Free Speech

Nancy Pelosi Declares a 'New Era' of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same

Nancy Pelosi wants to gut Section 230

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We've all been watching this develop for years now: The internet is being slow-choked, not by rapacious ISPs forcing users to pay for "fast lanes," but by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who want to have a bigger role in what we're allowed to do and say online. To be sure, lawmakers are being greatly aided in their efforts by major tech players such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook, who are explicitly calling for regulation to maintain current market positions in a sector defined by creative destruction (all hail MySpace and Blackberry!).

In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) pronounced that in the tech sector, the "era of self-regulation" is over when it comes to privacy and speech rules. Sounding a lot like conservative Republicans such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, she zeroes in especially on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as the thing that needs to be torched.

As the title of a new book puts it, Section 230 comprises "the twenty-six words that created the internet." Author Jeff Kosseff explains that by immunizing websites, platforms, and service providers from "lawsuits over materials that their users upload," Section 230 "fundamentally changed American life." Indeed, the internet as we know it is based on both "content created not only by large companies, but by users," writes Kosseff, who observes that of the top 10 most-trafficked websites in the United States in 2018, only Netflix "mostly provides its own content." All the rest—Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, et al.—either rely heavily on user-generated content (including potentially actionable reviews and comments about everything under the sun) or exist to guide users to such content (Google, Yahoo).

Pelosi is done with all that, telling Swisher that the freedom of expression empowered by Section 230 is "a gift" and a "privilege" that can be rescinded if major tech companies don't move in the direction she and other politicians want. She frets over companies such as Facebook and Twitter buying up app makers and other services without explaining themselves to regulators. "Is this just commerce and they see a market opportunity and decide to take it on?" says Pelosi. "Or are they in competition with each other, buying something before somebody else doesn't buy it and then all of a sudden, three or four firms dominate the marketplace and engines of search and the rest of that?"

"For the privilege of 230," Pelosi warns, "there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed."

Like many Democrats, Pelosi remains convinced that Facebook helped to throw the election to Donald Trump by not regulating political advertising tightly enough and providing a space for the Russians to practice dark arts (the idea that Russian social media changed the outcome of the election is simply wrong). On top of that, liberals and progressives are calling for more policing of whatever they define as "hate speech."

The motivations might be slightly different than those on the right—who accuse Facebook, et al. of limiting the reach and popularity of conservative figures and opinion due to ideological bias—but the endpoint is the same: a repeal of Section 230. "Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves," Sen. Hawley told a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). "They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell conservatives to sit down and shut up." What Pelosi calls a gift, Hawley calls "a sweetheart deal" that should be ended by enforcing some sort of viewpoint equality on social-media platforms. Cruz has effectively called for the repeal of Section 230 and the implementation of something like a Fairness Doctrine for the internet. During a debate last year with former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) during the 2018 elections, Cruz said

"Right now, big tech enjoys an immunity from liability on the assumption they would be neutral and fair… If they're not going to be neutral and fair, if they're going to be biased, we should repeal the immunity from liability so they should be liable like the rest of us."

It's not at all clear what it means to say "they should be liable like the rest of us," since publishers have the absolute right not to publish things and, under existing precedent, sites have the right to moderate some comments without becoming liable for the ones they allow to remain. But it's never a good sign when conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats start sounding like one another. Throw in President Trump's recent statement that we need to "do something" about social media sites, and the only safe conclusion is that Section 230 is in real danger. And with it, the internet as we've known it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union (E.U.) has approved "The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market" whose Article 13 mandates that

anyone sharing copyrighted content must get permission from rights owners—or at least have made the best possible effort to get permission—before doing so. In order to do this, it's thought that internet services and social networks will have no choice but to build and enforce upload filters and generally apply a more heavy-handed approach to moderating what users post online.

Another part of the law, Article 11, is effectively a link tax "requiring social networks and news aggregators to pay publishers to display snippets of their output." Once the rules are officially published later this year, all E.U. members will have 24 months to write and implement their national versions of the law. It's possible (likely, even) that there will be more push and pull on the rules before they are finally implemented, but there's no question that as currently constituted, they will change the character of the internet.

NEXT: His Wife Was Killed in Afghanistan. Then ICE Showed Up To Deport Him.

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  1. Government has no business regulating the free flow of goods and services and ideas and information in ways of which they don’t approve, they should only be regulating the free flow of goods and services and ideas and information in ways of which I don’t approve.

    1. Government should certainly regulate, ban, criminalize and suppress any form of inappropriate “parody” that risks damaging a reputation. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

      https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  2. “Like many Democrats, Pelosi remains convinced that Facebook helped to throw the election to Donald Trump by not regulating political advertising tightly enough and providing a space for the Russians to practice dark arts (the idea that Russian social media changed the outcome of the election is simply wrong).”

    Just wait until the full Mueller Report is released. I have no doubt everything Democrats have been saying about Russia for the past 2 or 3 years will be proved correct.

    1. She thinks Trump won via gaming the Internet. Therefore Trump must be empowered to regulate the Internet. Got it.

      “Aaargh! Trump has too much power, someone give the president more power!”

    2. “Just wait until the full Mueller Report is released. I have no doubt everything Democrats have been saying about Russia for the past 2 or 3 years will be proved correct.”

      Lame, even for you.

    3. You are getting really fucking boring. Time to take your shtick somewhere else — did you consider my suggestion to do late night comedy or maybe NPR?

  3. Do you want more dark web? Because this is how you get more dark web.

    1. Well put. I believe that mesh networks and encrypted devices will play their part, just as killing Napster unleashed far more peer-to-peer IP copying than Napster could have dreamed of. Unpaid programmers will create the new peer-to-peer facebook and its ilk, with no one to pay attention to the new anti-230 diktats. The EU will play even less a role in it than they did with internet 1.0.

      Don’t know what will replace google other than some peer-to-peer cleverness, but it sure won’t be google. They have chosen to lie with the anti-230 crowd and that will be their doom. They will fence off corporate internet 1.0 and will slowly suffocate. Ordinary people will use 230-less net 1.0 for Amazon or dmv.gov, and peer-to-peer net 2.0 for everything else.

      1. And if push comes to a big shove, an ultrawide area wireless network could be implemented. I.e. shortwave radio.

      2. Kind of a return to BBS sites like we had in the ’80s?

        /get off of my lawn

        1. And I’m totally ok with more dark web.

        2. No, not really. The nodes have a lot more power, and with mesh networks, each node finds neighbors to pass on external requests. There would certainly be a lot of people with standard (and getting better) broadband, it doesn’t rely on wireless, but a lot of people would run mesh nodes on their broadband, and the end-to-end encryption means no one can tell what it is or who sent it or where it’s going. Decentralized and a lot harder to control.

      3. Slight disagreement.

        TL,DR; 1.0 vs. 2.0 and with/without 230 is too narrow a conceptualization.

        There are already a number of other non-mesh, ‘230-less’ systems in place and in wide use. Google, for better or for worse, has rather concretely demonstrated that centralization and control can and does maximize performance. It’s not entirely clear if and how you would get similar levels of performance at scale from networks that are largely absent centralized control. I strongly suspect that you’ll eventually see a further breakdown or federation along strictly functional lines and an eventual progression (naturally) towards something more like what NN advocates advertised.

        1. I simplified. What matters is that the stuff the ctrl-left wants to control is not cat videos or Trump speeches, but textual; and that fits well into a decentralized encrypted mesh network. Let Disney block uploads of their movies; they will quickly discover how much of their traffic they just strangled.

  4. I think it is important to point out the distinction that Cruz thinks the social media companies are abusing section 230 in order to execute an editorial bias and limit content. Pelosi thinks they are abusing section 230 by not exercising an editorial bias and deleting content enough.

    1. Pelosi’s dream is a world where only her corrupt communist narrative is allowed to exist. Just another reason to dispose of our progtards.

  5. “On top of that, liberals and progressives are calling for more policing of whatever they define as ‘hate speech.’”

    Hate speech regulation is appealing for us Koch / Reason libertarians as well. We should consider defining all opposition to open borders as hate speech, since it’s an inherently racist view.

    See also Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky’s Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America.

    1. No one here says that. But nice strawman, hope it doesn’t trigger your allergies.

  6. Like many Democrats, Pelosi remains convinced that Facebook helped to throw the election to Donald Trump by not regulating political advertising tightly enough and providing a space for the Russians to practice dark arts

    LOL.

    1. The power is unimaginable. Six figures worth of ads had the ability to bring down a campaign funded to the tune of nearly a billion dollars

      1. Yes, it’s like that oh-so-common case of the bureaucrat who claims he knew nothing, in which case he should be held responsible for not doing his job. She lost because her campaign was incompetent either way: she either had the wrong goals, or her goals were so off target that a joke of a campaign derailed hers.

      2. And it’s not like that well funded candidate was incredibly unlikeable or anything.

    2. A lich complaining about the dark arts. Now that’s funny.

      1. Do not insult Liches.

    3. Who knew that Harry Potter was political satire? Nancy Pelosi is exactly like Delores Umbridge. It’s all for the protection of the children, right up until the children piss her off. Then it’s Crucio! for all those little bastards.

    4. When Obama used his understanding of the power of social media to whip up a groundswell of grassroots support to beat her on the cheap, he was a visionary and hip, and revolutionizing political campaign strategies.

      When the Russians did the same thing because she didn’t learn anything, they hacked the election.

  7. The motivations might be slightly different than those on the right—who accuse Facebook, et al. of limiting the reach and popularity of conservative figures and opinion due to ideological bias—but the endpoint is the same: a repeal of Section 230. “Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,”

    I would say the fundamental difference here is conservatives seem to be pimping a form of Net Neutrality for the big tech companies rather than clamping down on unpopular speech. I agree that the end result is essentially the same, but the motivations seem slightly less evil than that of the Democrats.

    Hopefully neither sentiment (no matter how evil or benign) will ever see the regulatory light of day. But I feel that conservatives can at least be reasoned with in this particular regard, where Democrats just want everyone they don’t like to shut up.

    1. The problem with what the GOP wants to do is will it have the effect they intend. The problem with the Democrat proposal is the effect they intend.

      1. Like Net Neutrality, it absolutely won’t have the effect they intend. Telling companies what they can and can’t carry, and by what percentage or how much can only be used for evil in the end.

      2. The problem with what the GOP wants to do is will it have the effect they intend. The problem with the Democrat proposal is the effect they intend.

        Disagree. The problem with the GOP option is “Will ‘The Public’ abuse it?” The problem with the Democrat proposal is that it repeals 230 and they fully intend to abuse any notion of a Fairness Doctrine.

        While I agree with the general idea of what Cruz is suggesting, I think he needs only look at the 1 and 2A, Title IX, Commerce Clause, Antifa, etc. to see how naive he’s being. The 9th Circuit will “Thanks you sir! May I have another?” to any Fairness Doctrine the GOP concocts.

  8. Nancy Pelosi wants censorship on the internet?
    Gee, who would’ve thought that?

  9. The US and EU need more immigration.

    1. If they don’t watch out people will be immigrating to Africa and Asia to escape Western Civ’s descent into nannyism.

  10. On top of that, liberals and progressives are calling for more policing of whatever they define as “hate speech.”

    Of course there’s no such thing and the Supreme Court agrees with me and not you, you wrinkled old gas bag .

  11. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pronounced that in the tech sector, the “era of self-regulation” is over when it comes to privacy and speech rules.

    Congress shall pass no law…..

    1. Google, Facebook, etc. currently operate under a free pass that was based on NOT moderating content on the assumption that it was not technically possible for them to do so. Technology has changed, and they most certainly DO moderate content, have positions and bias’, and act as editors of content.

      As a result, these internet giants now have the ability to edit and opine, without the responsibility that usually accompanies it.

      A reasonable change to Section 230 would be to eliminate this loophole. If you moderate and/or edit, you lose the immunity provided under Section 230 now, if you do NOT moderate and/or edit, you retain it.

      Thus, the incentive for Google, and Facebook would be to stop attempting to censor content to avoid liability. This is consistent with the original intent of Section 230. Internet sites like Reason, The Blaze, Newsmax, HuffPo, The Hill, etc. would be treated like newspapers.

  12. What will the name the agency that regulates the internet? “Thought Police”? “Ministry of Truth”? “CNN”?

    1. It will be an agency so powerful that it doesn’t have a name. Just a rumor whispered nervously in dark corners.

      1. Kltpzyxm

    2. Department of trigger warnings and public safety

      Dept of think about the children

      Internal Pearl Clutching Administration

      National Somebody Do Something Administration

      The National Administration of free thought and truth enforcement.

    3. Ministry of Fairness

      Ministry of GoodThink

      Ministry of Feelz

  13. If there is anything we should have learned to fear by now it is bipartisan support.

    The fact that “Both” parties and the EU are attacking the same freedoms from different fronts should send shivers down the spine of anyone with an IQ above room temp. Regardless of your political persuasion this wont end well. But at least people will feel safe.

  14. It will be an agency so powerful that it doesn’t have a name. Just a rumor whispered nervously in dark corners.

    1. Hey, everybody! The squirrels are back!

  15. Pelosi is done with all that, telling Swisher that the freedom of expression empowered by Section 230 is “a gift” and a “privilege” that can be rescinded if major tech companies don’t move in the direction she and other politicians want.

    Awesome, can’t wait.

  16. peer to peer and decentralized platforms will begin to spring up until they too become the targets of regulation most because of “wrongthink”

    1. Become? Maybe you missed the part where the crackdown began in earnest with a P2P music filesharing application?

  17. Fuck you Pelosi.

    You’re a piece of shit.

    fuck off loser

    1. Pretty doubtful she’d know there *was* an internet if she didn’t have a staff.

      1. Al Gore schooled her after he fucked her silly

  18. BTW:
    “Wonder Boy Pete Buttigieg is a gay Harvard alum, fluent in Gramsci,…”
    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/pete-buttigieg-2020-presidential-campaign.html

    And probably a fan, since Ds tend to focus on failed econ ideology.

  19. On top of that, liberals and progressives are calling for more policing of whatever they define as “hate speech.”

    Defined as anything at the slightest variance with the myopic world view of leftists. What could go wrong?

  20. On top of that, liberals and progressives are calling for more policing of whatever they define as “hate speech.”

    ===
    Here is some ‘hate speech’ for the libTards and progTards

    Fuck off libTards and progTards, I hate your ideology.

  21. I can’t believe a) Americans gave the House to these idiots and b) then the idiots put this idiot as Speaker.

  22. Anything other than recognizing and declaring the internet a public place will lead to fascism and inevitably civil war.

  23. The amount of fake news and “hate speech” facebook and similar sites would have to remove every day as mandated by some misguided regulation would be prodigious. Users will feel burned out if their social media sites constantly flag, remove, or demonetize their content.

    I don’t know what Zuckerburg is thinking.

    1. He thinks that Facebook has enough money to do it, and the massive cost will prevent him from ever having a competitor.

  24. Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Censorship;
    There Reason, I fixed your headline for you.
    Damn, it was a lot easier when you could just burn books!

  25. I am blown away that a student able to earn $5519 in a few weeks on the internet…. So I started—>> http://www.Geosalary.com

  26. The fact that Pelosi can’t differentiate between business as usual and anti-competitive practices in spite of previously existing, burdensome regulation, proves that political offices should have work requirements. Anyone not employed in the private sector for at least 10 years should be ineligible to serve.

  27. “Right now, big tech enjoys an immunity from liability on the assumption they would be neutral and fair… If they’re not going to be neutral and fair, if they’re going to be biased, we should repeal the immunity from liability so they should be liable like the rest of us.”

    The problem is when you have Democrats saying these sites have a right-wing bias, and Republicans saying they have left-wing bias, that just shows that the government is itself too biased to be trusted as an arbiter of what’s neutral and fair

  28. Pelosi wants to gut 230 and we don’t want her to gut 230. So let’s compromise and just gut Pelosi instead

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  30. […] The internet is being slow-choked, not by rapacious ISPs forcing users to pay for “fast lanes,” but by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who want to have a bigger role in what we’re allowed to do and say online. To be sure, lawmakers are being greatly aided in their efforts by major tech players such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook, who are explicitly calling for regulation to maintain current market positions in a sector defined by creative destruction (all hail MySpace and Blackberry!).Click here for the article. […]

  31. All the discussion about “freedom” and limiting the web is misplaced in the conversation.

    I HATE to admit it, but at some level Pelosi has a valid point..

    The Washington Post, is responsible for the content it publishes. It edits the print version, and it moderates the online version. It has positions and bias’ that are protected as free speech, BUT is also responsible for the content it publishes.

    Google, Facebook, etc. currently operate under a free pass that was based on NOT moderating content on the assumption that it was not technically possible for them to do so. Technology as changed, and they most certainly DO moderate content, have positions and bias’, and act as editors of content.

    As a result, these internet giants now have the ability to edit and opine, without the responsibility that usually accompanies it.

    A reasonable change to Section 230 would be to eliminate this loophole. If you moderate and/or edit, you lose the immunity provided under Section 230 now, it you do NOT moderate and/or edit, you retain it.

    Thus, the incentive for Google, and Facebook would be to stop attempting to censor content to avoid liability. This is consistent with the original intent of Section 230. Internet sites like Reason, The Blaze, Newsmax, HuffPo, The Hill, etc. would be treated like newspapers.

  32. […] “Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same,&#8… by Nick Gillespie […]

  33. […] “Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Period’ of Web Regulation; E.U. Threatens Similar,&#… by Nick Gillespie […]

  34. […] “Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same,&#8… by Nick Gillespie […]

  35. […] “Nancy Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same,&#8… by Nick Gillespie […]

  36. […] Nick Gillespie, Reason (conservatives, liberals on Capitol Hill both turning against Section 230). And Eric Goldman has […]

  37. […] Pelosi Declares a ‘New Era’ of Internet Regulation; E.U. Threatens Same,” by Nick Gillespie, Reason, April 16, […]

  38. […] Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) are threatening to regulate online speech and to end to the internet as we’ve known it by gutting Section 230 of the […]

  39. […] Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) are threatening to regulate online speech and to end to the internet as we’ve known it by gutting Section 230 of the […]

  40. […] threatened crackdowns by Republicans and Democrats and European Union bureaucrats and cave-ins by tech giants trying to […]

  41. […] threatened crackdowns by Republicans and Democrats and European Union bureaucrats and cave-ins by tech giants trying to […]

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