Coalition Of Internet Companies Who Are Decidedly Not 'Big Tech' Raise Their Voices About The Importance Of Section 230

from the good-for-them dept

A few weeks ago we noted that smaller, but still important, internet companies were working to get in the room on the discussions regarding Section 230 in Congress. The issue is that, among many in Congress and the media, they believe (falsely) that Section 230 is some sort of subsidy "only for Big Tech." As we've pointed out many times, the opposite is true. Facebook and Google have giant legal teams who can handle the liability without 230. It's everyone else who is screwed. This is why Facebook has always been first in line to undermine Section 230.

As you'll recall, Facebook was the key cog to fold and support FOSTA, pressuring the Internet Association to support the law, and allowing Congress to claim (falsely) that "tech" supported the law. Right after that happened I remember talking to some of the smaller members of the Internet Association who were absolutely livid about the situation, and how they felt that Facebook and IA completely threw them under the bus to cement Facebook's own position in the market.

With the fight over 230 heating up again it looks like a bunch of those companies have decided not to make the same mistake again. They've started a new organization, called Internet.Works to advocate on issues around 230. The coalition is made up of a bunch of important and successful internet companies, all of whom rely on Section 230, but who are not Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Apple. Instead, it's Automattic (the WordPress guys), Cloudflare, Dropbox, eBay, Etsy, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Medium, Nextdoor, Patreon, Pinterest, Reddit, Snap, TripAdvisor, Vimeo, and Wikimedia.

The organization is clearly set up to be a counterbalance to Facebook's ability to completely undermine 230 for everyone else:

“These well-known internet companies and nonprofits launched Internet Works to elevate the voice of stakeholders across the digital economy and work with policymakers to preserve the benefits of Section 230, the foundational internet law that enables the United States to lead the world in innovation and robust job growth in the technology sector,” said Josh Ackil, Spokesperson for Internet Works. “Internet Works members rely on CDA 230 to make their platforms safe for users and support free expression. This coalition brings new voices and diverse perspectives to Washington’s current Section 230 debate, which too often focuses on the largest internet platforms.”

Internet Works and its members represent different corners of the Internet ecosystem, and rely heavily on Section 230 to act responsibly to protect users and compete in their respective markets. In working with policymakers in Washington, the coalition will work to preserve the benefits of Section 230 for consumers and the internet ecosystem and promote the competition, diversity, and user choice in technology and services that this provision provides.

The group has also put out a "myths & facts about Section 230" document that is quite good and acts as a much less snarky version of my 230 myth debunker.

MYTH: Section 230 primarily helps large social media platforms.

FACT: Section 230 protects internet sites and users by providing a legal basis for organizations of all shapes and sizes to moderate content. It prevents internet service providers (ISPs), internet sites of all sizes, and users from being held liable for objectionable content posted by other users. Section 230 doesn't just apply to social media platforms.

It also protects online services that provide volunteer community moderation, such as message boards, as well as other organizations including PTAs, schools and libraries. Without the protection Section 230 provides, many of these organizations could face crippling lawsuits over user-posted content.

Unfortunately, only the largest corporations or organizations could withstand the possible wave of litigation over user-posted content which could occur if Section 230 is weakened or repealed.

The group does say that it supports "a unified approach to reform" which has had some worried that they were caving in as well, but the group is saying all the right things regarding the important benefits of 230. And it's (stupidly and unfortunately) probably necessary for them to say they're open to reform to even get a seat at the table. This is, of course, dumb that they have to say that, but because all of DC has decided (incorrectly) that 230 is the problem, not admitting that is being (falsely) seen as evidence that you're "not willing to discuss."

An article in Bloomberg notes that basically the rest of the internet industry is pissed off at Facebook and recognizes the company's willingness to throw the open internet under the bus to maintain its market position (while also claiming to be "responsive" to Congress's misplaced anger).

There is “a real myopia among legislators of only thinking of Facebook and Google” as they consider bills to address online hosting, said Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a policy group. “That is a real concern for smaller websites and applications, because they do not have the resources these larger companies do.”

It will be worth watching what happens with this new coalition, but it's important that their voices get heard by those in Congress (and the media) who keep insisting that Section 230 only benefits Google and Facebook.

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Filed Under: 230 reform, coalition, fosta, intermediary liability, section 230
Companies: facebook, internet association, internet works


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 11:53am

    Coalition Members

    Automattic (the WordPress guys), Cloudflare, Dropbox, eBay, Etsy, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Medium, Nextdoor, Patreon, Pinterest, Reddit, Snap, TripAdvisor, Vimeo, and Wikimedia.

    No Discord?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:13pm

      Re: Coalition Members

      Or Wix??

      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, 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:24pm

      Re: Coalition Members

      Cloudflare

      Isn't that the company that decided unilaterally to take down an imageboard because they disagreed with the content?

      Why are they supporting this coalition? Seems to me that they already have the censorship regime in place.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Re: Coalition Members

        You mean 8chan/8kun?

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:31pm

        Isn't that the company that decided unilaterally to take down an imageboard because they disagreed with the content?

        Yes, I can’t imagine why a service provider like Cloudflare would have a problem with a site known for allowing practically any kind of content — including CSAM — and refusing to moderate that content at all~.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re: Coalition Members

        My memory seems to be acting up a bit, could you remind me what imageboard that might have been and what content they might have 'disagreed' with?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 5:48pm

        Re: Re: Coalition Members

        Decided to take down...

        They are under no obligation to provide services to assholes, especially assholes of questionable legality.

        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, 29 Dec 2020 @ 10:41am

          Re: Re: Re: Coalition Members

          They are under no obligation to provide services to assholes,

          Should check your provider then, considering your tone.

          especially assholes of questionable legality.

          So says the users of a site that openly disparages political elite, many video game companies, tech in general, the police, big pharma, Monsanto, etc..... I'm sure someone would love your site to go down for your user's comments / content too.

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

      • icon
        wereisjessicahyde (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 10:17pm

        Re: Re: Coalition Members

        They didn't "take down" an imageboard, they refused to serve said imageboard. As they have the right to do.

        There's a big difference.

        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, 29 Dec 2020 @ 11:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Coalition Members

          Nice word play. Here have some more:

          They didn't "take down" Techdirt, they refused to serve Techdirt. As they have the right to do so.

          The whole point of revoking 230 is to encourage online companies to silence their users by making said companies legally liable for their user's content. Cloudflare's nervousness about the imageboard giving them negative PR, finally caused Cloudflare to pull their services from the imageboard. I.e. Cloudflare did the very thing that is encouraged by revoking 230 for simple PR reasons. Now imagine what companies like Cloudflare will do if they become legally liable for the sites they serve. Legal liability is a much greater issue for companies than negative PR. I'd imagine Cloudflare would quickly exit the market entirely given their previous behavior.

          Of course the issue with free speech is that those who defend it must always defend the "worst" of us to do so. As it's never about whether or not politically / socially / correct speech is allowed, but speech that society deems "undesirable."

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

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 30 Dec 2020 @ 9:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Coalition Members

            Reality check for the deliberately lying purple AC:

            Back in the real world, the image board would be even less-hosted without 230 than with it, due to hosts' newfound liability for or the board's content being far more burdensome than some dipshits' butthurt at its disappearance.

            See what happened when Stormfront intentionally sought out hosts in countries where its content was illegal to fuel its persecution complex.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:12pm

    GoDaddy

    I get why GoDaddy supports section 230 (hard to host websites when you are liable for the all content) but it's worth remembering they supported SOPA.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 3:39pm

      Re: GoDaddy

      Yes, though basically it's an entirely new company now. Almost the entire senior exec staff has since changed. The company has some good people there now.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Re: GoDaddy

        Good for them.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 5:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: GoDaddy

          Good for them... at the moment. But remember that the wheel turns, and in a few years they may have yet a different set of execs.

          Much the same reason that laws need to be crafted (carefully) rather than relying on <the current president>'s executive orders.

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

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:14pm

    An article in Bloomberg notes that basically the rest of the internet industry is pissed off at Facebook and recognizes the company's willingness to throw the open internet under the bus to maintain its market position (while also claiming to be "responsive" to Congress's misplaced anger).

    We have already seen that Facebook doesn't want to compete in an open internet. Just look at their closed system "internet" that was offered in India for a time to try to get people to sign up for a "free" internet service that only went to Facebook sites.

    What was that old saying, "Too big to compete, legislate instead".

    Facebook is just trying to lock up the market so that there is Facebook and only Facebook.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 12:21pm

    False premise

    seen as evidence that you're "not willing to discuss."

    That's the whole game right there. They've decided to repeal 230, and it's not up for debate.

    Says a lot about our politicians when they are the ones deciding what changes to the law are up for debate / reform. Instead of the public.

    The default position for any member of the public faced with this situation should be to call out the politicians for what they are: Dictators. Regardless of issue. Remind them that the public controls congress. If the public wants to debate an issue, congress' job is to shut up and take notes.

    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), 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:02pm

      Re: False premise

      Says a lot about our politicians when they are the ones deciding what changes to the law are up for debate / reform. Instead of the public.

      Section 230 reform had gained a lot of public popularity in recent years, up from zero percent, to whatever it is now. The morally ugly position of the internet censors has taken its toll. There is now considerable support to prevent tech companies from being both a publisher and a platform simultaneously, and the politicians are reflecting that.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        Good grief...

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:55pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        shut up, Meg

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 28 Dec 2020 @ 2:43pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        Section 230 reform had gained a lot of public popularity in recent years, up from zero percent, to whatever it is now.

        Well, if politicians and people like you keep lying on what section 230 really is you can always get some people to believe in the lies.

        The morally ugly position of the internet censors has taken its toll.

        Is it morally ugly to moderate hate-speech, racism, lies and subjects you don't agree with?

        There is now considerable support to prevent tech companies from being both a publisher and a platform simultaneously, and the politicians are reflecting that.

        "Considerable"? It's more like a few technological illiterates screaming about something they don't want to understand, plus they don't really like the 1st amendment. Complete idiots the lot of them.

        All I hear from people like you is how butthurt you are that you aren't allowed to spew your shit on someone else's property and want to wield the government to do something about it.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 3:25pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        Does Koby == Mason Wheeler?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 5:51pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        I think the demagogues dragging their sheeple around by their noses has more to do with it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 2:46pm

      Re: False premise

      They decided to repeal 230 but can not agree on how to repeal 230.

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

      • icon
        Jan Bobrowicz (profile), 29 Dec 2020 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re: False premise

        They decided to repeal 230 but can not agree on how to repeal 230.

        That won't stop them.

        Look at Brexit: same thing happened, did it anyway.

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 29 Dec 2020 @ 1:24pm

        Re: Re: False premise

        It seems to me that if people want to repeal a law for exactly opposite and contradictory reasons, that suggests that the law is a decent compromise between the two opposing positions.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:24pm

    Interesting way to

    Force a monopoly.
    And does anyone think this happened in the past.
    regulations to restrict a market?
    Or The Corps afford to Buy them out?
    Which is easier?

    "Section 230 protects internet sites and users by providing a legal basis for organizations of all shapes and sizes to moderate content."

    There is something abit OPEN about this statement.
    "MODERATE CONTENT"
    Think it was Portal, went to court, because they Moderated the comments, and LOST. Only because they Didnt allow everyone to say/do anything they wanted.

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/09/isps-dont-have-1st-amendment-right-to-edit-inter net-fcc-tells-court/
    ISPs don’t have 1st Amendment right to edit Internet, FCC tells court

    The end problem is what happens IF' you let anything/everything Stand as Printed?
    Its still happening, spamming. Bots roaming around finding ways into Forums and Blasting everything in 30 seconds or less.

    Do you think FB moderates? MSN? Google? Any of the larger Net systems?
    What about those sites that allow comments on their Food/products/goods? And there is a small line about NO BAD COMMENTS OR A $200 FINE?
    (isnt that against the law, YEP)

    So, if we/People/customers/Clients/all of us have the RIGHT to post anything we want, and IT CANT BE ERASED. does Copyright/RIAA/MPAA or any other Major corp have any rights to Sue us? IF' this is placed as PART of freedom of speech, they Should NOT have any ability to SUE.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 2:06pm

      Re: Interesting way to

      https://law.jrank.org/pages/23335/Zeran-v-America-Online-Inc-Significance.html#:~:text=(1995)%20the% 20court%20ruled%20against%20the%20ISP%2C%20Prodigy.&text=Section%20230%20of%20the%20act,solely%2 0on%20the%20original%20authors.

      The first case addressing Internet Service Provider (ISP) liability for third-party posted defamation statements was Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc. in 1991. However, that case involved a known author and the service provider, CompuServe, won its case by claiming lack of editorial control, hence no liability for the particular messages. Then, in Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy Services, Inc. (1995) the court ruled against the ISP, Prodigy. Because Prodigy placed some controls over what could be posted on its system, the court considered Prodigy a publisher and, therefore, responsible for the content of posted statements. The Stratton decision sent shock waves through the Internet industry and potentially set the stage for considerable online defamation lawsuits.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 2:19pm

      Re: Interesting way to

      So, if we/People/customers/Clients/all of us have the RIGHT to post anything we want, and IT CANT BE ERASED.

      The hecklers will exercise their veto, and turn the whole Internet into 8KUN, and then each one will complain that they are the only person left on the Internet who is not an arsehole.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 1:53pm

    'Please don't throw us into that briar patch...'

    There is “a real myopia among legislators of only thinking of Facebook and Google” as they consider bills to address online hosting, said Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a policy group. “That is a real concern for smaller websites and applications, because they do not have the resources these larger companies do.”

    Which is really the ultimate irony in the whole thing, in that time and time again the big bad Big Tech companies held up as reasons to cripple or get rid of 230 are the same ones that will benefit the most from that happening.

    Honestly you almost have to hope that the politicians are 'just' being bought and led around on leashes by the companies in question because the alternative has them as such colossal idiots that there's no telling how much damage they can and will cause 'with the best of intentions'.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 2:38pm

    If Reddit wants to act like it’s a good guy, then it’s going to have to start acting like it. Last I checked, the site twiddled their thumbs while r/The_Donald festered, gave the subreddit enough time to get organized to move most of their operations off to another site, and then Reddit pulled the plug on it when it was basically an empty shell that was no longer profitable. They’re going to have to work double-time to show that they actually care about the freedom to moderate content that Section 230 gives them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 4:01pm

    Is this good or bad for us??

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

  • icon
    NaBUru38 (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 5:58pm

    Automattic, Cloudflare, Dropbox, eBay, Etsy, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Medium, Nextdoor, Patreon, Pinterest, Reddit, Snap, TripAdvisor and Vimeo are very defintely big tech.

    The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit that operates an educational website.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 6:03pm

      Re:

      Is Wix big tech??

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Dec 2020 @ 6:55pm

      Those companies aren’t “Big Tech” in that they’re one of the Big Five (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft), whose combined power in the tech sector practically runs all of it. Amazon rules online shopping, Apple and Microsoft make the operating systems that run an overwhelming majority of computers, Facebook rules social media, and Google rules both search and online video. Aside from maybe Cloudflare and GoDaddy, can any of the companies on that list claim they have anything even close to a similar-yet-still-lesser level of power and fame/notoriety within the tech sector as the Big Five?

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 29 Dec 2020 @ 9:49am

      Re:

      If those companies are all "big tech" then "big tech" has no meaning at all.

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


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