Section 230

Section 230's Latest Attacker: The Justice Department

A new DOJ proposal aims to bring the internet communications law in line with Trump's personal interpretation of it.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted to Congress draft legislation that could obliterate legal protections for internet companies and their users. The proposal takes broad aim at Section 230, a (widely misrepresented) law that helps protect First Amendment rights across the internet while also protecting private companies and individuals that want to filter out certain types of content.

Passed in 1996, Section 230 has been under obsessive attack from both Democrats and Republicans for at least the past decade, and especially in recent years, as online ideas, speech, and content became more and more decentralized and less gatekept. Politicians on both sides have proposed actions aimed at incrementally chipping away at the law's protections. But this new Justice Department draft legislation strikes at Section 230's very heart in a number of ways.

If the DOJ gets its way, private web service providers—think: social media, video platforms, consumer review sites, online marketplaces, petition and crowdfunding services, dating apps, newspaper comment sections, blogging platforms, private message-boards, and so much more—and the people who use those services could be punished for attempts to filter out objectionable content.

Under the DOJ proposal, employees and users of online services could only "restrict access to" content if "the provider or user has an objective reasonable belief" that a specific piece of content "violates its terms of service or use" or falls into one of a few categories. While the DOJ doesn't provide an example of content that is currently restricted but that would be unrestricted under the version of Section 230 it wants Congress to pass, it's possible the new language is meant to appease prominent Republicans who believe popular social media platforms have arbitrarily banned conservatives and that politics-based content moderation shouldn't be allowed.

As it stands now, a web platform's "terms of service or use" have no bearing on Section 230 protection—although President Donald Trump acted as if they did in a recent executive order concerning Twitter. Despite what Trump suggested, Twitter doesn't (yet) risk losing Section 230 protection if it can't prove that every single suppressed tweet was treated in strict accordance with a specific plank of its terms of service.

It seems the Justice Department is now pushing to revise federal law to conform the law itself to the president's (currently erroneous) interpretation of Section 230.

In a section titled "GOOD FAITH," the DOJ draft legislation says that a service provider would benefit from Section 230 protections only if its terms of service "state plainly and with particularity the criteria the service provider employs in its content-moderation practices," and only so long as the company did "not restrict access to or availability of material on deceptive or pretextual grounds," among other things.

These proposals fly in the face of the main problem Section 230 was created to address, which was the "moderator's dilemma." In trying to filter out any content created or uploaded by users, a digital service risked becoming legally liable for whatever defamation, obscenity, or otherwise illegal content it allowed through. Without Section 230 protections, a digital service like Facebook or Twitter would be better off filtering no user content, for any reason, or dedicating a vast amount of resources to vetting essentially all user content and only allowing the most anodyne through.

Neither option is desirable, which is why Section 230's first part declares that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider"—i.e., Facebook is not automatically responsible for your speech, and you're not automatically responsible for the speech of every other Facebook user.

Section 230's second part—the "Good Samaritan" clause—says that neither internet services nor their users will lose this protection over attempts "to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable."

These two protections mean that a service provider can host a forum for another person without necessarily being responsible for what that person says in the forum, and that the service provider can restrict some of what gets said in the forum it owns without taking on liability for forum content it doesn't remove or restrict.

The DOJ revision to Section 230, however, would take away many of a digital services options for "restrict[ing] access to or availability of material." In the DOJ's preferred legal framework, content filtering and moderation can only be done if a service provider or user "has an objective reasonable belief" that a specific piece of content "violates its terms of service or use," or "has an objectively reasonable belief" that the content is "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, promoting terrorism or violent extremism, harassing, promoting self-harm, or unlawful or otherwise objectionable." [Bolding mine, strikethrough the DOJ's.]

At first glance, this appears to expand the scope of content that's allowed to be filtered out. But it actually narrows it, replacing the much broader "objectionable" with "unlawful."

The DOJ revision would also insert a vague new standard that content moderation be based on "objective reasonable belief," which is a phrase so unspecific and debatable that it would likely spur endless litigation.

If Congress adopts DOJ's recommendations, expect to see features that help individual users control their internet experience dwindle (you blocking someone for a non-federally-approved reason could cost Twitter big time!), coupled with a serious ramping up of what is prohibited by companies' terms of service. The end result will almost certainly be less user content on the wider web and an ever-growing list of rules governing what we can say to and share with each other online.

The DOJ proposal doesn't just strike at the ability to filter out bad content, however. It also takes away certain Section 230 protections if illegal content does make it through moderation filters, or if a company is deemed to "promote, solicit, or facilitate" content or activity that is determined to be illegal. You can find the DOJ's full proposed changes—which are numerous and beyond the scope of this post—here.

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Section 230 Department of Justice First Amendment Legislation Technology policy Trump Administration Congress Technology Internet Social Media Law enforcement Free Speech

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144 responses to “Section 230's Latest Attacker: The Justice Department

  1. Tough shit. Die Twitter.

    1. So much this.

      1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…FCd after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

        Here’s what I do…>> Click here

    2. Can’t out-compete Twitter (how’s Parler doing, anyway?), so get government to destroy the competition on your behalf. Brilliant!

      1. Just hold Twitter civilly or criminally liable for any libel, slander, tortious interference, or incitement to violence they publish and we’re fine. Just like the NY Times would be liable for any of that.

        1. When Twitter has editors that must approve every tweet before it is disseminated, then you might have a point.

          Social media platforms are most akin to institutions like libraries. Librarians choose which books are in their collections, but the librarians themselves are not responsible for every single word in every single book – the books’ authors are. Librarians don’t grant permission to authors to write books, librarians only decide after the fact which books are in its collection.

          1. They have the editorial staff to police any non-leftist that crosses the line; they have clearly chosen NOT to police the left, and are thus responsible for letting that pass.

            1. So this is where you ignore what I write and just make bald assertions based on your feelings. Got it.

              Should libraries, even private libraries, be forced by the state to carry any book that any customer demands that they carry?

              1. Twitter has plenty of capability to censor the content they want to censor.
                If defamation or incitement is posted, then reported, and they take no action, which they are demonstrably capable of doing, why should they enjoy crony protection from suit?

                1. Should librarians be held responsible for the words in the books in the libraries?

                  1. Answer the question, pussy

                  2. Should librarians be held responsible for the words in the books in the libraries?

                    Your question is irrelevant, because the analogy is crap. Libraries don’t obtain books by having publishers put them on the shelves unsolicited, then wait for one or more patrons to lodge complaints about a book’s content before reviewing it and deciding whether or not to continue making it available.

                    But let’s assume that the analogy was apt, and you answer this question:

                    If a library acquires kiddie porn and puts it on its shelves and makes it available to the public, is it in trouble?

                    1. Kiddie porn is expressly illegal. We aren’t talking about expressly illegal content. That isn’t allowed under any standard, Section 230 or not.

                    2. No, Simple Simon…we’re talking about who is “held responsible” for content. You know, what I quoted from your own post.

                2. They really don’t. They catch a few things here and there, but there is no way Twitter can monitor the volume of tweets they get every day.

              2. Your analogy is wrong.
                Social media sites are not like libraries.
                Libraries are not constrained to provide a hands off platform for third party ongoing discourse.
                Social media sites are. Either they are publishers where they can be sued for objectionable material, or they are bulletin boards where they cannot. A library is neither.

          2. When Twitter has editors that must approve every tweet before it is disseminated, then you might have a point.

            Not really much of a new technology if you’re effectively just ‘newsprint with electrons’. Can’t actually innovate away any of the real complexities of human nature and free speech so seek protection from upstarts with the government, brilliant!

        2. The NYT isn’t responsible for anything – they peddle government propaganda, so they are untouchable.

      2. When a competitor pops up, just make sure they’re labeled as a ‘right wing platform’.

    3. I would not cry a single tear for Twitter. But these changes would also be a death knell for:
      – the comments sections here at Reason
      – the comments section at every other news, politics or other site
      – Reddit
      – usenet (yes, those are still around)
      – Amazon reviews
      – comments on my personal blog about information security
      – Yelp
      – gaming communities
      – my mother’s favorite quilting site
      – pretty much every other online community

      It will empower a few trolls to spam any site they like and force the site owner to either allow the site to be hijacked or shut down. It will inevitably become a form of a heckler’s veto for all online conversations more complicat.

      1. Better a centrally controlled and mostly one-sided conversation than risk of free conversation abused by bad actors?

        1. “Better a centrally controlled and mostly one-sided conversation…”

          That is EXACTLY what we’ll get if 230 is rescinded! Rule by lawyers! We will be allowed to post ONLY what the lawyers approve! And their approvals will cost us out the ass! The greedy bastards are NOT going to work for FREE!

          Nadless Nardzi the NAZI is WAAAAY too stupid to see this, though!

        2. Nadless Nardzi the NAZI fantasizes that the Ministry of Truth (under Der TrumpfenFuhrer) will flawlessly execute plans to squelch all thoughts that do NOT meet with the approval of Nadless Nardzi the NAZI!

          Then if-when Der BidenFuhrer (or other opponent of the DEEP thoughts of Nadless Nardzi the NAZI) takes over the Ministry of Truth, Nadless Nardzi the NAZI will cry like a cry-baby, “Boo-Hoo!”, with great outrage! If and when it happens, it is a sound that I will cherish!

          “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” is a thought that totally escapes ideologically blinded idiots!

        3. Nardz doesn’t realize that whatever rules the Republicans manage to establish to guarantee “fairness” on social media, the Democrats will eventually be in power and will use those same rules to guarantee what they see as “fairness”.

          1. The Ds will… remove crony government restrictions on people making their cases in court?

            1. That isn’t what Trump’s executive order on social media says. That’s some idea of yours, but not what the Republicans are trying to put in place.

      2. Not true.
        Most of those sites ARE publishers, where the admin has the legal right to edit and censor third parties opinions they are hosting.
        There is no §230 protection or constraint for them.

        1. ALL websites have the legal right to edit and “censor” and moderate third-party content they are hosting. And non-third party content, too.

      3. I would not cry a single tear for Twitter. But these changes would also be a death knell for:

        And if we don’t wear masks 2M people will die of COVID too. Get the fuck out of here with your alarmist bullshit.

      4. OMG! What if trolls shut down the internet and the government wasn’t there to protect it? What would we do?!?!? Nobody will be able to buy anything off the internet without being converted to Nazis!

    4. Dear Jesus! Here we go AGAIN!

      People with punishment boners MUST punish those who they dislike, no matter WHAT the costs of said punishment boners might be!

      PLEASE stop making ME pay (with MY freedom of speech!) for YOUR disproportionate and senseless punishment boner!

  2. An answer in search of a question.

    1. More like the last remaining section of a bad answer to a stupid question.

  3. Good. Go Trump!

  4. …so wait, how is this a BAD thing?

    “Platforms cannot filter out objectionable content without becoming publishers.”

    Well that’s just fine and dandy. It means that if a platform provider wants to restrict their platform to only those with “the right views”, they can’t. It doesn’t mean that a user can’t filter (by, say, pruning their friends list or only visiting sites they like), it means that the providers cannot pretend to be spaces for everyone to talk and then go back on that. If they want to do that, they can no longer dodge responsibility for what they allow (since the very act of filtering involves viewpoint bias); they’re now explicitly publishers.

    Good.

    1. So the government should force Twitter to allow the Nazis to tweet too, using their own resources? Is that it?

      There already is a social media platform that allows everyone to post whatever they want. Turns out, most users don’t want their social media feed to be an open sewer of racist garbage. That’s why platforms like Parler aren’t taking off.

      1. Free speech (freedom from “Cancel Culture”) comes from Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok, and Google, right? THAT is why we need to pass laws to prohibit these DANGEROUS companies (which, ugh!, the BASTARDS, put profits above people!)!!! We must pass new laws to retract “Section 230” and FORCE the evil corporations to provide us all (EXCEPT for my political enemies, of course!) with a “UBIFS”, a Universal Basic Income of Free Speech!

        So leftist “false flag” commenters will inundate Reason-dot-com with shitloads of PROTECTED racist comments, and then pissed-off readers and advertisers and buyers (of Reason magazine) will all BOYCOTT Reason! Any right-wing idiots like Damikesc will then FORCE people to support Reason, so as to nullify the attempts at boyotts! THAT is your ultimate authoritarian “fix” here!!!

        “Now, to “protect” Reason from this meddling here, are we going to REQUIRE readers and advertisers to support Reason, to protect Reason from boycotts?”
        Yup. Basically. Sounds rough. (Quote damikesc)
        (Etc.)
        See https://reason.com/2020/06/24/the-new-censors/#comments

        1. …I’ve been gone for a couple years, when did SQRLS go from “entertainingly kooky” to “Hihn-style crazy”?

          1. Do you recall the awesome enchanter named “Tim”, in “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail”? The one who could “summon fire without flint or tinder”? Well, you remind me of Tim… You are an enchanter who can summon persuasion without facts or logic!

            So I discussed your awesome talents with some dear personal friends on the Reason staff… Accordingly…

            Reason staff has asked me to convey the following message to you:

            Hi Fantastically Talented Author:

            Obviously, you are a silver-tongued orator, and you also know how to translate your spectacular talents to the written word! We at Reason have need for writers like you, who have near-magical persuasive powers, without having to write at great, tedious length, or resorting to boring facts and citations.

            At Reason, we pay above-market-band salaries to permanent staff, or above-market-band per-word-based fees to freelancers, at your choice. To both permanent staff, and to free-lancers, we provide excellent health, dental, and vision benefits. We also provide FREE unlimited access to nubile young groupies, although we do firmly stipulate that persuasion, not coercion, MUST be applied when taking advantage of said nubile young groupies.

            Please send your resume, and another sample of your writings, along with your salary or fee demands, to ReasonNeedsBrilliantlyPersuasiveWriters@Reason.com .

            Thank You! -Reason Staff

            1. See, this is the SQRLSY I remember. Entertainingly kooky, somewhat insane, sticking his squirrely little tongue out at everyone.

          2. I find it hard to believe it was ever entertaining.

            1. What is entertaining is watching you jump through your asshole, going to EXTREMES of fascism, trying desperately to justify your inability or unwillingness to think clearly!

              So leftist “false flag” commenters will inundate Reason-dot-com with shitloads of PROTECTED racist comments, and then pissed-off readers and advertisers and buyers (of Reason magazine) will all BOYCOTT Reason! Any right-wing idiots like Damikesc will then FORCE people to support Reason, so as to nullify the attempts at boycotts! THAT is your ultimate authoritarian “fix” here!!!

              “Now, to “protect” Reason from this meddling here, are we going to REQUIRE readers and advertisers to support Reason, to protect Reason from boycotts?”
              Yup. Basically. Sounds rough. (Quote damikesc)
              (Etc.)
              See https://reason.com/2020/06/24/the-new-censors/#comments

              1. I do feel bad for you that your mom drank so when she was pregnant with you.

                1. Arrogant morons can NEVER admit error! Fish swim, babies poop their diapers, and arrogant morons are PERFECT, and NEVER make mistakes! It is their very nature!

      2. Yes.

        If you’re going to pick and choose what you’re going to allow to appear on your platform, you’re a publisher. If you’re opening it to theoretically everything, it’s an open platform.

        And, as for your point upthread likening Twitter to a library, you obviously have no idea how libraries work. Public libraries choose what to put on their shelves based on a) budget, b) public demand, and c) the personal interests of the curators. They do not claim to be platforms where anyone who has an opinion can put it on their shelves. They claim to be repositories of books (I would say knowledge, but a book is not necessarily the same as knowledge), but not all books (for example, I was unable to find half of Gordon Korman’s published work in my local library district; ho-hum). So yes, they are more akin to publishers than platforms.

        1. Yes.

          Well screw that. It is still their own private property. You would never tolerate being forced by the state to tolerate people on your property expressing opinions that you disagreed with, would you?

          Public libraries choose what to put on their shelves based on a) budget, b) public demand, and c) the personal interests of the curators.

          Well I was referring to libraries more generally, and not specifically public libraries. But that is essentially right. What goes on the shelves is curated, but the librarians themselves are not responsible for every word in every book.

          They do not claim to be platforms where anyone who has an opinion can put it on their shelves.

          You’re right. And neither does any social medial platform either. All of them say that offensive content of one form or another isn’t allowed. Just like libraries are not obliged to put offensive material on their shelves, neither are social media platforms obliged to host offensive material.

          1. So your argument is now that social media platforms aren’t really platforms.

            Alright then. If they’re not platforms, they’re publishers, and thus subject to the same scrutiny as other publishers. I’m glad we agree.

            1. They aren’t “platforms” in the sense that you are using it, i.e., like some bulletin board that anyone can post anything to. But they aren’t “publishers” in the sense of the NY Times, in which every word is pre-approved by editors before being sent to print. They are neither. This platform/publisher thing is a false dichotomy.
              Again they are more like libraries. The collection is curated, meaning, not every opinion is expressed in every library, but the librarians are not responsible for every word in every book – the books’ authors are. Because a library doesn’t permit Penthouse, but does permit Tom Sawyer, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Official Position of the library is that it is opposed to pornography but in favor of racist language. Instead it just reflects what the library’s patrons want to see. In the case of social media platforms, it seems rather clear that most users actually want a curated social media feed, and not an open sewer of garbage that they themselves have to wade through in order to make the experience somewhat tolerable. We know this because the platforms that have championed the “everything is allowed (more or less)” philosophy are failing in the competitive marketplace compared to the ones that do curate.

              1. They get to have their cake and eat it to, because muh leftism!

                1. The argument went straight over your head.

                2. They get to “have their cake and eat it, too” because private property rights.

                  1. That don’t apply to others.
                    Qualified immunity ftw, eh?

                    1. That was a little too telegraphic to understand what you are tying to say.

              2. In the DOJ’s preferred legal framework, content filtering and moderation can only be done if a service provider or user “has an objective reasonable belief” that a specific piece of content “violates its terms of service or use,” or “has an objectively reasonable belief” that the content is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, promoting terrorism or violent extremism, harassing, promoting self-harm, or unlawful.”

                It’s like this would require platforms to state what is allowed and disallowed rather than deciding randomly what they’re okay with.

                And apparently filtering based on lewd content is considered basically acceptable (although it should probably still be in the ToS), in much the same way that the library doesn’t stock Penthouse.

                It’s almost as if you’re full of shit and arguing from bad faith.

                1. Your response has nothing to do with my response, and you’re moving the goalposts, basically conceding my argument that Twitter ought to be considered more like a library than a platform or a publisher, and now moving on to some new objection. And then you have the gall to accuse me of arguing in bad faith, throwing in a bit of projection for good measure.

                  Why should some library be *required by the state* to have some concrete rules about what they will permit in their collection and what they won’t? Sure it might be a good idea to have some rules or guidelines, but why should it be mandated by the state?

                  1. So your argument is now that social media platforms aren’t really platforms.

                    Alright then. If they’re not platforms, they’re publishers, and thus subject to the same scrutiny as other publishers. I’m glad we agree.

                    These rules are intended to protect platforms from being held liable for what is posted on them by third-parties, but aren’t intended to protect publishers from suits over libel or slander. (This should be obvious to everyone, but I apparently need to spell it out for you.) Therefore, if a platform is acting to choose what gets posted and what does not in ways not explicitly stated in their terms of service or in what could reasonably be assumed as disallowed (the content is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, promoting terrorism or violent extremism, harassing, promoting self-harm, or unlawful”), they are no longer a platform, but a publisher. (This should be obvious to everyone, but I apparently need to spell it out for you.) Therefore, while a platform should not be liable for the content hosted on it, as it makes no pretensions to endorsing the content, a publisher can be assumed to endorse at the very least the publishing of such content, if not the content itself. (This should be obvious to everyone, but I apparently need to spell it out for you.) THEREFORE, a platform should not be held legally liable if it does not censor outside of the bounds stated as exceptions (this censorship is stated within the terms of service, or is reasonably assumed as disallowed), BUT a publisher can be held legally liable for libelous/slanderous content that it publishes. (This should be obvious to everyone, but I apparently need to spell it out for you.)

                    1. So is a library a platform, or a publisher?

                    2. THREAD RECAP:
                      Red Tony: thinks this is a good thing
                      chemjeff: is offended
                      Red Tony: points out that there’s a difference between platforms and publishers, and also pokes several holes in chemjeff’s library analogy downthread
                      chemjeff: pushes library analogy to explain why platforms should be allowed to censor opinions without warning but not be considered publishers
                      Red Tony: points out that chemjeff just made the argument that these “platforms” (used in the legal sense) aren’t really platforms at all, and concludes that logically they are then “publishers” (in the legal sense).
                      chemjeff: complains that he didn’t mean that, brings up flawed library analogy to bolster argument
                      Red Tony: points out that these platforms can still censor as long as they do it on the grounds of “it’s in the ToS” or “no shit this isn’t allowed”, mostly ignoring the library analogy as completely irrelevant due to how incredibly flawed it is
                      chemjeff: claims the goalposts have been moved, once again tries to push his library analogy because it’s pretty much all he has
                      Red Tony: explicitly spells out the reasoning between there being a difference between platforms and publishers, why this difference exists (liability under libel law), why it’s important, and why a platform that censors in ways not covered in its Terms of Service or in ways that would be considered obvious is a publisher
                      chemjeff: falls back on the library analogy because it’s all he has
                      Red Tony: posts a thread recap proving that chemjeff is an idiot

                    3. You are stuck in the platform vs. publisher false dichotomy. I have pointed out how it is a false dichotomy. Because I don’t embrace your false dichotomy, you call me stupid and arguing in bad faith. You are the one arguing in bad faith when you refuse to even acknowledge my argument.

                2. Furthermore, making the claim that Twitter would still be “allowed” to moderate pornography based on what the DOJ prefers, is inverting the burden of proof. Private property owners should not have to bear the burden to demonstrate why they are to be permitted to use their property in a particular manner. Instead, it is the state which should bear the burden of having to demonstrate why private property owners shouldn’t be allowed to use their property in a particular manner. It is the difference between “legal except for what’s forbidden” and “illegal except for what’s allowed”. A libertarian standard must be one rooted in the former standard, never the latter one.

                  1. Private property owners can be sued for defamation, which is what the discussion is about.

                    1. Again you completely miss the point about burden of proof.

                3. Social media sites do state what is allowed and disallowed. They change those rules occasionally, which is not randomness.

                  If you host a website with thousands or millions of social posts every day, some of your users will find ways to innovate and push the envelope of offensiveness in ways you never anticipated. It will happen regularly.

              3. Again they are more like libraries.

                As I already pointed out earlier, they’re not at all like libraries, except to the extent that they don’t create the content they make available. But they do selectively choose that content rather than having it put on their shelves by publishers unsolicited, and only later review what’s there based on patron feedback. That makes them completely different from internet social media.

                1. You have a point that they are not *exactly* like libraries. But I would argue that it is a better metaphor than either “platform” or “publisher”. It is a repository of content (books, tweets) that they themselves didn’t create and shouldn’t be held responsible for their precise content.

                  1. It is a repository of content (books, tweets) that they themselves didn’t create and shouldn’t be held responsible for their precise content.

                    Then answer the question I posed earlier. If a library puts kiddie porn (that they didn’t create) on their shelves, will/should they be held responsible for doing so?

                    1. He did. He said there are already laws against ANYONE putting kiddie porn on the shelves. In the case of social media, the government will ask them to take the content down (if they haven’t already), but will investigate the user who posted it, not the social media platform.

                    2. He did. He said there are already laws against ANYONE putting kiddie porn on the shelves.

                      No, he didn’t answer the question…which you already know if you bothered to read my response to his comment about the illegality of kiddie porn. It had nothing to do with the legality (or lack thereof) of the content. It had to do with who was “responsible” for the content being there.

    2. I really cannot understand Reason’s moral arguments sometimes.
      This article is not either libertarian, nor free speech-ish.
      §230 allows for either/or, depending on what the site wants to be.
      Somehow the SJWs are infiltrating the writing staff of Reason.

  5. Stopped reading when you said content was more decentralized now and less “gatekept” whatever that means since it’s not an actual word. That is complete bullshit and you know it.

    Twitter needs to end. Their executives are criminals.

    1. I stopped reading when I saw that it’s an ENB diatribe.

      1. Is THAT what the problem is with this article.
        It really made me want to take a shower after reading all that tripe.
        I will be more alert to ENB, and adjust my lower expectations accordingly.

  6. Better to just create a rebuttable presumption that any denial of service which does not specify the specific item that violates the terms of service, and the specific term of service they violate, is a breach of contract. Let the civil courts get filed with the debris.
    Most of the cancellations and other “evil acts” by social media are reported as being without specifying the reason why.

    1. “Let the civil courts get filed with the debris.”

      I long to be free of endless hordes of lawyers!

      On the vast majority of college campuses, liberal “political correctness” gets its way. And this is heavily Government Almighty funded. “PC” gets its way, for the most part (perhaps a wee tad less than in academia) in employment (discrimination) in general, and in the media.

      And then conservatives suddenly expect to get it THEIR WAY if we set aside legal protections against endless lawsuits, on the internet, ie., kill Section 230?!?! WTF, conservatives, what kind of fantasy world do you live in? The PC bastards WILL eat your lunch, if you kill section 230! Lawyers are educated in PC in PC-oriented law schools, and they will PC you to death, when you sue for your “free speech” from Twitter etc. (which you don’t own, of course… “You didn’t build that”!). 230 PROTECTS you from more armies of ravaging lawyers!

      “Baker, bake me that gay wedding cake, or I will sic Government Almighty on you” is, indeed, within gagging and barfing distance of “Twitter, publish my comments, or I will sic Government Almighty on you”!

      What else can one say about THAT?!

    2. Where did we come up with this idea that terms of service, especially on a free social media site where one is not paying anything to post on’e s content, is a contract.

      It’s not a contract. It’s the social media site’s owner telling you the house rule of how you must behave. I would be surprised if any of the major social media sites is lacking a clause in their terms of service that basically says, “We can terminate your account or delete your content for any reason we want.”

      1. If they don’t have a clause like that in their ToS they should fire their lawyers.

      2. Twitter ToS: “We may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services or any features within the Services to you or to users generally.”

      3. Facebook ToS: “Where we take such action [terminating your account] we’ll let you know and explain any options you have to request a review, unless doing so may expose us or others to legal liability.” <– Says right here, Facebook reserves the right to cancel your account and not give you any explanation at all if we think it will expose Facebook to legal action.

        1. You nailed it! And the whining crybabies who are offended that FaceBook etc. didn’t like their shit? That got posted for FREE? Then taken down? Whining crybabies should ask for their $00,000.00 back!

          1. Tulpa, Nardz, JesseAz, and the rest of the CACLL gang should be grateful they’ve found a little corner of the Internet where someone is footing the bill to run a forum where they can bitch about how awful Democrats are, echo conservative narratives to each other, act like assholes, and even insult the very people providing the site, all with complete neglect and lack of moderation.

      4. And, Reddit, forget it. They don’t cede anything to the user at all. I won’t even try to summarize. The whole User Agreement is one clause after another saying Reddit can do what it wants:

        https://www.redditinc.com/policies/user-agreement-october-15-2020

  7. This is basically a bipartisan initiative–like trade restrictions. Why does it seem like anytime we have bipartisan support for something, it’s almost always a bad idea?

    I wish the Democrats would differentiate themselves on freedom of speech and social media regulation. Instead, they differentiate themselves on support for the Green New Deal, bailing out state pension plans in California and New York, Medicare for All, etc.

    I’m surprised the comments section at Reason has lasted this long anyway, but if and when Section 230 is gone, I doubt it will last long thereafter. You’re adding a ton of downside–and no additional upside to operating a comment section like this.

    1. That is exactly what would happen if Section 230 were to go away, or if it were to be modified along the lines of DOJ and Trump and right-wingers want. Reason itself would be liable for every single troll comment here and no one in their right mind would open themselves up to that kind of liability.

      1. As the copious spam links show. Reason does no filtering of their board. They don’t ban anyone for anything that is not strictly illegal (links to child porn), so they’d be just fine with out section 230.

        1. I’ve seen various parties threaten to sue Reason on a number of occasions for things that were written in comments.

          Gillespie wrote a piece, once, explaining to us that they considered closing the site down because the expense of defending against bogus lawsuits was too great–and that was years ago, long before the Preet Bahara.

          Businesses don’t just avoid lawsuits because they’re afraid of losing. They avoid lawsuits because it’s hard to concentrate your business on anything else when you’re spending however much time and money on lawsuits that could just as easily be avoided.

          1. “Gillespie wrote a piece, once, explaining to us that they considered closing the site down [closing the site to comments] . . . ”

            —-Ken Shultz

            Fixed!

            1. even my edit was screwed up?

              Okay. Gillespie once said that they were considering closing the site to comments due to the expense of a bogus lawsuit and the threat of others to come.

              If Section 230 were gone, that would be much worse.

              Why wouldn’t it?

              Facebook has the money and manpower to live in court all day and hire moderators to sit at home all day and take down comments that might be considered defamatory.

              Reason doesn’t.

              For Reason’s sake, I’d say be careful what you say about Shrike, but once Section 230 is gone, why would they sit around and wait for the Shrikes of the world to sue them–when they could just shut down comments instead?

              1. Reason will shut down when its funders no longer see it as a useful sockpuppet for leftist totalitarianism

                1. Nadless the Nardzi NAZI will shut up when it runs out of lies! Which is to say… Not till the day it dies!

                  1. Your life doesn’t matter

                    1. Hey Nadless Nardzi the NAZI… You are a Holocaust denier just like Rob Misek! Two peas in a pod, you and Rob Misek are!
                      Do you deny what the NAZIs did? Perhaps not, I do not know HOW far your evil goes! You strut in front of a mirror wearing NAZI gear for all I know!

                      What I DO know is that you ignore the roots of NAZI, and other, evil, mass-murdering authoritarianism! You, like Hitler and the NAZIs and other evil authoritarians, start out by assuming that YOU know whose life is worthy, and whose is not! Then you move on to sterilization and killing! It all starts out by denying the value of other human lives! And if you can’t or won’t see and acknowledge that, you’re a deluded and EVIL Holocaust denier, same as Rob Misek!

                      You and and your fuckbuddy, Shitsy Shitler, also run around telling people to commit suicide! I have NEVER been THAT evil! Nor even THOUGHT about saying that to people! Take stock of your SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP SOUL, Evil One Junior! Start by reading this: M. Scott Peck, the Hope for Healing Human Evil, https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684848597/reasonmagazinea-20/

        2. Yes. I appreciate that Reason lets people say whatever they like. But as a magazine with an explicitly stated philosophy (libertarianism), I’m wondering if maybe they should have some limit on WHO is allowed to post in the first place. Like maybe have would-be posters sign a pledge similar to the one the LP requires new members to sign, saying something like “I do not support or advocate the initiation of force or violence as a means of achieving political or social goals”.

        3. You don’t understand Section 230. Without Section 230, Reason is liable for anything users post here.

      2. Um . . . no.

        Repealing Section 230 does nothing to change the fact that Reason is not liable for what third parties write on its website.

        Section 230 simply allows people to harass a site like Reason with necessarily frivolous lawsuits that should never win in court because defamation requires the plaintiff to prove malice. And a site like Reason couldn’t possibly have possessed malice when they wrote the comment in question since they didn’t write the comment in question–by the plaintiff’s own admission.

        The push to repeal Section 230 is a drive by people who think the facts of a case depend on how we feel about the people being sued. They don’t like Google and Facebook, so they interpret the facts in way that they think will hurt them the most. Do you know anybody who willfully misrepresents facts and justifies it by citing his feelings about them, ChemJeff? Because you’re kind of like that about everything, aren’t you.

        1. Do you know anybody who willfully misrepresents facts and justifies it by citing his feelings about them, ChemJeff?

          How about you, Ken? FFS I’m actually agreeing with you that repealing Section 230 is a bad idea, and here you are, motivated by your personal animus against me, twisting my words to make some douchey little comment about me.

          1. “FFS I’m actually agreeing with you that repealing Section 230 is a bad idea”

            And with your track record, you think that’s a good thing from my perspective?!

            You were wrong.

            “If it were to be modified along the lines of DOJ and Trump and right-wingers want. Reason itself would be liable for every single troll comment here”

            —ChemJeff

            Our defamation laws evolved to conform with the First Amendment (unlike the British Commonwealth), and in order to prove defamation in this country, you generally need to prove malice–just like in criminal law you’re supposed to prove mens rea. The Second Amendment doesn’t protect willfully violating someone’s rights with a gun, so to prove a crime was committed with a gun, you generally need to prove mens rea. Likewise, the First Amendment doesn’t protect violating someone’s rights with your speech–so to prove someone violated your rights willfully, you generally need to prove malice.

            Malice cannot be possessed by third parties like Reason if they didn’t write the comment.

            And you think I’m supposed to pretend the facts are other than are because you agree with me, that’s just another example of you telling me that the facts don’t matter as much your fucking feelings.

            The reason I’m right is because of the facts.
            The reason Section 230 is right is because of the facts.

            If you’re reaching the right conclusion because you’re ignorant, that doesn’t persuade anybody of anything other than your ignorance. If you’re going to reach a conclusion using your ignorance and fucking feelings, I wish you were on the other side of the arugment.

            1. Right. You don’t like me so you cannot stand that we are in actual agreement so you are going to manufacture a disagreement and make snide catty douchey comments like the Mean Grrlz around here. Who here is letting their emotions run amok, exactly?

              1. You, and your crying is proof.

              2. I don’t think it’s his dislike of you so much as the fact that you make bad faith arguments, move goalposts, whine, and complain when you get called on it.

                You’re so bad at debate that you make the side you’re arguing for look bad and the side you’re arguing against look good.

                Your support is the equivalent of a KKK endorsement, in that it causes everyone on your side to rethink their stance simply on the basis of “do we really wanna side with the KKK chemjeff? He’s just gonna make us look bad.”

                1. Aww poor Red Tony. He cannot stand seeing his argument eviscerated so he resorts to some ad-homs.

                  1. You’re so bad at debate that you make the side you’re arguing for look bad and the side you’re arguing against look good.

                    Thank you for proving my point.

                    1. I’m the one arguing in good faith. You are the one moving the goalposts, gaslighting, projecting, making insulting ad-hom comments, etc. It must really be bruising to your ego that you are losing to someone whom you regard as inferior. That is why you are lashing out.

                2. “I don’t think it’s his dislike of you so much as the fact that you make bad faith arguments, move goalposts, whine, and complain when you get called on it.”

                  —-Red Tony

                  Red Tony nailed it, and notice that if ChemJeff can’t imagine people calling his reasoning out as horseshit–without attributing to their feelings about him–then that’s further evidence that he’s living in weird universe of emotion.

                  Does he believe that if people don’t like what he likes (or him) then reasoning doesn’t matter compared to that?!

                  P.S. People who consistently twist the truth to suit their feelings are ethically repugnant people.

        2. I don’t think you have to prove malice.
          You just have to prove it was intentional.
          Malice on the defendant is only required where the defamed plaintiff is a public person.

    2. Section 230 is wrong and it shouldn’t exist.

      1. Suing people for things they didn’t write is wrong, and abusing the government by using the justice system to destroy people for things they didn’t do is wrong.

        1. Agreed. But I also hate the fact that twatter can censor the President on a daily basis without having to face any consequences. I also hate the fact how they do this either openly or stealthily against most if not all conservative/right-wing sources just because they’re protected by law from consequences. Is that okay?

          I don’t really see how your argument would be a bigger threat to civil liberties than the ones we have today. Manipulating people is wrong, and Section 230 is the source of all that. Without that, there would be bigger liabilities to certain actors, yes, but since when do we oppose liabilities? I’m certain that twatter would think twice before differentiating between user A and user B based on their political opinions, after all, they don’t want to get sued out of existence.

          1. “Agreed. But I also hate the fact that twatter can censor the President on a daily basis without having to face any consequences. “

            Weren’t we talking about this the other day when we were talking about Picard saving the Romulans from the replicants, the machines from the Romulans, and the Romulans from the machines?

            Consistently standing up for people’s free expression rights necessarily means standing up for their right to do things with those rights that you hate.

            Rights are choices, and Twitter’s shareholders have rights. They have the right to associate and the right to hire managers to run the company. The managers have a right to use the company’s property in such away that the shareholders approve. If the shareholders want Twitter to do things with their own property that you hate, well that’s a good thing–since it gives you an opportunity to show the world what real tolerance looks like.

            A society that can’t tolerate a private company censoring the President is an intolerant society.

            I remain tolerant.

            1. We were talking about Picard, yes.

              I also remember, but correct me if I’m wrong, that you were the one who explained here that it isn’t enough in itself to uphold the wording itself of the Constitution, but one must also cherish libertarian core principles e.g. the spirit of the Constitution. Now you mention the shareholders’ rights, but I fail to see the rationale behind prioritizing them over… well, the freedom of expression on social media. Especially in our current world where twatter is clearly, not just a random medium, it had already been declared to be a public forum by SCOTUS. Please, I really do want to understand how can you accept that President Trump cannot block people on twatter, cause it is a public forum… but twatter somehow CAN modify, manipulate and brand President Trump’s tweets.

              Your logic is sound… but logic isn’t always enough in itself. I’m afraid that I have to disagree with you on that one. Rights are important and rights must be protected at all cost… but there’s a hierarchy for all rights (right to life vs right to defend oneself, etc). Somehow I don’t feel that the shareholders would be missing out much if twatter would be a bit more consistent with their moderation due them being having to follow pretty much the same rules that every other industry must. But people are missing out a lot who are constantly being stripped of their rights of free expression and freedom of association. I would even argue that pressuring people to self-censor is inherently anti-libertarian, and we all know how that works in practice.

              1. “I also remember, but correct me if I’m wrong, that you were the one who explained here that it isn’t enough in itself to uphold the wording itself of the Constitution, but one must also cherish libertarian core principles e.g. the spirit of the Constitution.”

                That wasn’t me–not yesterday.

                “Now you mention the shareholders’ rights, but I fail to see the rationale behind prioritizing them over… well, the freedom of expression on social media.”

                Rights are the obligation to respect other people’s choices. They arise from our agency–just like ethics itself. You are obligated to respect the choices of others because they can make choices. Raping a tree is not a crime because things that can’t make choices have no rights.

                Prioritizing rights isn’t what’s happening here. These rights are all the same. Your obligation to respect people’s property and the government’s obligation to respect its people’s freedom of expression are the same. What I’m prioritizing is the obligation to respect other people’s choices over the violation of people’s rights.

                Property rights mean you get to make the choices about who uses your property, how it’s used, if it’s used, how it can’t be used, etc. Everyone is obligated to respect your choices about your property, and that is what is meant by property rights.

                That is not different from your religious rights. Freedom of religion means the government is obligated to respect your choice of your own religion. It isn’t different from your free speech rights either. The government is obligated to protect your right to choose what you say just like it’s obligated to protect your property rights.

                Because the government is obligated to respect your right to say what you please, however, does not give you permission to violate other people’s property rights. You may not trespass on other people’s property, and your right to free speech does not cancel your obligation to respect other people’s property rights.

                We’re talking about Twitter’s property. They get to decide who uses it and how it’s used. You get to use your own property for the purposes of free speech–and the property of people who allow you to use their property.

                And the argument that Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc. have all the property so we aren’t obligated to respect their property rights is a lot like the communist argument that because the fat cats have all the money, we aren’t obligated to respect their property rights.

                It’s bullshit.

                There are plenty of places for you to express yourself. Pick one where you’re welcome to use other people’s property, or use your own property. Don’t go around violating other people’s property rights. You are obligated to respect other people’s property rights.
                And there’s no hierarchy of rights–certainly not in this instance. In this case, there’s just violating people’s rights by subjecting them to lawsuits for things that they didn’t write.

                1. Well said.

                2. That’s all fine but… you still haven’t reflected on the most important points. If twatter is a public forum as per SCOTUS decision, then how come the President has additional liabilities, yet the platform (publisher actually) does not? How come he cannot exercise rights that are available to every other users, yet twatter retains all its rights? Furthermore, if twatter decides to manipulate content, then how can they still claim to be platforms (which they do), when it is all so obvious that they’re publishers?

                  I usually agree with you, but in that case it appears to me that you can’t see the forest for the trees. This case isn’t as simple as the ‘gay wedding cake’ debacle.

                  1. Because you or the president don’t like the way Twitter chooses to exercise their property rights doesn’t cancel your obligation to respect their property rights–and it doesn’t mean they should be forced to answer in court for things that they didn’t do either.

                    And the distinctions you’re making between platforms and publishers don’t change that one iota. And if the courts have made bad decisions in the past based on bad rationalizations, well, that wouldn’t be the first time–and it wouldn’t mean those bad rationalizations are suddenly well reasoned arguments in harmony with liberty and justice. Meanwhile, the “solution” of forcing people to answer in court for things that they didn’t do isn’t a real solution to any real problem.

                    Suffice it to say, because you hate the Romulans doesn’t justify injustice, and violating the Romulans’ rights doesn’t solve any of the problems you claim to be addressing anyway. You’re right, though, facts and the logic I’m using don’t justify violating the Romulans’ rights. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong, however. That probably just means it’s wrong to violate the Romulans’ rights.

        2. I’d argue then the government should protect all entities, not just specific ones.

          1. Basically, allow your cell phone carrier to terminate your call if you say something they do not like. Permit your IP provider to cut your service if they dislike a post of yours. Why give them fewer powers than you give social media?

            1. Those are contractual issues, not a violation of freedom of speech.

              If your contract doesn’t say they can terminate your calls because they don’t like what you say–and they do it anyway? That’s a contract issue. They breached your contract.

              That isn’t a freedom of speech issue.

              If you use their phone service to violate someone else’s rights, they sure as hell shouldn’t be legally responsible for it. An AT&T customer defamed me over the telephone, so AT&T owes me money?!

              There’s no reason why AT&T should need to show up in court and defend themselves against such a ridiculous claim–when the plaintiff himself is asserting that AT&T wasn’t even the party that defamed him.

              Change that company to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or someone you hate, and it doesn’t change a thing–they still shouldn’t need to respond to plaintiffs that hold them responsible for something they didn’t do.

        3. Suing people for things they didn’t write is wrong

          So, in classic libertarian form, we ignore the actual problem and just pass legislation over the top of it. As long as we’re passing more laws, even if they don’t fix the problems and/or make a few new one’s at least progress has been made, eh?

          Woe is the citizenry! If only there were only a way for the judiciary to deal with frivolous litigation. Won’t Congress save us from this gross Constitutional oversight?!

          1. I am a small state libertarian. The legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights.

            Let’s list some legitimate ways to do that:

            1) We have police to protect our rights from criminals.
            2) We have criminal courts to protect our rights from the police.
            3) We have a military to protect our rights from foreign threats.
            4) We have civil courts to protect our property from people who’ve damaged it.

            The government is there to protect our rights, and protecting us from needing to answer charges–when the plaintiff is alleging that we weren’t even the party who perpetrated the act in question–is consistent with that list.

            The fundamental problem here is that the people creating the content are no longer responsible to the people paying for advertising. Before the advent of social media, that was never a problem. The platform trying to exercise control is natural progression.

            When the only people creating content for consumers were the companies that sold advertising associated with that content, the companies that sold the advertising tightly controlled the content. This is why censorship wasn’t necessary–advertisers and content creators had a far greater aversion to offending consumers than the government censors did, and they had a far better sense of what outraged their customers than than the government censors did, too.

            Now that the people creating the content, like you and me, are no longer the employees of the platforms we’re creating content for, like Reason, Facebook, and YouTube, we create content that people find offensive–and that makes advertisers want to run for the hills. It also makes people want to sue the organization hosting the content rather than the content creators–like they used to do.

            But a never ending flood of frivolous lawsuits is not the solution to that problem. It isn’t even likely to hurt the intended victims–Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Zuckerberg would love to be regulated–so long as everyone else is regulated, too. Do you have idea how hard it is to rent seek without regulation?

            Getting rid of Section 230 is likely to hurt all their competitors, the ones that exist today and the ones who might exist tomorrow.

            1. That’d all be great if you weren’t twisting in the breeze like every other sock puppet on the issue, Ken.

              You yourself say:
              The legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights.

              Let’s list some legitimate ways to do that:

              4) We have civil courts to protect our property from people who’ve damaged it.

              So, per your own unequivocal statements, suing people is a right and legitimate use of government. This is in direct contradiction to your previous assertion that suing people is wrong. All said and done, you choose to tap dance around the fact that the judicial system has ways of dealing with frivolous lawsuits in favor of giving Congress overt and illigitemate control (again by the right and legitimate precepts you listed above) control of the justice system.

              So, the only question is are you confused by your own principles or just fundamentally don’t believe them?

              Getting rid of Section 230 is likely to hurt all their competitors, the ones that exist today and the ones who might exist tomorrow.

              Great. Businesses that can’t exist save solely for laws passed by Congress are inherently protectionist and shouldn’t exist.

              1. “So, per your own unequivocal statements, suing people is a right and legitimate use of government. This is in direct contradiction to your previous assertion that suing people is wrong”

                Suing the people who actually harmed your property is one thing.

                When you sue someone because a third party wronged you, you have legitimate basis for a suit.

                Sue the person who wronged you?

                Yes!

                Suing a person that isn’t the one who harmed you–by your own admission–is unjust. The legitimate purpose of government is to protect people’s rights. The legitimate purpose of government is not to facilitate injustice against innocent people.

  8. “The proposal takes broad aim at Section 230, a (widely misrepresented) law that helps protect First Amendment rights ”

    Meaning the rights already exists – but not enforced ?
    That is my problem with 230. Having the law re-sate what is already in it elsewhere has it own problems.

    1. It’s bizarro how Reason continues to espouse how a law that violates the plain text reading of the 1A, a law passed by Congress regulating free speech and effectively denying a right to petition, helps the 1A.

      It’s the usual newspeak bullshit. Free speech without protection from Congress isn’t really free speech.

  9. “especially in recent years, as online ideas, speech, and content became more and more decentralized and less gatekept. ”

    You’re…serious?

    1. Citizen journalists have no place in polite society.

      1. Unless they start filming for their radio show over a cop’s shoulder and get nearly arrested for nearly interfering in an arrest. Then, any dumb shit with an iPhone is a credentialed journalist and stopping them from filming private citizens is a violation of their journalists’ rights.

  10. Twitter became a “public concern” the instant that judge ruled that the ‘block button’ should be disabled.

  11. Speaking of which… “hey man, they’re a private corporashuuunn”

    In the latest row over protest symbols in the workplace, employees at Seattle-area QFC and Fred Meyer stores say that a ban on “Black Lives Matter” buttons violates federal labor law and their union contract.

    “I think they’re afraid they’ll lose money” by offending some customers, said Motoko Kusanagi, who works at the QFC in Seattle’s University Village, where she says the store’s director has been “pulling people aside individually and asking them to take the pin off.”

    On Tuesday, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) against QFC and Fred Meyer, both owned by supermarket giant Kroger, over the button ban.

    1. So, what side are you arguing here? Pro-government interference in private corporation or anti-government interference?

  12. TWITTER, WHICH CENSORS TRUMP FOR TWEETING WE NEED LAW AND ORDER AS “GLORIFYING VIOLENCE,” ALLOWS HASHTAG “BURN LOUISVILLE” TO TREND FOR HOURS IN MIDDLE OF RIOT SITUATION
    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/390432.php

    1. When did Twitter ever censor Trump for his “LAW & ORDER!” tweets?

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  14. Pet peeve time: “i.e. Facebook is not responsible….”. ENB, as a writer you should learn what “i.e.” means. It does not mean “for example.” It means, “that is” or “specifically.”

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