ones driving it.

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

    • icon
      David (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:11pm

      Re:

      Based on your post, you must think Barnes and Noble can be held responsible for something published in Time magazine simply because Barnes and Noble sells Time. It's the same paradigm. Facebook isn't the publisher. They are the distributor.

      The second problem is who gets to determine what is false. An ad may say that Warren is the best candidate for President. I say that is false. Should Facebook be required to remove the ad? If not, why not? A large percent of the population agrees with me.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 7:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Based on your post, you must think Barnes and Noble can be held responsible for something published in Time magazine simply because Barnes and Noble sells Time. It's the same paradigm. Facebook isn't the publisher. They are the distributor.

        Once they are put on notice of the defamatory content, the bookstore can be sued as a distributor, but 230 makes the internet different.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re:

        Because in politics, the one with the most money runs the most ads. It is a game that should not be allowed unless you are simply an ad whore that just wants the money from these ads regardless of what it does to our society.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      but when a legitimate complaint of defamation is made

      Who determines when the complaint is legitimate, and when it is some scammer trying to protect their business?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Feb 2020 @ 5:01am

      Re:

      "This immunity really messed up our society because now anybody with a smart phone can post someone else is a murderer and it remains online forever."

      We know you're having issues with section 230 because it's become harder to use fraud as primary business model when people can google your name and find that out.

      It still isn't a good reason to invalidate free speech by the equivalent of making the pub owner liable for what the patrons are talking about on the premises.

      I think we all know you'll be content spending another five years around here trying to sink section 230, Bobmail, but that just means ensuring that any reader is instantly provided just WHY the arguments against 230 are bull.

      Because we won't stop rebutting you over it either.

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:01pm

    Mixed feelings about this.

    Removing protections is wrong but since almost all political ads contain something that could be proven "demonstrably false", we wouldn't have to watch these stupid ads. We loose either way.

    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, 26 Feb 2020 @ 1:09pm

    Oh, it’s different because of the Internet

    That’s the excuse, right? We can’t apply the same laws that prohibit blatantly false political advertising on television because it’s the Internet and that makes things different and hard. How are campaigns supposed to keep things like where they can and cannot lie straight with all of this horrible regulatory spaghetti?

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

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:16pm

      Re: Oh, it’s different because of the Internet

      I don’t believe that law actually exists as applied to TV, either. I don’t recall any laws that prohibit blatantly false political ads on TV and hold the TV networks responsible for them. At the very least, there are tons of them that I have seen on TV, and no one has ever been prosecuted or successfully sued over them.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 26 Feb 2020 @ 5:40pm

      Re: Oh, it’s different because of the Internet

      We can’t apply the same laws that prohibit blatantly false political advertising on television because it’s the Internet and that makes things different and hard.

      What law do you think you're talking about?

      This has nothing do with "different on the internet." The laws you think exist regarding TV advertising... don't.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 3:58am

      Re: Oh, it’s different because of the Internet

      "We can’t apply the same laws that prohibit blatantly false political advertising on television because it’s the Internet and that makes things different and hard."

      As many have already pointed out, section 230 is exactly that vehicle which allows us to treat online speech the same way we do offline speech.

      That you are lying through your teeth because television has no bans on blatantly false political advertising only makes your argument even more hilarious. If that was the case Trump would be doing hard time now over his "birther" movement - or any of a dozen other cases where we can demonstrably prove that he was deliberately lying on TV.

      Hell, if that had ever been true, Nixon would have been out of the white house a week after Woodward and Bernstein published the watergate scandal.

      So, Baghdad Bob, you've fscking FINALLY figured out that we should have the same way online as offline. After all this time!
      Too bad you now reconstruct offline law to fit your narrative instead. You really think your argument will fly when it keeps resting on obviously untrue assertions?

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

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:24pm

    Representative PALPATINE

    FTFY

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

  • identicon
    Christenson, 26 Feb 2020 @ 2:36pm

    Context, Context, Context...

    Heya Techdirt, my favorite website, haven't you pointed to at least one demonstrably false ad in your protests against moral turpitude??

    This is the problem: If the ad is going away, someone criticizing it for being false will need to keep a copy, and that so-and-so put out a false ad (especially if they are running for office) needs to be part of the record!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2020 @ 3:43am

    Platform?

    Does whitehouse.gov count?

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.