My Comment To The FCC Regarding The Ridiculous NTIA Petition To Reinterpret Section 230

from the what-nonsense dept

Today is the due date for the first round of submissions to the FCC's comment period on the NTIA's laughable petition, which asks the agency to reinterpret Section 230 in response to the President's temper tantrum about Twitter fact checking him. This is clearly outside of its regulatory authority, but it has caved and pandered to the President by calling for comments anyway.

There are a ton of individuals and organizations commenting on why nearly everything around this is unconstitutional and/or outside the FCC's legal authority. The Copia Institute is filing a comment along those lines written by Cathy Gellis, and she'll have a post about that later. However, I wanted to file a separate comment from my own personal perspective about Section 230 and the nature of running a small media website that relies heavily on its protections. Because beyond the various filings from lawyers about this or that specific aspect of the law or Constitutional authority, it appeared that there was little discussion of just how illiterate the NTIA petition is concerning how content moderation works. And, tragically, many of the early filers on the docket were people who were screaming that because some content of theirs had been moderated by a social media company, the FCC must neuter Section 230.

The key part of my comment is to reinforce the idea that content moderation is impossible to do well and you will always have some people who disagree with the results, and there will also be many "mistakes" because that's the nature of content moderation. It is not evidence of bias or censorship. And, indeed, as my comment highlights, changing Section 230 to try to deal with these fake problems is only likely to lead to the suppression of more speech and the shrinking of the open internet.

Also, I talk about the time I wasn't kicked out of a lunch where I sat next to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

You can read my entire comment below.

If you would like to file a comment on the proceedings and have not yet done so, while the initial round of comments is due today, there is a second round for "responding" to comments made in the first round, which runs through September 17th.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, cda 230, content moderation, fcc, impossibility, ntia, section 230
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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2020 @ 11:33am

    Submitted letter

    Where is the link to your letter?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2020 @ 11:47am

    I’ve got a hunch

    But I honestly think that this executive order is going to get nowhere. Even if Ajit Pai does try to follow Trump’s demands, he has still has to convince the rest of the FCC to join him. And frankly, aside from bootlicker Brendan Carr, I have a hard time believing that the rest of the members would fall in line.

    Also question: if the FTC silently refuses to cooperate with the FCC, doesn’t that mean that the execute order is DOA since the executive order asks both organizations?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2020 @ 12:22pm

      Re: I’ve got a hunch

      I don't think whether it goes anywhere is the goal. Trump being able to play the victim is the goal. It allows him to continue to not take responsibility for anything and provides an excuse for and deflection from his own failures.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 12:36pm

    Can we compare.

    Can we compare the demands between google aggregation, and Freedom of speech? Freedom of comments?
    HOW about the lady that would give a cake to a gay couple?
    How about the lady in a state office that wouldnt give a Marriage license to a gay couple.(and wasnt fired)
    How about News as opinion, and not facts.
    How about a gov. that creates a law, without telling anyone Who is to enforce it, really a law to be used?
    And a big one.
    IF Few of the Citizens follow the antidrug laws, why do we have them?

    Lets get abit deep here. In my religion(If I had one) If it was demanded that you be of the same faith as Myself, What could I do about it? According to some I could kill you, in others I could persuade you, in Some I could force you in 1 way or another as long as you become Equal to myself... I could do anything. Am I my brothers keeper, to keep him chained down? Or can I debate with him and discourage bad behavior? Can I teach him the ways I have learned with abuse or torture? Or treat him as a dog, below contempt?
    Or does HE have to rights to Teach me what he has learned?
    Share knowledge and understanding between the 2 of us? And assit each other in a New/better/Shared understanding of things?

    With 40 different religions, and each with 40+ more sects, and wars raged over Who is right/wrong/stupid. Whose side are we on? Csn we learn something from the Protestant/Catholic Fighting in Britain?? For those that dont know, They Bombed each other allot in the past, over a few lines in a book.

    All of this, because of a few lines that no one will really worry about. And those that do, want more control over something they really CANT. There are to many laws, that only the rich and powerful can use.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:30pm

    Non Objectionable

    The content "moderation" systems in place by big tech companies is defective, judging from the Markiplier/Critical strike episode from youtube. Human moderation systems are clearly not being used, even when they claim that they are. Non objectionable content is being removed, and the supposed moderation system is all just a big joke. Losing general 230 protection will force big tech to stop hiding behind their awful decisions.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:43pm

      Re: Non Objectionable

      Free speech means that you can publish using your own equipment, at your own expense. Having somebody else publish your works depends on a voluntary agreement.

      Forcing sites to allow all legal comments, which seems to be your desire, will have the same effect as forcing Google to pay for the privilege of linking to news articles, the ability will be removed.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:52pm

      Re: Non Objectionable

      AS AC said..
      But lets add to this.
      What is legal?
      If you FORCE everything to be published and the main site be liable, copyrights and Intellectual property will STOMP ALL OVER YOU. And they dont want to stomp on the little guy. They want the Company sponsoring the post, Google/amazon/a few others.
      The real problems come with verification, and I had an idea about that, setting up a Company that would have all the references to WHO had what. With verification.
      Its not easy knowing who/what/. has anything. This would be as bad as searching the Copyright office for previous references. Even Disney has fun with this Whole thing, as they can CR strike anyone over anything, even if they dont own it, becasue they DONT even know what they own. And the recording industry even Blanket kills everything, because they dont know What they are supposed to Protect either, so they just send notices on everything..

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 2:22pm

      Re: Non Objectionable

      The content "moderation" systems in place by big tech companies is defective

      Did you read my comment? ALL content moderation systems will make mistakes or create cases you disagree with. That's just how it works. Especially when people like yourself who like to deny reality insist false things are true.

      Non objectionable content is being removed,

      This does not matter under the law or the 1st Amendment. The "otherwise objectionable" part is limited to just (c)(2) and it would be a 1st Amendment problem if the government were determining what is and what is not "objectionable."

      Losing general 230 protection will force big tech to stop hiding behind their awful decisions.

      Uh, no. It would lead to all sorts of vexatious litigation. Remember when you Republicans were against the fairness doctrine, government interference in private companies, and opening up the courts to tort lawyers. Turns out it was all only when issues went against your pet favorites. You're a hypocrite, Koby.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 2 Sep 2020 @ 3:21pm

      Re: Non Objectionable

      I have to ask, are you really this clueless about how moderation work?! You can't be, because you have been told on multiple occasions how moderation and 230 works.

      Are you incapable of learning new things? Is that it? Because that alternative is the nicest one I can come up with at this point.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 4:52pm

      Koby, my patience with you on this matter has run its course. So sit down, shut up, and read this entire comment — twice — before you even think to reply (well, if you have the guts to reply, anyway).

      No moderation system will get it right 100% of the time. Systems are only as perfect as the people who make them, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, but nobody is a perfect person. (The closest we’ve ever gotten to a perfect person is dead.)

      Even a human moderation system will get it wrong. People will always bring their own biases and prejudices to the system. They may or may not ignore the context of a comment/image when deciding if it needs moderation. The “human moderation content systems” of which you speak — systems that, judging from the context of your comments, you believe are a cure to the ailment of “imperfect” automated systems — won’t get it right every time because people aren’t perfect.

      Then you talk of “non-objectionable content” being removed from services like YouTube. Two questions, champ: How do you decide what is and isn’t objectionable content, and how did your definition become YouTube’s definition? Because from where I sit, YouTube moderators can legally decide that Markiplier’s speech is “objectionable” and get rid of it, and you can’t do a goddamned thing about that. (Markiplier can appeal the decision, of course. But that is a move he has to make; you can’t do it for him.)

      And then we get to the one piece of your comment that makes no sense whatsoever: your claim about losing 230 protections. I don’t know why you continue to whine about 230 when both I and numerous other commenters here have explained to you, repeatedly and at great length, what 230 does. You’re so blinded by some sort of near-religious loyalty to either the idea of free speech absolutism or a twisted desire for “neutrality” on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera that you refuse to accept these fundamental truths:

      1. Without 230, a vast swath of the Internet would either be non-existent or overrun with trolls, since no one would want to operate/moderate a service where they are (at least) partially liable for someone else’s speech.

      2. 230 extends First Amendment protections to interactive web services, and neither 230 nor the First Amendment make any mention of “neutrality” as a prerequisite for those protections.

      3. Nobody, including you, has the right to force their way onto someone else’s private property and use it as a platform for speech/expression.

      4. Nobody, including you, has the right to force other people into being an audience for any given kind of speech/expression.

      5. Nobody, including you, has the right to force another person — or a privately owned business — into an association they don’t want.

      6. 230 makes sure 3, 4, and 5 applies to interactive web services so nobody — including you — will ever have the right to force speech onto those services that the operators of said services otherwise wouldn’t host.

      Getting rid of 47 U.S.C. § 230 won’t make the Internet a “nicer” place. It won’t make people more willing to become your audience if they weren’t your audience before 230 went poof. And it won’t create the “neutrality” that you have implied, over and over again, Twitter and its ilk should be forced to accept. Your desires won’t make a better Internet — it will destroy the current Internet and leave it as a wasteland upon which trolls, agitators, and other horrible people can run rampant.

      Whatever your issues with content moderation are — and it’s not exactly hard to have any, given how much systems like ContentID fuck things up — don’t justify trying to take away a website’s legally protected right to moderate how it sees fit. And if 230 does go away, who gets to make the calls about what speech is and isn’t acceptable? I doubt that even you want the federal government saying “you must host this speech or else” to you or anyone else, after all.

      I’d have a much easier time with this comment if I called you an idiot and washed my hands of you, Koby. But “easy” won’t make you think. And that is what I want you to do now, Koby — I want you to think.

      I want you to think about the ramifications of making website operators liable for speech they neither wrote or helped published. I want you to think about the consequences of forcing “neutrality” on platforms that were meant for, say, queer people who wanted to get away from anti-queer speech. I want you to think — really dig down into the ol’ grey matter and ruminate for a while — about how much user-generated content is on the Internet right now…and how much of that content would disappear near-overnight if the websites hosting that content didn’t want to be held liable for any of it.

      I don’t think you could still justify wanting to get rid of Section 230 after you’ve read this entire comment (hopefully twice) and done all that thinking I asked you to do. If you believe you can, you’re either still blinded by your devotion to the ideals of free speech absolutism or too ignorant to figure out the consequences of getting what you want. You can keep wishing for the end of 230 on that monkey’s paw you’re holding. But don’t blame anyone else if that finger curls and getting what you wished for fucks up the world. After all, you’re the one who wants 230 gone.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 10:56pm

        Re:

        "Whatever your issues with content moderation are — and it’s not exactly hard to have any, given how much systems like ContentID fuck things up — don’t justify trying to take away a website’s legally protected right to moderate how it sees fit"

        More to the point - ContentID exist explicitly because the RIAA and MPAA were trying to use the fact that YouTube was not actively moderated to have it shut down. It's impossible for human beings to moderate the level of traffic they get in any reasonably time frame, so ContentID was introduced to placate them. What he's whining about is a copyright industry demand, not a "big tech" demand.

        As usual, Koby's so dumb that he's arguing for the exact opposite of what he claims to want. He seems to think he's arguing for ContentID to be removed. What he's actually asking for is a second ContentID system, one that moderates the intent of a post rather than its copyrighted content. That won't end well.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2020 @ 1:34am

        Re:

        Some people think that freedom of speech means that they can use all platforms to preach and convert the heathens to their point of view.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 3 Sep 2020 @ 1:43am

        Re:

        "I doubt that even you want the federal government saying “you must host this speech or else” to you or anyone else, after all." Or any group, or corp, or anyone with their OWN agenda. Those that Do the work, even the automation, Try to do their best with all the laws and regs we got. And it isnt easy. Who remembers the blackmail that was/is going around? That if the YT persons dont send them money they will DMCA them. Fake it and get them off of YT. And to fight this? What can you do? TALK to YT. And wait.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 10:48pm

      Re: Non Objectionable

      Are you deliberately misrepresenting the argument every time, or genuinely stupid?

      "The content "moderation" systems in place by big tech companies is defective, judging from the Markiplier/Critical strike episode from youtube."

      Not defective, but with the number of videos YouTube gets every minute, even a 0.0000001% error rate will result in a noticeably large number of videos being mistakenly identified.

      "Human moderation systems are clearly not being used"

      They are, it's just not possible to have an accurate human moderation system at the scales we're talking about, as the mistakes made by human will lack consistency and happen more often than an automated system.

      "Non objectionable content is being removed"

      Non-objectionably to whom? You're living in yet another fantasy world if you think there will ever be total agreement on this stuff, even if you keep the arguments within the US.

      "Losing general 230 protection will force big tech to stop hiding behind their awful decisions."

      Yes, preventing the companies from accepting user generated content will stop them making mistakes moderating it.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Sep 2020 @ 1:33am

      Re: Non Objectionable

      "Losing general 230 protection will force big tech to stop hiding behind their awful decisions."

      What are they hiding? Mark, got it back, and YT listened to him.

      The system is abit broken. Its hard to cover 1 million posts per day or Video. And when Someone or some Corp, has a problem, they Nail anyone they can. But they want the big guys to pay. Not the small players in this.

      Content moderation is easy if you have a closed restricted system.
      An open system where anyone can post anything Is a mess waiting to happen. And 230 solves the easy part.
      The hard part is the abuse of the system, and its Very hard to verify things on either side. So as YT does, the Corps use automation also. And they hit and miss as badly as YT, if not worse.

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

  • icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 7:11pm

    Koby, Koby, Koby

    Koby:

    I have probably disagreed with you more than I have agreed with you on your various comments on this blog.

    And even though I must wholeheartedly disagree with you on the Section 230 argument, I do enjoy reading your comments. If the FCC borks Section 230 I will, alas, miss those diatribes.

    Because if Section 230 is dismantled as Mike/Steve et al. have described, Techdirt (and pretty much every website that has user generated comments), will be forced into a position of taking down the ability for you to post your comments and for me to love/hate them.

    Think of MEEEEEEEEEE :P

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

  • icon
    Blake C. Stacey (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 8:51pm

    I submitted my comment. Nothing too grand, just calling it an unconstitutional request made in transparently bad faith, followed by a lengthy quotation from Commissioner O'Rielly.

    I had hoped to see more drives for comment submissions, but nobody seemed to have organized one that I heard of. Maybe there's still an opportunity to submit them in the "replies" round. We could even write them in MST3k style.

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


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