Section 230

Politicians Want to Destroy Section 230, the Internet's First Amendment

Four myths about the law that made the modern internet possible.

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Television personalities and politicians, from Tucker Carlson to Nancy Pelosi, are calling for changes to the law that has protected the internet since the '90s. But they don't seem to have a clue about what it actually says, or whom it really protects.

Section 230 is a portion of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It has made the internet as we know it possible by establishing that tech companies are not responsible for what their users post on their apps, websites, and devices. Section 230 allows for the free exchange of ideas on the internet—and it may be just as important to online free speech as the First Amendment.

Section 230's most important sentence reads as follows:

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.

Critics have come up with creative ways of distorting what the law says. Here are four myths to watch out for:

Myth 1: Tech Companies Must Be Neutral

"Neutrality" is not a condition of the law. Section 230 was designed in part so that internet companies could discriminate by filtering out content that's illegal, indecent, or otherwise objectionable. Before Section 230, online companies feared that any moderation would make them legally liable for user content. Section 230 explicitly says that's not the case—"good faith" and "voluntary" attempts to filter out unwanted posts and users are OK. 

Without Section 230, it would be hard for companies to avoid lawsuits and criminal charges without either becoming cesspools of totally unmoderated speech or banning user-generated speech entirely.

Myth 2: Section 230 Makes a Distinction Between Platform and Publisher

There is no legal distinction in Section 230 between a "publisher" and a "platform." The word "platform" doesn't even appear. What matters for legal purposes is who is responsible for creating particular web content. 

Judgment calls about user speech—however poorly executed, and whatever ideological biases are apparent—just don't affect whether a company is broadly protected by Section 230 or not.

Myth 3: Section 230 Shields Big Tech From Legal Liability

People like to pretend 230 created a legal "loophole," but the congress that passed Section 230 back in 1996 was explicit: Section 230 would not apply when it comes to federal criminal laws or intellectual property law. That means copyright violators and serious criminals do not get a free pass because of Section 230.

What the law does provide is limited protection from criminal charges brought by state or local law authorities and some immunity from getting sued in civil court.

This immunity is lost if a company:

  • Creates illegal content itself or edits content in a way that contributes to its illegality
  • Participates in illegal acts to obtain content
  • Engages in or profits directly from some illicit action

Section 230 is meant to leave room for holding online operators accountable for their own sins but not for those of their customers.

Myth 4: Section 230 Is Only for Large Tech Companies

Section 230 doesn't only benefit companies. As attorney Jeff Kosseff, author of The 26 Words That Created the Internet, puts it: "There also are significant free speech benefits to the public."

Section 230 shields not just the providers of digital services from litigation but the users of these services, too. Without it, anyone could find themselves liable for retweeting, reblogging, or posting links to content that is later found to break the law.

Yet for all the protections it provides to readers, writers, academics, shitposters, entrepreneurs, activists, and amateur political pundits of every persuasion, Section 230 has somehow become a political pariah.

The political class wants everyone to believe that the way the U.S. has policed the internet for the past quarter-century has actually been lax, immoral, and dangerous.

Don't believe them. The future of free speech—and a lot more—may depend on preserving Section 230.

Written by Elizabeth Nolan Brown. Edited by Paul Detrick.

Giant by The Grand Affair is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary_download?vid=46110e91d40fbb0c

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  1. Without Section 230, it would be hard for companies to avoid lawsuits and criminal charges without either becoming cesspools of totally unmoderated speech or banning user-generated speech entirely.

    Unmoderated speech? The horror.

    1. …cesspools of totally unmoderated speech…

      We feel seen.

      1. The “first amendment of the internet” is there to protect us from “totally unmoderated speech.

        That is not how this works Elizabeth.

        1. Welcome to the New Libertarianism.

          Gays are free to be married. You’re free to bake the cake.

          Illegal immigrants are free to march into your country at their pleasure. You’re free to do Jack Shit about it.

          Trannies are free to use the ladies room. Presumably your daughter is free to use the men’s room.

          Private internet companies are free to censor your speech. You’re free to build your own internet.

          With all of these New Freedoms at your disposal, what could you possibly have to complain about? After all, you’re free!

          1. Clearly all those who believe in a system of ordered liberty agree that certain limits must be imposed on the offensive “speech” that has been tearing at the fabric of our society. Is that what they call the rough and tumble of the Internet? Here at NYU, we believe in an appropriately “limp” form of freedom that reconciles the right to politely express an opinion with our vital concern for reputation and social status. Accordingly, we have developed a program that we are ready to present to law enforcement authorities whenever it might be of use, aimed at further enhancing the limitations on “parody” that we were able to procure, with the assistance of several highly skilled prosecutors, during the litigation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case. See the documentation at:

            https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. “Unmoderated speech? The horror.”

      Reason staking out the radical “pro-censorship libertarian” position.

      1. Reason staking out the radical “pro-censorship libertarian” position.

        vs

        Commenters staking out the “bake that cake” position.

        1. Nobody is saying that they cannot censor.

          Feel free.

          You’re just going to be as liable as a publisher would be for what is there.

          1. You’re just going to be as liable as a publisher would be for what is there.

            As the article makes clear, you’re wrong.

            1. The whole “good faith” part of it is key. They don’t just throw in words to hit some word count in a law.

              Time to litigate what “good faith” means — or it is time for Congress to do its job and fix the God awful law.

              1. You don’t like it because it doesn’t arbitrarily punish sites you don’t like. The wording is irrelevant.

                1. Has Damikesc advocated for punishing any sites?

                  1. No he hasn’t. But Sparky is a retard who makes up for it by being dishonest.

                  2. Has Damikesc advocated for punishing any sites?

                    Yes. All of the right-wingers here have been pushing to get rid of Section 230 explicitly in order to punish sites that de-platform conservatives.

                    Not one single person here complained about Section 230 before that started happening, not during the Great Woodchipper Incident, not during the debates over registration, not when various commenters have been banned, not ever.

                    Once a couple of conservatives got banned from Twitter, suddenly a bunch of our resident Trump supporters decided that Section 230 is unbearable tyranny.

                    1. It’s not so much “a couple of conservatives got banned from Twitter”, though, as it is “a long train of abuses” that always seem to go one way, and for silly reasons, too.

                      If you’re the target of unwarranted bullying and deplatforming, you can’t help but wonder: what should be done about it?

                    2. Yea, juries deciding civil culpability in court is totes more fascist than crony corporations conspiring to censor wrongthink and clandestinely manipulate elections.
                      Good call

                    3. If you’re the target of unwarranted bullying and deplatforming, you can’t help but wonder: what should be done about it?

                      Like I say, right-wingers have been advocating revoking Section 230 in order to punish websites for viewpoint discrimination.

                      But what does revoking Section 230 do to discourage viewpoint discrimination? Because it seems to me like it enshrines it. If YouTube is to held legally liable for content users post, however theoretically, then bye-bye user-generated content.

                      How does that help your cause?

                    4. Yea, juries deciding civil culpability in court is totes more fascist than crony corporations conspiring to censor wrongthink and clandestinely manipulate elections.

                      I’m sure you thought you had a point.

                    5. “Yes. All of the right-wingers here have been pushing to get rid of Section 230 explicitly in order to punish sites that de-platform conservatives.”

                      Objection: I’ve been pushing to enforce the “good faith” language, not get rid of the law. The rule I want has already been enacted, it’s just being ignored.

                    6. Objection: I’ve been pushing to enforce the “good faith” language, not get rid of the law. The rule I want has already been enacted, it’s just being ignored.

                      Fair enough – I painted with a broad brush. What I meant was that all the right-wingers who are pushing to get rid of it only just discovered its evil when conservatives started getting banned from Twitter.

                    7. ALL OF THEM!!! IT IS ON RECORD!!!

                      lol

                      Feeling insulted?

                    8. Whiner whining about what “right-wingers” want doesn’t even know what “right-wingers” want, the fucking idiot.

                    9. “‘Yes. All of the right-wingers here have been pushing to get rid of Section 230 explicitly in order to punish sites that de-platform conservatives. “‘

                      I asked specifically about Damikesc. The answer is no. But instead of being truthful you apply a generalization fallacy.

                2. “You don’t like it because it doesn’t arbitrarily punish sites you don’t like.”

                  Feel free to list the sites that I have called to be punished. And describe how I called for them to be punished.

                  Hint: Being treated like a media company isn’t actually being punished.

    3. Myth 3: Section 230 Shields Big Tech From Legal Liability
      … What the law does provide is limited protection from criminal charges brought by state or local law authorities and some immunity from getting sued in civil court.

      So, in fact, the “Myth” is totally true.

      Reason is a toilet of corporate propaganda.

      #LibertariansForCronyCapitalistLegalImmunityCarveOuts

  2. Section 230 explicitly says that’s not the case—”good faith” and “voluntary” attempts to filter out unwanted posts and users are OK.

    “Good faith”, that means this protection was given on the assumption that these platforms would just police illegal and disruptive speech and not just ban anyone who ran afoul of the sensibilities of the woke retards who run these companies.

    There is no way you can call “we are going to claim to be content neutral but then declare any speech we don’t like to be banned” to be “good faith”. And that is exactly what is going on here.

    If you don’t want to repeal 230, then amend it to spell out what everyone knows the term “good faith” to mean.

    1. The full text of that section protects providers and users from liability due to:

      “any action voluntarily taken in good faith 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, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230

      The term “otherwise objectionable” clearly covers, to use your wording, running afoul of the woke r*****s who run these companies. Subjectivity (“..the provider or user CONSIDERS to be…”) is baked right into it.

      Content moderation, by letter of the law, can extend beyond policing of illegal and disruptive speech without running afoul of the Communications Decency Act. Just because speech is constitutionally protected does not mean it’s off-limits to moderators. You may not like it, but that’s what the law actually says.

      1. Okay, then the law needs to be repealed. It is a government handout that allows these platforms the freedom to restrict content without the responsibility for what is on their platforms that comes with it.

        These companies should not be above the law.

        1. It’s fine to say the law should be changed, I disagree but that’s your opinion. However it’s plainly incorrect to say that any company in compliance with Section 230 is “above the law”, because Section 230 IS the law.

          1. Unless a company claims section 230 against a user. The section clearly states that both the provider and a/the user are protected.

            Either the law is redundant and should be repealed or it’s a special protection of some people’s speech and not others… and should be repealed.

            Your selectively narrow reading is telling.

            1. Either the law is redundant and should be repealed or it’s a special protection of some people’s speech and not others

              Or it preempts having to decide this same principle in lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit, thus enabling people to provide fora for randos like us to post comments without the forum-provider being swamped with lawsuits.

              And where’s the downside?

              1. But totally removing any and all liabilities has no downside, right?

                1. Libertarians for liability free corporate oligarchy. It’s like a James Cameron movie come to life.

          2. Why do you disagree? To support this law is to say that social media platforms are so special that they should be immune from laws that apply to every other company in the world. How is that a rational position? If these companies want to retain complete control over what goes on their platforms that is absolutely their right. But, they also then must assume the responsibility for everything that they allow on their platform as a result of that. Freedom cannot meaningfully exist without responsibility.

            What is so special about these companies other than the fact that they are run by people you like and are censoring people you hate?

            1. I disagree because assuming responsibility for “everything” on a platform like YouTube or Twitter is a technical impossibility. Even the most rigorous attempts at removing illegal speech are bound to fail in some instances. I don’t think it’s fair to hold providers legally responsible for achieving an impossible goal.

              1. No, but it’s fair to hold them legally responsible for pursuing a completely different and not legally shielded goal, and pretending they’re just doing the other thing.

                1. I disagree, it’s not fair to tell a private company what decisions they can or cannot make about what shows up on their own website.

                  1. Fair or not, the ultimate outcome is an entity shielded by a Congress acting in bad faith against the electorate and it’s own users.

                    None of the above is a problem except the part where Congress passed a law deeming their actions to be OK a priori as long as it meets whatever criteria Congress dreams up as good faith.

                  2. California law that prohibits discrimination based on political viewpoint says you’re wrong.

              2. I disagree because assuming responsibility for “everything” on a platform like YouTube or Twitter is a technical impossibility.

                They don’t have to be responsible for “everything” any more than any other business has to be responsible for “everything”. They don’t even have to be any more responsible for speech that happens on their property or platform any more than any other business has to be responsible for speech on their property or platform.

                Again you’re being blatantly disingenuous.

                1. They don’t even have to be any more responsible for speech that happens on their property or platform any more than any other business has to be responsible for speech on their property or platform.

                  Which is exactly what Section 230 says. Me not being responsible for speech conducted on my property doesn’t mean I can’t eject someone from my property for any reason I see fit.

                  1. Unless they’re black.
                    Or gay.
                    Or muslim.

                    1. Against freedom of association today, are you?

                    2. Are you that fucking stupid, Square?

                      Wait, I just answered my own question, of course you are.

                    3. I think you missed the point square.

              3. “I disagree because assuming responsibility for “everything” on a platform like YouTube or Twitter is a technical impossibility.”

                It’s not us making them do it. They are choosing to do it. Just because what they want to do is bad does not mean it falls under “good faith”.

                They could always choose to not censor and allow users to mute people they don’t want to see…

                1. Or not censor and ignore the cry babies yelling for someone to be censored.

      2. Also, or otherwise objectionable, does not mean that. It was never intended to mean that and even if it was, the law was never sold to the country as meaning that. If it had been, the law would have never passed.

        1. Do you have any evidence regarding what the term “otherwise objectionable” was “intended to mean”, or of how the law was “sold to the country”? And how is the political sales pitch even relevant to interpretation of what the law actually says in plain English?

          1. And how is the political sales pitch even relevant to interpretation of what the law actually says in plain English?

            You mean aside from the fact that it was sold as part of the CDA which, excepting this section, has been repealed?

          2. And how is the political sales pitch even relevant to interpretation of what the law actually says in plain English?

            Because selling a law on a lie is a bad thing. If the law doesn’t mean what it was sold to the country on a lie, it should be repealed and then passed on an honest basis.

            Do you have any evidence regarding what the term “otherwise objectionable” was “intended to mean”, or of how the law was “sold to the country”?

            Yes, my memory of when it was passed and the justifications given. The justification was that it would allow more free speech and prevent these companies from having to censor or shut down. Indeed, the proof of my assertion is in the fact that this very article claims it is there to protect free speech. Really? According to you it was passed to allow companies to censor speech. The contrast between your claims that the law is all about letting these companies censor speech and the article itself claims that it is about free speech shows this lie continues to this day.

            1. It may be a bad thing but it doesn’t invalidate the law. The actual text of the act was easily accessible to every legislator who voted on it. There’s no provision in the legislative process for a repeal or do-over based on misleading “sales pitches”.

              According to me, the law was passed so that providers were not forced to choose between allowing ALL legal speech or allowing no speech at all. It gave them the freedom to make subjective moderation decisions without putting them on the hook for illegal speech made by other parties. I believe this did lead to “freer” speech, because absent that protection I think that most platforms would make the legally safe choice to simply ban all user-generated speech entirely.

              1. You know, that ‘otherwise objectionable’ phrase probably would not fly today, if we attempted to put that into legislation. It is too vague.

                Perhaps those are the grounds to pursue.

              2. It may be a bad thing but it doesn’t invalidate the law

                No one said it did. I am saying it is a bad law that needs to be repealed. You seem in capable of making an honest argument here. When the flaws of the law are pointed out, you move the goalposts and claim that the issue is whether the law is valid not whether it needs to be repealed.

                I believe this did lead to “freer” speech, because absent that protection I think that most platforms would make the legally safe choice to simply ban all user-generated speech entirely.

                And that is just complete horseshit. There platforms produces tens of billions of dollars in revenue every year. The claim that having to pay the occasional libel copyright judgement would render their business model impossible is laughable on its face. Moreover, even if it did, since when does the government owe a business overturning the common law to ensure its survival?

                1. I’m not moving the goalposts, I just disagree with you about it being a bad law. I think it’s both the correct framework for online activity, and also on solid legal footing.

                  And yes sure, YouTube makes a lot of ad money, but the vast majority of sites protected by 230 are nowhere near as profitable. Besides, saying “they can afford it” is not a moral justification for subjecting a private entity to legal punishment for behavior outside of its control.

                  1. If you censor, anything left, de facto, you support. You’ve already shown a willingness…hell, an eagerness…to silence stuff you disapprove of.

                    1. If you censor, anything left, de facto, you support.

                      Reason moderates its comments, and bans certain users.

                      Does that mean that Reason should be held liable when PB posts links to kiddie porn?

                    2. Reason acted against the child porn…

                    3. Reason acted against the child porn…

                      And several of you guys who make a point of chasing people around have re-posted it many, many, many times.

                      Should Reason be held liable?

                    4. Nobody has reposted any child porn, square.
                      Maybe you’re confusing here with your other favorite sites.

                      But, generally, if Reason is going to moderate at all and leaves links to child porn up on its site, then yes it should (and probably will) be held accountable.

                      Moderation confers responsibility.

                    5. But, generally, if Reason is going to moderate at all and leaves links to child porn up on its site, then yes it should (and probably will) be held accountable.

                      So, what you’re saying is that Section 230, as it currently exists, wouldn’t shield them from liability the way you claim it does?

                  2. Besides, saying “they can afford it” is not a moral justification for subjecting a private entity to legal punishment for behavior outside of its control.

                    If it is controls its platform and the content that goes on it, and it clearly does, then the behavior is not beyond its control. You are telling me Youtube has no control over what goes on its platform?

                    You just lost the argument. Thanks for playing.

                    1. You just lost the argument.

                      No he didn’t. I’ll ask you the same thing I asked damikesc:

                      Reason moderates its comments, and bans certain users.

                      Does that mean that Reason should be held liable when PB posts links to kiddie porn?

              3. “Otherwise objectionable”
                The qualified immunity of crony capitalist internet leviathans

      3. Facebook says “kill only white people” is perfectly kosher.

    2. As Tim Pool has pointed out, Twitter will BAN you for “misgendering”
      somebody. So Twitter can ban me for stating the genetic reality that Bruce Jenner is a male. A mutilated one, but a male nonetheless. Truth, above all, is the ultimate speech protection per the Constitution, but not with “The First Amendment of the Internet” How is that good faith and not simple censoring of a position Twitter does not like?

      To paraphrase Steven Crowder, it is not ILLEGAL to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater…if there actually is a fire. It’s only illegal to LIE about it.

    3. Yes, that’s where he goes wrong. The very inclusion of the term “good faith” means that there’s such a thing as bad faith moderation.

      If “or otherwise objectionable” just meant “whatever the platform doesn’t like”, then the “good faith” language would be without meaning. Obviously “or otherwise objectionable” means “of the same nature as the things listed.”

      1. +1
        Bingo.

        Someone understands a bit about the law.

    4. “Good faith” is a term of art in the law. Everyone in that context does know what that term means.

      Notably, it does not mean “I will do what I said I would in my non-binding terms and conditions” and it most certainly does not mean “I will do what you think> the T&Cs say.” Claiming to be content neutral and then failing to live up to somebody else’s interpretation of that threshold is not a violation of the legal term “good faith”.

      1. Apologies for the malformed italics tag.

        And can we please have an edit button?

      2. Whereas claiming to be content neutral but having whistleblowers release internal memos stating that you are actively promoting content you agree with while also actively hindering content you disagree with very well could be a violation of the perxeived terms of service. Lawsuits have been won when the widely held perception was broken, even if the contract in small print stated otherwise.

    5. Good faith is a widely-used legal term. Section 230 does not invent some new meaning. It means the action is not done with fraudulent purposes.

      1. What, you mean like labeling a political video porn?

      2. Like “fact-checking” a pro-life video by asking pro-choice advocates? Why didn’t they just ask Boston Red Sox fans about the New York Yankees, or Cincinnati Bengals fans about the Pittsburgh Steelers?

  3. Section 230 is roundly misunderstood, but it’s also not the “first amendment” of the internet. The first amendment is the first amendment of the internet.

    And say what you will about section 230, it seems that corporations have taken it upon themselves to censor the crap out of their platforms and creators– not out of a fear of liability, but out of a fear of ire from social justice mobs.

    To be sure *clears throat* I think section 230 should be left in place. But it seems to me that major tech companies have become a cesspool of censorious group think in spite of section 230.

    1. The first amendment is the first amendment of the internet.

      Damn you!

      But it seems to me that major tech companies have become a cesspool of censorious group think in spite of section 230.

      There is no conception of section 230 that isn’t the government pre-approving of private censorship of some form. Whether that censorship is against smut, religious or political ideology, or weapons and banned substances as well as whether the censorship advances to the point of libel or slander is the zeitgeist of any given leader and/or culture.

      1. There is no conception of section 230 that isn’t the government pre-approving of private censorship of some form.

        “Private Censorship” doesn’t have to be approved by the government.

        1. So why did they feel a law doing exactly that was needed? Your statement appears to contradict your stance a bit.

        2. It does if you’re going to grant specific legal carve outs from libel and defamation laws.

  4. Politicians Want to Destroy Section 230, the Internet’s First Amendment

    Actually, The First Amendment is the internet’s First Amendment.

    Technically, the internet isn’t a person, doesn’t speak itself and, as such doesn’t have 1A rights.

    If you actually read the First Amendment there’s nothing there that voids or excepts internet.

    If you actually read Section 230 it blatantly violates the 1A in several places.

    1. Also, by ANY legal standard, platforms do not have speech of their own. That is why phone companies aren’t liable for crimes planned over the phone.

      A platform with no speech of its own, by definition, cannot have free speech protections for its business since it is not saying anything. It is transmitting the speech of others.

      1. So the government can regulate what you’re allowed to say over the phone?

        1. No, the analogy would be that the government can allow the telephone company to censor what you say on their phone by protecting them from lawsuits. Your analogy would only work if it were the users on say YouTube censoring content rather than YouTube itself. The fact that you saw it the other way makes me wonder how much you thought about this subject.

          1. Read the rest of what that cretin has posted, I don’t think it’s capable of intelligent thought.

            1. I have had some fairly intelligent debates with the aforementioned poster at times. Hell, I’ve even agreed with him sometimes.

        2. If the phone company decided to stop speech they did not like, sure, they likely could (and almost definitely would).

          But the phone company lets EVERYTHING go. So, they have a firm claim to being a platform.

          Platform or publisher. One OR the other. One cannot be both.

    2. The first amendment doesn’t depend on personhood. It is a limit on what laws Congress is allowed to pass. “Congress shall make no law…”

      What specific violations of the first amendment can be found in Section 230? The text is here for reference:

      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230

      1. There are no violations of the First Amendment. No one is claiming that. It is a shitty law that allows companies to avoid responsibility for what is on their platforms while still retaining the freedom to control what goes on their platforms. It just needs to be repealed because it is a corporate handout.

        1. “There are no violations of the First Amendment. No one is claiming that.”

          Except mad.casual clearly did claim above that Section 230 violates the first amendment. I agree with you that it does not.

          1. 1. Section 230 is law
            2. Section 230 allows for abridging the freedom of speech.

            If both is true, then it is clearly, by the letter of the 1A, a violation of 1A.

            1. Section 230 allows for PRIVATE COMPANIES to make decisions about what speech they allow on their own websites, which has nothing to do with the first amendment. The first amendment restricts government activity, not private parties.

              1. “”The first amendment restricts government activity,””

                Sure, in this case the government activity is the creation of the law.

                1. By that logic, the government not having a law specifically forbidding any censorship of anybody at any time for any reason is the government ‘enabling’ censorship.

                  1. Logic fail only a career child could pull off.
                    The law in question simply states that certain publishers may broadcast whatever they want and the government will shield them from individuals seeking redress for damages suffered

                    1. The law in question simply states that certain publishers may broadcast whatever they want and the government will shield them from individuals seeking redress for damages suffered

                      That’s not what the law says it all. C’mon, dude – the law isn’t even that long. It’s not hard to characterize it accurately.

                      People who provide internet platforms where randos can post things can’t be held liable for the things the randos post. That’s a pretty damned far cry from “certain publishers may broadcast whatever they want and the government will shield them from individuals seeking redress for damages suffered.”

                      So if you look at the actual law, rather than your reformulated version, is Congress making a law abridging freedom of speech? Remember to answer in a way that keeps what I said a “Logic fail only a career child could pull off.”

                    2. MC: “Square blows goats.”
                      Square: “No I don’t.”

                      Reason deletes Square’s refutation but leaves MC’s original assertion.
                      Reason thus takes an editorial position, and acts as publisher by broadcasting MC’s message that “Square blows goats” absent Square’s rebuttal.
                      Square’s reputation has been damaged by the now undisputed accusation. While Square can seek redress from MC, Square is prevented by the leviathan from seeking redress from Reason, the entity which broadcast the accusation while censoring the rebuttal.
                      Should Reason not be responsible for its decision to proceed in such a manner?

                  2. “‘By that logic, the government not having a law specifically forbidding any censorship of anybody at any time for any reason is the government ‘enabling’ censorship.””

                    The 1A does not forbid a law that would forbid censorship. It forbids laws that would abridge the freedom of speech. 1A is very clear about that. That is why I laid out a two part test according to the text of 1A. 1. It must be a law. 2. The law must abridge speech. If it does not meet the criteria of both, then it is not against the 1A.

              2. If you strike the language in 230 about when speech is allowed to be abridged, then it would not violate #2 above.

              3. Section 230 allows

                No it doesn’t and fundamentally can’t. If the only reason companies can make decisions is because Congress allows them to, they aren’t private.

              4. “Section 230 allows for PRIVATE COMPANIES to make decisions about what speech they allow on their own websites, which has nothing to do with the first amendment. The first amendment restricts government activity, not private parties.”

                Yet OTHER private companies, such as the media, don’t have these protections. Why? If the NYT uses an AP article, they aren’t protected if it is libelous…even if no NYT employee wrote a word of it.

                1. Yet OTHER private companies, such as the media, don’t have these protections. Why?

                  Because when the NYT runs an AP story it’s because they specifically and deliberately chose to. The AP doesn’t just post stories in the NYT and wait for the NYT to remove them if it doesn’t like them.

                  1. “Libertarians” for cronyist leviathan protection from responsibility!

                    1. That doesn’t respond to what I said in any way whatsoever.

                    2. Yea, was just being snarky that time.

                      But here you go:
                      “Because when the NYT runs an AP story it’s because they specifically and deliberately chose to. The AP doesn’t just post stories in the NYT and wait for the NYT to remove them if it doesn’t like them.”
                      When Facegoogitter censors some content it’s because they specifically and deliberately chose to. They’ve demonstrated the ability and inclination to specifically and deliberately determine what content does not and what content DOES appear on their site.
                      When uncensored content violates standards of civil law, Facegoogitter is currently shielded from answering for their action in broadcasting said content.
                      This shouldn’t necessarily result in finding Facegoogitter responsible for such a violation, as it is entirely possible that their (in)action is due to ignorance of the content (say, it had not been reported or was censored soon after being brought to their attention), but their level of culpability is exactly the kind of thing that juries are assembled to determine.

                  2. “Because when the NYT runs an AP story it’s because they specifically and deliberately chose to.”

                    You’re aware the NYT picks EVERYTHING that appears in the paper, right? It cannot be there without their approval.

                    YouTube does the same now.

                2. Because #LibertariansForCronyCapitalism.

      2. What specific violations of the first amendment can be found in Section 230?

        The rest of the CDA was the law until it was found unconstitutional to be unconstitutional. Definitively, every law found unconstitutional was the law.

        Your feigned ignorance, mott-and-bailey bullshit isn’t deceiving.
        “Congress shall make no law…” v. “Congress finds the following:”

      3. The first amendment doesn’t depend on personhood.

        I didn’t say it did depend on personhood but to pretend that Free Speech is oriented around things that don’t speak or don’t speak of their own volition is beyond stupid. Quite reasonably/arguably an unborn fetus has more of a right to free speech than the internet, as “a series of tubes”, does.

        1. The first amendment question isn’t about who has a “right” to free speech, it’s about what laws the government is allowed to pass. It forbids Congress from passing any law restricting free speech, regardless of who (or what) that restriction is applied to.

          1. But it gives YouTube protections it does not provide Fox News.

            Why?

            1. But it gives YouTube protections it does not provide Fox News.

              Why?

              See my response above re: the NYT. Can I make a video and broadcast it on Fox News without their active participation?

              No.

              1. You cannot do the same with YT. They happily strike down and censor videos for routine reasons constantly.

                Just because media companies are more COMPETENT censors at what they broadcast does not excuse YouTube.

                1. They strike down and censor videos, but that happens after the video is posted, right? So it is not the same as posting a video on the website of a news channel without their consent and participation- you would have to hack them to do that.

          2. Right. Whether we’re talking bout a human being, a social network, or a rock, Congress has no say in which, if any, do or do not have 1A rights.

            Even if Congress *could* rocks and series of tubes don’t speak and their (lack of) speech *cannot* be protected. As much as you or they may wish otherwise, Congress’ law doesn’t supercede physics or mathematical laws.

            1. Paper doesn’t speak, either. There goes freedom of the press, eh?

              1. Another false analogy. The paper would be akin to the internet. Where your analogy breaks down is the paper itself has no rights but the person writing on the paper does. And those rights do not protect them from liable if what they write is false or they should reasonably be expected to know it is false. Nor does it protect them if they knowingly reprint copyrighted material.

                1. Protect them from liability

                  1. The paper would be akin to the internet.

                    In this analogy the lamppost would be the internet. And the question, If I allow anyone to put up their paper, am I liable for what they say; and If I remove handbills, does that make me responsible for what remains.

    3. re: “If you actually read Section 230 it blatantly violates the 1A in several places.”

      So you have already filed your lawsuit alleging violation of the First Amendment? How’s the case working out? Or if you haven’t personally filed such a case, you can of course cite to one?

      Or maybe the fact that exactly nobody has successfully brought such a suit is evidence that Section 230 does not in fact violate the 1A. You are free to think that Sec 230 is a bad idea and to argue against it. But blindly making stuff up doesn’t help your case.

      1. Or maybe the fact that exactly nobody has successfully brought such a suit is evidence that Section 230 does not in fact violate the 1A. You are free to think that Sec 230 is a bad idea and to argue against it. But blindly making stuff up doesn’t help your case.

        Again, Brown v. Board wasn’t the first case to bring up public school segregation, which was the law of the land until Brown v. Board declared it unconstitutional. Brown wasn’t even the first case to be brought against the BOE in Topeka.

        A plain letter reading of ‘Congress shall make no law…’ followed by a law, enacted by Congress, regulating the free speech of anyone, in their favor or not, is unconstitutional and arguments to the contrary are pro-Congress, anti-libertarian, and anti-1A.

        You can keep arguing but the “All laws are Constitutional unless legally ruled otherwise.” argument betrays where you stand on liberty, principle, and the rule of law.

        1. That would be a brilliant argument if Sec 230 abridged the freedom of speech. It doesn’t. Users do not and never had a constitutional right to freedom of speech on someone else’s property.

          That did not, however, stop people from suing as if they did. All Sec 230 did was confirm that private companies can’t be held liable for their moderation choices on their own property and that when users post things that are against the law, it’s the user who is the criminal, not the company. Sec 230 was philosophically no different than anti-SLAPP, Castle Doctrine or Good Samaritan laws.

          1. The pro-230 side always falls back on the moderation being of illegal content, when that is not the argument, at all.
            What is actually happening, and being protected by this law, is moderation of perfectly legal content, with the intent of distorting the public’s understanding of political subject matter.
            By intentionally distorting the things they choose to, it has the effect of misrepresenting issues and these platforms should lose their protection of censoring/”moderating” in good faith.
            What is wrong with the law is that the courts have taken a pass on whether good faith is the standard by dismissing all suits, out of hand, thus the calls for repeal.

          2. #LibertariansForCronyCapitalism

  5. Silly me, I thought all this time that the internet was protected by the real first amendment since, oh say, 1990.

    (Hint: it wasn’t Al Gore)

    1. Al Gore invented all the Internets W Bush uses.

  6. “Without Section 230, it would be hard for companies to avoid lawsuits and criminal charges without either becoming cesspools of totally unmoderated speech or banning user-generated speech entirely.”

    But think of the lawyers! Imagine the money they are NOT making because they can’t sue everyone all the time! And the jails! With new movements in criminal justice reforms, the jails will be a little bit less crowded than before, and this cannot be tolerated! /s

    1. If the government weren’t shielding corporations from unmoderated cesspools of totally unmoderated speech they might have to work on their own messaging themselves!

      1. But the government IS a cesspool, in and of itself, and therefore, incapable of anything than “cess-speak!

        1. The government is better on speech than social media is.

          Just sayin’.

          1. Well, I might agree with you, excepting that it seems, sometimes, that every politician, from dogcatcher to the POTUS, utilizes social media to their own advantage. Perhaps it’s a “wash” as to which is better?

    2. So the actual 1st Amendment does not prevent such lawsuits? Strange.

      1. You would think it would, no? I mean, it protects politicians who habitually lie, distort, and misrepresent whatever they choose, yes? On the other hand, penning Section 230 might save tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits, and years in reaching SCOTUS, just to have them, basically, reach the conclusion that 230 encapsulates.

        1. On the other hand, penning Section 230 might save tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits, and years in reaching SCOTUS, just to have them, basically, reach the conclusion that 230 encapsulates.

          So what you’re saying is Congress can pass a law that preempts SCOTUS?

          1. Seems like a spurious claim, does it not?

            It saving money hardly makes a law constitutional. Slavery would be far cheaper than paying wages and benefits. It’d also be laughably unconstitutional.

            1. Actually slavery is generally more expensive then paid labor. Adam Smith gives a great breakdown of this in “A Wealth of Nations”.

              1. To be clear, I am ridicule the concept of there should be a law.

              2. As a long term process, absolutely. Innovation dies a million deaths and productivity is as low as possible to avoid beatings.

                But if you look at a pure balance sheet at a moment in time, slicing wages and benefits to zero would make it cheaper short-term. Long-term, yes, it’d gut the company whole and make it brutally uncompetitive.

                The South learned that lesson the hard way.

  7. “Section 230 explicitly says that’s not the case—”good faith” and “voluntary” attempts to filter out unwanted posts and users are OK. ”

    Purely political filtering — which IS being done — would seem to run afoul of “good faith” pretty hard. You’re working really hard to miss that point, but that seems to be a YOU problem.

    1. Apparently, “good faith” is one of those Borkean inkblots. It does not really mean anything that is enforcable.

      1. Me: “They said the only reason I was banned because I said something they found distasteful”

        Reason: “Hey, sounds like good faith to me”

        Remember when Reason was angry (VERY angry, mind you) that the CPD decided to “exercise its free speech” and not include Gary Johnson in the debates? I guess this principle is pretty damned fluid.

    2. As I mentioned above, the full text of that section protects providers and users from liability due to:

      “any action voluntarily taken in good faith 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, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

      It’s clear from this language that subjective moderation of constitutionally protected speech is allowed on the part of providers and users. Your personal interpretation of “good faith” is in plain disagreement with the actual letter of the law.

      1. It’s clear from this language that subjective moderation of constitutionally protected speech is allowed on the part of providers and users. Your personal interpretation of “good faith” is in plain disagreement with the actual letter of the law.

        Why you think that somehow makes the case that the law needs to be repealed is a mystery known only to you. Even if you are correct, that means it is a bad law that needs to go.

        1. Say what? I don’t think there is a case that the law needs to be repealed.

          At any rate it’s one thing to express the opinion that 230 “needs to go”, it’s another to misinterpret the language of the law and point to phrases like “good faith” to claim that YouTube etc are in violation of 230. They are not.

          1. The only way they’re not in violation is by depriving that “in good faith” of all meaning, and reading the text as though it read,

            “any action voluntarily taken in good faith 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, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

            And that’s not how Section 230 actually reads.

            1. The long sentence and your shortened version ultimately mean the same thing: providers are allowed to moderate speech they find objectionable.

                1. Part of highschool basic civics should be basic principles of our legal system like this.

                  When they can spare time from putting condoms on cucumbers.

          2. At any rate it’s one thing to express the opinion that 230 “needs to go”, it’s another to misinterpret the language of the law and point to phrases like “good faith” to claim that YouTube etc are in violation of 230. They are not.

            The argument is that the ‘in good faith’ contained in section 230 is faith to congress rather than faith to their partners, user base, or clearly stated business or operating policy.

            If there were no section 230, there would be no question as to who the good faith is owed except in the courts. Just like every other private dispute over speech or business.

            1. If there were no section 230, twitter would be liable for libel and defamation for what they publish, just as any other publisher.

      2. “ny action voluntarily taken in good faith 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, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

        With literally zero information as to what they consider to be obscene et al? No. Not the way law works.

        1. “The way the law works” is….based on the actual language of the law itself. In this particular case Section 230 clearly enables moderation based on subjective ideas about what is objectionable.

          1. It also specifies good faith which is demonstrably not occurring.

            1. I disagree, they are acting in good faith to prohibit speech they find objectionable on their own privately controlled website. “Good faith” in that context just means they are actually moderating based on the content itself and not, for example, based on personal reputation or something like that.

              1. “and not, for example, based on personal reputation or something like that.”

                Explain Pinterest banning Paul Joseph Watson, whose account was just beach pictures and literally zero political or doing anything with InfoWars…

              2. “Good faith” in that context just means they are actually moderating based on the content itself and not, for example, based on personal reputation or something like that.

                So good faith can change whimsically on context? Sounds *exactly* like the sort of thing that should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, it sounds exactly like a reason the 1A was crafted; in order to prevent Congress from even chilling speech in or out of conext.

              3. “I disagree, they are acting in good faith to prohibit speech they find objectionable on their own privately controlled website. ”

                But it doesn’t just say “objectionable”. It gives an illustrative list of objectionable things, ending with “or otherwise objectionable”. This sort of list with a catch-all is normally interpreted as meaning things in the list, or of the same general nature as the things in the list.

                Otherwise the list is a waste of ink, and “or otherwise objectionable” is the whole thing.

    3. My basic stance is this: The government has no business telling private organizations what they can permit on their “platforms.” They can censor, or not censor, or anything in-between, to their hearts content.

      1. You’re right, they have no right to tell platforms what to do. Platforms do not limit what you can do on their platform (outside of, like, not paying your phone bill or trying to hack their network).

        They have a right to hold publishers liable for what they choose to allow.

        It’s why publishers and platforms aren’t the same thing.

      2. You’re lying.

        “The government has no business telling private organizations what they can permit on their “platforms.””

        You say this yet support a law which gives certain private organizations special immunity from civil redress.
        The government is quite clearly telling these private organizations what they can permit.

        1. NO, I am not “lying.” But what I support is, in the “real world,” perhaps not ever going to happen. And I agree, “…The government is quite clearly telling these private organizations what they can permit….” But I deem it quite possible that 230 might be, eventually, replaced with something quite a bit restrictive, given that the government, in general, doesn’t like anything it can’t control.

          1. There should be a law… I agree unfortunately, government already got involved with section 230.

            1. To be clear, I am ridicule the concept of there should be a law. Accidentally posted this clarification above.

      3. The government has no business telling private organizations what they can permit on their “platforms.”

        Incorrect. The government and society, including libertarians, have a vested interest in the ability to reconcile or verify that when I say that I have irrefutable proof that AlbertP sucks off goats I, in fact, have proof that AlbertP sucks off goats.

        Now, as libertarians, the issue isn’t exactly the speech itself as much as the assertion that, had you built a reputation or property on the fact that you don’t, in fact, suck off goats my claims (true or not) would be damaging to your property.

        In such situations You, me, and anyone interested in your goat fellating habits have a vested interest in impartial arbitration and/or mediation of such conflicts. A role courts have filled since well before The Republic, American or Roman, was founded.

        1. Well, yes and no. If someone defames me, say, on FB, I certainly have the right to seek damages from the person who posted such nonsense. That shouldn’t make FB liable. As an example: lots of businesses have “bulletin boards” — actual boards — for customers to (literally) pin messages to reach out to other people. If someone abuses that privilege by posting something defamatory on it, it is the poster who should be liable, not the person who provided the board.

          1. But, as argued previously, if FB decides to “moderate” your denial, or proof provided, that you do not perform such acts on goats, then they should be held liable.
            But, under 230, the suit would get nowhere.
            That is what is happening. These platforms are “moderating” one side of the political spectrum out of existence, leaving the other side as the only one seen, distorting what the casual observer’s interpretation of a situation might be.
            That’s not acting in good faith, unless you are a dishonest, dishonorable leftist, because these distortions only seem to go one way – to the left.

            1. I understand what you are saying, but I just don’t buy it.

              As an example: I “own” a meet-up group page for the purpose of getting musicians together. It is public, and anyone can join. However, since I bought and paid for the group, I retain the power to cancel any membership, or delete any comment. I can also other give members of the group those functions. If someone doesn’t like the way I “moderate” my group (in reality, I don’t moderate it at all), or who I allow to be members (I have never refused a member or had to kick one out of the group), they are free to start their own.

  8. Myth #5: Section 230 is “the Internet’s First Amendment”

    It’s not. That’s a completely unreasonable statement.

    The point of Section 230 make sense: merely to clarify that the provider of a technology which is used by a speaker or publisher to make their statements cannot be themselves deemed to the speaker or publisher, merely because they provided the technology. The same principle would have held on the day the First Amendment was passed, for example, if someone rented a printing press for their own purposes to print something.

    With that being said, Section 230 will require some tweaks sooner or later. The fundamental problem is actually an extremely simple one conceptually: where do you draw the line between merely providing technology used to publish a statement, and becoming a contributor and participant in that speech? Simple conceptually, but difficult at the moment to formulate how it should apply to changing technologies.

    Section 230, while it might be OK for the moment, does not answer the problem. For example, an outfit like the New York Times could make its “content providers” independent contractors paid on commission, very much similar to what YouTube does. It could then otherwise act much like a traditional publisher, selecting the content it wishes to disseminate, and the speakers it chooses to repeat. This would be somewhat (but only somewhat) similar to what YouTube currently does: selecting which content (or which speakers) will be highlighted on its front page, trending videos, related videos, i.e. which content or speakers will actually be distributed or promoted, as well as which content or speakers will be drastically and severely restricted from distribution, or just not even allowed at all.

    So, we have a line drawing problem that is conceptually simple but difficult in practice.

    Reason unfortunately does little to elevate the discussion, and rather seems intent on responding to stupid commentary with even stupider contrary commentary. The tiresome, shallow, and repetitive advocacy posted here seems to boil down to a key flaw of completely ignoring the validity of the cause of defamation. The concept of defamation is as old as the concept of law itself. See, e.g. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This seems to be where Reason’s blind spot lies.

    1. The fundamental problem is actually an extremely simple one conceptually: where do you draw the line between merely providing technology used to publish a statement, and becoming a contributor and participant in that speech? Simple conceptually, but difficult at the moment to formulate how it should apply to changing technologies.

      That is exactly the issue. And it is the issue reason never touches. I think that is by design because they are just paid shills for the tech companies on this issue.

      1. If that is exactly the issue for you John, why have you repeatedly pushed for Section 230 repeal? That’s not your issue. Your issue is that you want Section 230 repealed so facebook and twitter can stop moderating conservative content. Full stop. The idea that you can piggy back on a decently written comment (that actually reads pretty pro-230) so you can keep shilling for Trump is ludicrous.

        1. One could also argue that the federal government should simply stop meddling in everything, and that 95% of the federal administrative state including Section 230 is a gross and unnecessary perversion of the Constitution and the commerce clause which has grown beyond all recognition from the originally intended limited enumerated powers of the general government of the sovereign States.

        2. f that is exactly the issue for you John, why have you repeatedly pushed for Section 230 repeal?

          Because 230 as it is currently designed prevents courts from addressing that issue and just declares that these platforms fall on one side of the law. The solution here is to repeal 230 and let the courts via common law decide the line in case law or to replace 230 with a better version that defines that line.

          I thought that was obvious. I as usual forget just how stupid some of the people on here are. And you being one of the dumber people on here completely miss it.

          Why don’t you just shut the fuck up and continue to battle the voices of Trump in your head and leave the adults alone for a while. I really don’t have time or the inclination to deal with someone of your limited intellectual ability. I have made the point above about a dozen times on here. If you were anything but an illiterate half wit you would know that.

    2. The fundamental problem is actually an extremely simple one conceptually: where do you draw the line between merely providing technology used to publish a statement, and becoming a contributor and participant in that speech? Simple conceptually, but difficult at the moment to formulate how it should apply to changing technologies.

      Several slight disagreements. First, Congress isn’t supposed to draw that line but it’s been drawn for a little over 80 yrs. Second, having been drawn for 80 yrs. and not being able to draw the line in the first place, Congress shouldn’t be able to whimsically redraw. Third, having drawn the line and *redrawn* the line, there is, in fact, a line. A company is either a carrier or a publisher, there is no legal classification for a publisher-carrier that isn’t explicitly a special carve out by Congress which it shouldn’t be able to do in the first place. I don’t recall exactly which contributor around here used to use the phrase all the time (Rhywun? OMWC?) but it’s a one-way ratchet.

      I admit my explanation isn’t as simple and I don’t disagree with the simplicity of your explanation, but I believe the situation to be more fundamentally complex.

      1. Explain. Are you saying that Congress isn’t supposed to meddle with common law or state law on defamation, and why exactly is that? What line was drawn 80 years ago?

        1. Are you saying that Congress isn’t supposed to meddle with common law or state law on defamation, and why exactly is that?

          As a libertarian, contracts should determine what constitutes a carrier and what constitutes a publisher. I’m not advocating a repeal of everything back to 1789, but the continued rationalization of scope creep is the beating heart of the one-way ratchet.

          What line was drawn 80 years ago?

          FDR, fireside chats, The Communications Act of 1934, and the creation of the FCC. Arguably, radio acts preceding it conscribed speech as well but with the advent of telephone and the *Communications* Act it becomes clear that the speech rather than the commerce or the medium are/were the issue. It’s the point where congress/the government stops regulating trade and starts regulating communications and draws the line between the publishers from the carriers.

          1. “As a libertarian, contracts should determine . . .”

            But assume you have not entered into any contract or waived a defamation claim pursuant to contract. Shouldn’t you have a claim against the speaker, e.g. the publisher in the case of libel?

            1. I see no legitimate argument that a publisher should be unburdened of responsibility if that publisher takes no action regarding some (defamatory) content but does take action regarding, in the form of censorship/deletion, other (defamatory) content.
              The publisher has made (in the words of Square) specific and deliberate choices to continue broadcasting some content while ceasing to broadcast other content.
              If made aware of both, such discrepancies in broadcasting/censorship constitute implicit endorsement of the broadcast content in contrast to rejection of the censored content.

              1. To clarify, a “publisher” is not absolved of responsibility for defamation as I understand it, rather the issue is who is considered a publisher.

                I think I understand what you’re getting at, but ask yourself this: under your rule, assuming Reason deletes at least some posts, would we even be having this conversation?

    3. “”Myth #5: Section 230 is “the Internet’s First Amendment”

      It’s not. That’s a completely unreasonable statement.””

      It’s as if someone thinks the Constitution does not cover new technologies. Probably from someone who thinks only weapons from the late 1700s are covered in the 2A.

    4. Reason’s blind spot is that which reduces corporate power and profit.

  9. “The political class wants everyone to believe that the way the U.S. has policed the internet for the past quarter-century has actually been lax, immoral, and dangerous.”

    Because the political class is pissed that there exists a medium of mass communication that it has not yet figured out how to neuter, just like it did with broadcast radio in the 1920s and 1930s.

    1. Actually, half the political class HAVE figured out how to neuter it, by having the people running the platforms be members of their own party.

      The other half are pissed off at being the subjects of the neutering.

  10. “Section 230 allows for the free exchange of ideas on the internet—and it may be just as important to online free speech as the First Amendment.”

    You may want to remind all the fascist pigs at Twitter, Google, and FascistBook of that fact when they censor conservative’s speech.

    1. “free speech”
      I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means – – – – –

      1. Actually, I do.
        As long as you don’t say (or write) anything slanderous or threaten physical harm, then you’re entitled to say what you wish which threatens both left and right extremists.

  11. The problem is that rather that supporting free speech, it suppresses speech by anyone the tech companies don’t like.

    And no, you can’t just start a new social media platform. When people try, even if they gain audience, the tech companies try to shut it down by not allowing it on their stores or no one being will to host them.

  12. “Section 230 allows for the free exchange of ideas on the internet—and it may be just as important to online free speech as the First Amendment.”

    No it doesn’t. It allows for companies to make money by bypassing users need to create their own websites. People had free speech online before 230. They made websites, talked about how they liked to have sex with balloons, posted photos of them with balloons, and should they say something libelous then they could get sued. Now we have people using these services anonymously, the company hosting it makes money off of the users, and they’re not liable for anything.
    Remove 230.

    1. Section 230 is merely a the lid on the giant can of worms that is the CDA of ’96.

      Yes, let’s scrap it, but we also need to revisit the entire mess in order to sort out the problems that this legislation created.

      Sad to see Reason going all in to protect corporate give aways and safe harbors.

      1. Sad, but no longer surprised.

        #LibertariansForCronyCapitalism

  13. Contrary to what some people are saying here, the “good faith” exception does not in any way apply in some special way to the moderation of content, except in the standard legal understanding of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The term is found throughout the US code (a search on site:law.cornell.edu/uscode “good faith” returns more than a thousand hits). You can find it in numerous court decisions for centuries. Go read Blackstone if you want to learn more. At the core, it means the party is not acting deceptively or fraudulently. Editing the content to twist the meaning might apply, especially if it were from a competitor, or if it were done in a way to deceive readers into harming a person’s reputation or business. Deleting content for violating terms of service that are as broadly written as Google’s, Twitter’s, etc, are does not apply.

    People have tried to litigate it before in the context of Section 230. They have gotten nowhere, because legal terms don’t change because a plaintiff is confused about the meaning. You can go read, for instance, the federal dismissal of the really dumb Praeger University v Google, or numerous other 230 cases, like Lancaster v Alphabet.

    230 has existed for nearly a quarter century. Pretty much all the obvious and most of the non-obvious ways to get around it have been tried, and failed.

    1. Please be Ferguson was around for over half a century.

      1. Plessy v Ferguson

    2. “Editing the content to twist the meaning might apply…”
      That’s exactly what is happening.
      By editing out one side of an argument, or position, it “twists” what is perceived by the reader as being the truth of the matter.
      When that is done on subject matter that is perfectly legal, or universally regarded as objectionable, the good faith protection is lost.
      Platforms, like google, hide behind 230 and those seeking redress never get the chance to argue whether the “faith” was good, or bad.

  14. Isn’t all this fussing over the exact meaning of Section 230 really missing the point anyway?

    As far as I can tell, the root of the problem is that social media companies are excluding particular viewpoints from the online conversation. That alone should concern anyone committed to free speech–not as a first amendment issue, which only applies to government action, but as a basic value of liberal inquiry. The classical liberal (i.e., libertarian) first response to this prima facie problem is that private entities should be free to moderate however they see fit, answerable to no one, and the resulting marketplace competition will ensure that free inquiry is respected. That would be an awesome solution, if it could work. It can’t in this case.

    The trouble with that traditional answer in the context of the internet is that social media by its very nature is profoundly impacted by network effects that pose a huge barrier to entry. That is, it is just absurd to suggest one should just start one’s own YouTube or Twitter. The reason everyone is on these platforms is that everyone is already on these platforms. Although there were strong network effects already present in pre-internet media, they were nowhere near as powerful. Back in the day, although I might not get the New York Times to publish my clever insights, I would be able to pitch them to hundreds of local papers and alternative media that would help me to reach enough of an audience that I could reasonably hope to eventually build an audience and break through into the big mainstream media. That was hardly a perfect situation, but it was not utterly intolerable, and it was the best we could reasonably manage.

    Nowadays, starting an alternative site is not only almost certain to fail for want of enough traffic to be competitive (because super weapon level network effects), but even if I succeed to some degree I will be effectively siloed and permanently marginalized for even trying. Witness Gab and the other efforts to replace social media incumbents with free speech alternatives, along with the many content creators banned nor merely from this or that platform but every platform with an audience. When the social media companies collude to unplatform creators (e.g., Paul Joseph Watson), the result is a situation even worse than the already bad solution of pre-internet media. To only somewhat overstate the matter, dissenting voices today are, somewhat ironically, more easily marginalized in an era of information abundance than they were in the broadcast era. At a minimum, we’re at least not enjoying all the benefits information abundance might have provided to free inquiry.

    That’s the real issue, and it will not be addressed by fussing over the details of Section 230. The trouble is that no acceptable solution to the real problem presents itself. Network effects being what they are in this space, breaking up the big social media companies would not change the basic dynamics–after a short while, there would again be a group of oligopolies eager and able to use their market power to put their fingers on the scales of free inquiry. Regulating social media companies in the manner of utilities means putting the government in control of the free flow of information, and the very thought of that should make any classical liberal/libertarian shudder in horror. That would amount to trading an untrustworthy and dangerous oligopoly for an even more untrustworthy and much more dangerous absolute monopoly.

    I don’t have a solution, but I think we’d all do well to spend a bit more time seriously reflecting on the problem before we make the mistake of “just do something.” This is a hard problem, and it’s one we have to get right. Section 230 is not the solution, but simply getting rid of it is very likely to make things much worse.

    1. But the NY Times and those “hundreds of local papers and alternative media” didn’t have the protection of something like 230 and things seemed to work out OK.
      So, the idea that getting rid of 230 would be “very likely to make things much worse” doesn’t follow.

  15. “As far as I can tell, the root of the problem is that social media companies are excluding particular viewpoints from the online conversation.”

    Not really. They’re excluding particular viewpoints, but at the same time they are streaming mass murders, hosting defamation, showing porn to kids, letting kids share pictures of themselves naked, etc. They’re not liable for any of this because of 230.

    What we have is user-generated content and the only way someone can be held liable is if you find them. If I knew who you were I could ruin your life and you couldn’t do anything. I can ruin your business. I can get you fired. You can’t do anything. I can blow up your work’s twitter and instragram accusing you of being a pedo. You can’t do anything.

    User-generated content can still exist. There is a market for that. People can make their own websites. If you want to own a site like 8chan go do it. You’re just going to be liable for the content on it. That solves everything.

    However, it means that facebook can’t sell your data or show you adds because you probably won’t go to facebook. Same with twitter. They’ll remove your ability to post.

    Web platforms paid for by huge corporations or even just citizens is not a right. Go make your own website if you want to talk on the internet. You can call someone a homo and twitter won’t ban you.

    1. If it were only that easy. My wife worked as a paralegal for a company trying to start an alternative to Facebook. The sheer amount not regulatory hoops (read capture) involved killed the project after four years and 100,000s of dollars spent.

      1. No, I mean your own website. Like, soldiermedic76 dot com. Not a social media site. There was an internet before social media. It’s not a requirement of free speech.

  16. Ok, bottom line; by routinely censoring content they disagree with politically, on the flimsiest of grounds, and allowing content that arguably does incite violence (as may Jihadist sites do), the Social Media companies have committed a pattern of EDITING. Ig they are editing, rather then simply filtering, they are publishers. They are not required too be neutral; they ARE told that their protections depend own n to having an obvious and predictable POV that they edit toward.

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