What to do about Silicon Valley speech suppression

Instead of regulation, let's use the tax code

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The Washington Post has published my op-ed on social media speech suppression and what to do about it.  I consider and deprecate the use of section 230 and the antitrust laws, which leads me to using the tax code to induce gatekeeper platforms to break themselves up:

What if the federal government imposed a 40 percent tax on the gross revenue of gatekeeper social media companies that have more than, say, 30 million active users in the United States? Instead of fighting antitrust authorities in the trenches for years, companies faced with such a harsh tax rate would rush to break themselves up. (And if they didn't, well, the treasury could certainly use the revenue after the bailouts of 2008-09 and 2020-21.) Efforts to avoid the tax would surely spur a proliferation of mainstream social media companies, each serving a broad audience. Some might adopt an editorial stance that leans to the left and others to the right, just as broadcast and other news media already do. But their ability to enforce ideological conformity or pursue a unified business interest would be shattered.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/19/rein-in-big-tech-taxes/

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  1. And then we could double the income tax of any individual or business that the government decided wasn’t ideologically pure (for whatever value of ideology was held be the current government) unless those taxed changed their views to conform.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Aren’t we already doing that?

      1. Uh, no. You are not currently taxed at a double rate if you don’t change your opinions to ones the government prefers.

    2. Baker’s proposal here is among the most antilibertarian thing I’ve ever read on Reason. Using the tax code to single out and punish companies that the government doesn’t like is just an unbelievably bad idea.

      1. We already do.
        We do it with exemptions and deductions but we use the tax code to benefit certain types of companies and to punish others.

      2. We punish restaurants but not food trucks with property taxes. Should we all live in mobile homes to avoid the tax man too?

  2. This idea just scratches me wrong. I don’t like laws that single out one specific industry for special rules. One of the issues I have with Section 230.

    1. The correct special rule is legally designating them as common carriers subject to the same rules as the phone and mail services.

      1. Is my friend’s billboard company a common carrier? Is Fox News? How about Simon & Schuster? Or the talk radio station I listen to Limbaugh on?

        1. It is a determination in law. Your friend’s billboard copier is not. In fact, I doubt that Fox News is , or Simon and Schuster. Your radio station may be as a article in their license.

          1. Please tell us the magic rule you used to determine who should be a common carrier and who should not?

      2. Greyhound Bus Lines, UPS, and FedEx are all “common carriers.”

      3. By what authority do you think that someone can just “designate” a company as a common carrier?

    2. The only reason you need Section 230 is because there are idiosyncratic rules (liability) for companies that are treated as universal publishers, even though the concept is archaic.

  3. What if these platforms were seized in civil forfeiture for the billions of crimes committed on their platforms, and the millions of crimes of fraud they have committed themselves? They deceived advertisers with inflated viewerships, many of which are not human. Then auction them off like the Ferrari of a drug dealer.

  4. What if pigs could fly?
    Biden et al. are indebted to these companies. And as some members of communities have said, “He owes it to us.”

    1. Agreed. There’s not a lot of point in discussing how to fix something Congress AND the President are going to want to remain broken.

      Well, it’s worth knowing what you’d do if you get back into power, but immediate application is well off the table.

      1. Sort of agree. How about this? Conservatism doesn’t need all the disinformation efforts. Just drop the conspiracy theories and wacky allegations, you don’t need to argue that Kamala is a secret Muslim or that Biden is demented or that the ghost of Hugo Chavez channeled by a cabal of Democrat pedophile Satanists stole the election, how about this: just argue conservative ideas. People like guns. They hate taxes. Defunding the police sounds crazy. Etc.

        Just talk about that. Platforms are probably not going to drop anyone doing that. And it’s enough to win, and win ‘bigly’.

        Of course, this will mean dropping the Cult Leader and the Cult mentality, but now that he’s a loser, what’s in it to stick with that? Conservatism is way more popular than Trump.

        1. Give me a break, can you possibly believe that? The New York Post got locked out of their Twitter account for weeks because they accurately reported on a real story Twitter didn’t want people knowing about.

          Back in 2019, multiple platforms conspired to maintain the fiction that nobody knew who the ‘whistleblower’ on Trump’s Ukraine call was. Mention it was Eric Ciaramella, and your comment or post would be deleted. Many news outlets were in on the scam.

          They had the name right, it was widely known in Washington and among media people.

          The idea that they’re only censoring “disinformation” is a sick joke.

          1. The idea that they’re only censoring “disinformation” is a sick joke.

            It’s a deliberate and calculated lie, retold by many commenters here.

          2. And Brett, they didn’t censor Trump’s tax return, which was either stolen or forged.

          3. Facebook also censored anything that mentioned Kyle Rittenhouse’s case in any way that was favorable to his defense. I don’t know what tour claims on what social media platforms do/don’t allow is based, but it sure as hell isn’t demonstrated reality.

            1. Indeed so. And I wonder (and am too lazy to look right now) whether the videos showing Rittenhouse being chased and falling down may have been taken down, inasmuch as they suggest a somewhat plausible self defense claim.

        2. ” just argue conservative ideas. People like guns. They hate taxes. Defunding the police sounds crazy. Etc.”

          Not to be a cliche, but those aren’t high energy for the base, aside from “They are going to send jackboot thugs to take your guns,” and those people get portrayed as wild conspiracy theorists as well.

          Any successful political movement will at least sort of embrace its crazies, because they have the energy. BLM is a wild an deranged conspiracy theory, Russiagate is a wild conspiracy theory, Embracing crazies isn’t what is unique to Republicans, not having the ability to normalize their crazies is their issue.

        3. “Just talk about that. Platforms are probably not going to drop anyone doing that. And it’s enough to win, and win ‘bigly’.

          So as long as we’re good n*****s and stay in our place, with no influence on the political agenda, we will be tolerated. “Probably.”

          BULLSHYTE!!!!!

          Of course, this will mean dropping the Cult Leader and the Cult mentality, but now that he’s a loser, what’s in it to stick with that? Conservatism is way more popular than Trump.

          Robber Baron Crony Capitalism is only popular with the few who personally benefit from it — for everyone else, socialism is the lesser of two evils. Trump is a populist, MAGA is a populist and he is not a loser. Possibly a martyr, but not a loser.

          And you want to worry about armed uprisings, God help us if anyone is stupid enough to actually indict him.

  5. Red states should immediately ban the use of any of these services that interfere with the communications of any President, Former President, or any candidate on the most recent past or next election ballot in the state. Such companies that interfere with communications would not be allowed to contract with any agency of the state government, city governments, or government schools. And none of these government entities would be allowed to use the services of those companies for any purpose.

    Communications with residents in the state and any other government business is important to the proper functioning of government. Companies that interfere with communications are not viable platforms and cannot be trusted. Censoring government officials and candidates is un-American.

    It’s the clearest way to put direct pressure on these companies. It has a rational basis and doesn’t depend on compromised Washington sellouts and censorship collaborators.

    1. Ben’s number one principle: Defend the Leader.

      Cultists gonna cult.

      1. ^ Defender of totalitarian censorship.

        1. Lol, a company not giving your Dear Leader a platfom=TOTALITARIAN CENSORSHIP!!!!

          The victimization is strong with this one.

        2. Note that Ben, who has proposed that state governments ban their own citizens from using, and other private companies from operating, private platforms, is accusing someone else of totalitarianism.

          Since the regulation is not content neutral, his proposal is probably also contrary to the First Amendment, but go off, player.

          1. You may want to take a remedial reading class. Or just stop lying. I did not propose that states “ban their own citizens from using, and other private companies from operating, private platforms”.

            States can contract with whom they wish. They should stop using untrustworthy providers for state and local government business. That in no way restricts citizens.

            1. “Red states should immediately ban the use of any of these services that interfere with the communications of any President, Former President, or any candidate on the most recent past or next election ballot in the state.”

              1. ^ Quoted out of context, of course. Do you ever get tired to being dishonest?

                1. It’s quoted entirely. Stop crying.

                  1. ^ dishonesty continues

                    1. You wrote it, stop backpedaling.

            2. Maybe you intended to only say that the government should stop using them, but that’s not what you actually did say.

              I’m somewhat dubious that Iack Dorsey is going to implement any sweeping changes at the thought that the Arkansas DMV is going to take down its Twitter feed, but I could be wrong.

              1. I thought it was pretty clear. If you misunderstood the three sentences, then I think you no longer misunderstand them. So now it’s completely clear.

          2. This has become the matra of the Trump supporters on here – gotta authoritarian them Dems before they authoritarian you!

            They were literally predicting reeducation camps if Biden wins. I’d guess those will be pushed back to 2024 thanks to vigilant patriots.

              1. Project Veritas?

                Next Ben will cite pinocchio.com.pajamas for his fevered conspiracy theories.

                1. ^ dishonesty continues

                  1. Lol, citing Project Veritas and then wailing dishonesty. That joke writes itself!

                    1. Worshiping the Thief.

                  2. So lets pretend that that project Veritas was totally legit here, and did not do their usual dishonest editing.

                    What does a single GC being a partisan in private prove about anything?

                    Only if you’ve got a victimization narrative going, so that your own authoritarian desires turn into a noble defense.

                    1. You complain about their editing, while swallowing uncritically ‘anonymous’ accounts. It’s just an excuse to close your mind to any source of information outside your own bubble.

                    2. So lets pretend that that project Veritas was totally legit here, and did not do their usual dishonest editing.

                      Let’s pretend that you’re not a pathetic partisan idiot here and ask…does the guy being “partisan” (which is some nice Newspeak for wanting to round people up and put them in camps) still work for PBS? If not, then why not?

                    3. Who is talking about “re-education camps”? You. This other Good Leftist who wants re-education camps.

                      Why did you bring it up? To mock the people talking about it. Here’s who is talking about it. He is serious.

                      Any other examples of anyone talking about it? No one has cited any yet.

                      Some leftists want re-education camps. Face it. And the entire left is exactly as guilty of wanting re-education camps as the entire right (or any other generalization) is guilty of, say, racism.

                    4. He seems to be general counsel to an organization that, when I last looked into it was, and I suppose still is, partly supported by federal taxes. To the extent the quotes are correct, even if probably lifted from their context, and a matter of concern for reasonable people.

                      People have been fired and cancelled for less.

                2. Project Veritas?

                  No, the guy talking on camera.

                  Your fallacious argumentation tactics get more pathetic with every one you post.

            1. ” gotta authoritarian them Dems before they authoritarian you!”

              Says Sarcastr0 as Biden is poised to out-authoritarian Trump, just in his first 10 days. Trump, worst dictator ever.

              1. How, praytell, is Biden going to out-authoritarian Trump?

      2. Defending the Leader is better than Worshiping the Thief.

    2. Anyone familiar with Twatter’s suit against the ISP that blocked it?

    3. The owner of PornHub declares that he is running for President. He wants to put porn ads on Outlook.com. Microsoft won’t let him. Therefore the government of Texas can no longer use Office 365.

      Sounds like a great plan.

      1. Not placing a specific new ad buy isn’t “interfering”.

        A few sentences in a comment forum are not intended as legislative language.

        But if Microsoft wants business from Texas, Microsoft shouldn’t censor Texas ballot candidates. There are alternatives to MS Office from companies that would like the contract and respect Texans and believe in freedom.

        1. “Not placing a specific new ad buy isn’t “interfering”.”

          Oh ho. Marsha Blackburn begs to disagree. Her incessant harping about tech censorship is all based on Twitter blocking her on a specific new ad buy:

          https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/10/09/twitter-pulls-marsha-blackburns-senate-campaign-ad-over-sale-baby-body-parts-line/747621001/

          1. Well if she gets her way in Tennessee, then that might be bad for whoever is blocking her ads.

            Tennessee government should absolutely ban Twitter for government communications in Tennessee. Every red state should. Interference with communications of candidates on the ballot should be an adequate rationale to get the idea past a “rational basis” test.

            I wouldn’t advocate writing the law to include placement of ad buys as interference. But something needs to be done to rein in or otherwise discourage tech censorship and this is a proposal that could pass in some states and provide an incentive/penalty. And changing government usage doesn’t intrude on state citizens’ freedom.

            Stewart Baker’s tax plan could never pass.

  6. The issue here is network effects. Just as an interchangable nationwide railroad is more valuable than a bunch of incompatible regional ones, just as a single nationwide telephone system is more valuable than a bunch of local ones, just as a world wide web is more valuable than a bunch of disconnected local networks, so a single worldwide interconnected social media platform is more valuable than a bunch of smaller incompatible ones.

    This means that there is a natural tendency towards monopoly. For a network, a monopoly may be most efficient form of business.

    Like the railroad and telephone networks of old, the solution is regulation. Either a regulated monopoly, as with the old Bell Telephone system, or a set of standards that ensures the network can operate across competitors, like the current telephone and internet systems.

    1. This product is different. It does not take unimaginable costs to create a large social network anymore. Social media already “operate across competitors”. What precise regulation are you suggesting?

      1. “It does not take unimaginable costs to create a large social network anymore. ”

        No, it just takes unimaginable costs to create a parallel economy because the “elite” use all of their money and influence to kill any company that doesn’t censor (the right people) hard enough.

        “JuST makE yOUr OwN”
        *Parler has entered the chat*
        “Nah, fuck that.”
        *Big Tech banned Parler*
        “Pwned.”

        1. “No, it just takes unimaginable costs to create a parallel economy because the “elite” use all of their money and influence to kill any company that doesn’t censor (the right people) hard enough.”

          I mean, you guys probably should have thought about that before you made “own the libs” the only motivation of a political party, and then went on to define “libs” as basically anyone with a college education.

      2. As far as I know, socialmedia companies aren’t interoperable. If you are on Facebook, your friends have to be on Facebook. If you post on Facebook, somebody on another platform won’t see them. There is no interplatform standard imposed by which anyone on any platform can friend and post to anyone else.

        So yes, they are disconnected.

        The value of a network is in part a function of the number of connections. A single network that lets you connect to everyone is worth more than 12 times the value of 12 networks each connecting you to 1/12 of the people. Same with railroads, telephones, www, etc. classic network effect.

        So there is a natural tendency for platforms like Facebook to be monopolies. It creates the most value for consumers that way.

        1. “If you are on Facebook, your friends have to be on Facebook. If you post on Facebook, somebody on another platform won’t see them.”

          That’s true of railroads as well. If I’m on the Number 4 train with X Train Company, I can’t physically be on the Number 5 train with Z Train Company. Your definition of “interoperable” confounds me.

          I think what you’re talking about are ISPs, who do have the ability to prevent you from accessing the internet. Facebook can’t stop me from using Twitter. And Twitter can’t stop me from using Facebook. Because of their amazing features, I can in fact look at Facebook posts on Twitter, and Tweets on Facebook. People link to other social media information all the time. I read a lot of Parler posts on Twitter, from following @Parlertakes.

          Why do you think an “interplatform standard imposed by which anyone on any platform can friend and post to anyone else” is desirable at all, much less something we should mandate through regulation?

          Your entire concept of monopoly is foreign to me. If platforms tend to monopolize, why are we concerned with regulating platforms to require them to monopolize? You’ve already said there is a sufficient market incentive for them to do so. Facebook and Twitter are censoring users in ways that may increase their overall users or may decrease them. If they increase, the censorship is pro-consumer. If they decrease, competitors will eat their lunch. What’s the antitrust problem here? (Are we agreeing? I assume so, when you say “It creates the most value for consumers that way.”)

          The simplistic comparison to network effects also misses the broader point. It takes a lot of money to build fiber optic cables to become an ISP. It takes a lot of money to build a railroad network. It doesn’t take much at all to create a social network, as dozens or hundreds are created each year. They all compete with Facebook in a way that Mom and Pop Railroad Company can’t with the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Maybe only Google can afford to dig up the roads in all large American cities, but you don’t need unlimited capital to build Yandex or DuckDuckGo.

    2. Baker’s proposal isn’t to break up monopolies, it is to break up companies that get too big, even if there are a dozen of them competing with one another.

      1. “… it is to break up companies that get too big”
        That would resonate with AOC.

        1. Right! If AOC and Baker agree on something, you should be very suspicious of that thing.

    3. There were telephone companies who weren’t part of the Bell System. It was interconnections that permitted this — and which is the solution here.

      1. I think there may need to be some combination of standards and regulation. But I agree standards are in general an alternative to monopoly. I don’t think they will address all the issues, however. I think there may need to be some regulation so decisions about whether people get banned and such are less arbitrary and companies’ power over ordinary people is limited.

    4. Many people have accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, and quite a few of them on Tictoc, too, or YouTube. These networks are not exclusionary, and therefore not monopolies in the classic sense. It also appears it is not too hard to start another (Parler, for example), although if you anger the private guardians of the public mind you may have trouble keeping it going.

  7. Breaking up a social media company isn’t like breaking up a bank. How are you going to break up Facebook without completely destroying it? The value in it is that it’s one place where you can find all your friends. Are my friends going to get spun off into 5 different baby-books? (Yes, spinning off Instagram is easy, but that’s not really the issue here.)

    What would be interesting is if we started getting social media aggregators where users could create a custom portal that allows them to see content from all of their accounts. Sort of like how Mint connects to all of your financial accounts to give you a one-page picture of your finances.

    1. Yes, that’s part of the solution. Right now the platforms are, deliberately, closed. You need to use the platform’s own interface to access any data you have on the platform, and accessing stuff outside the platform is far from transparent.

      The goal here is enough interoperability that you can have competing front AND back ends that seamlessly work together, like the way phones work.

      A start, if you’re going to have regulation, is “freedom to migrate”; A requirement that users be free to conveniently extract their own data from the platform. It IS their data, after all. The deliberate inconvenience of getting your data back out suppresses movement between platforms.

      The real candidate for utility status is the financial service companies, though. Prohibiting them from refusing to process legal transactions.

      And getting serious about going after collusive attacks on competitors.

      But none of this is going to happen for at least 2 years, because the platforms bought immunity by helping the incoming administration BE the incoming administration.

      1. “It IS their data, after all.”

        What is the factual or legal basis for this?

        1. They have it, and often enough you do not to a significant degree. Very few people maintain logs of their internet search activity, for example. And Facebook creates information about users from data provided by other users – just look at the number of possible “friend” suggestions they offer identifying people you do not know.

          1. Who is “They”? I think “They” is Facebook. It sounds to me like you agree. Brett thinks “They” is “users”. If Facebook owns the data, there is no “[users’] own data” for the users to extract.

  8. “What if the federal government imposed a 40 percent tax on the gross revenue of gatekeeper social media companies that have more than, ”

    Wouldnt an excise tax of that high of a rate create constitutional issues ?
    Maybe not with the excise tax rates for alcholic beverages, gasoline, and cigarettes., but a point worth considering

    1. FWIW, a significant portion of the excise tax would be borne by the consumers, the portion passed through to the users/consumers via higher prices would be a function of the elasticity of the supply / demand curves for the product. The odd thing with social media, the revenue comes almost exclusively from advertising, so the advertisers would be the users/consumers.

      1. I’m not so sure it would be mostly borne by the advertisers.

        There are lots of ways to advertise, on the Internet and elsewhere. If social media gets significantly more expensive than other outlets advertisers, at least at the margin, will shift.

        Are social media ads so much more valuable that the advertisers would bear the cost?I doubt it.

        Not to say this tax is a good idea. I think it’s terrible.

  9. This is what I come to Reason for: ideas on how government can use the tax code to circumvent 1A and regulate speech after all.

    I mean seriously, what the actual fuck?

    1. It’s Stuart Baker. What did you expect?

    2. His actual proposal is to apply the tax based on the number of users on the platform. I don’t really see how that would be a speech regulation in violation of 1A. Am I missing something?

  10. That said, there may be a place for taxation. One of the reasons behind the deluge of noisecis that it costs nothing. If there were a tiny cost, say one cent per email or post, this would tend to filter out communications that are completely valueless, reducing the noise. This could be done through a tax. The social media platform could collect it from users.

    1. There could be a number of tax-free transactions allowed so that most ordinary users wouldn’t have to pay, just spammers and the like, with identity controls to prevent evasion by setting up multiple accounts each below the limits.

    2. What problem are we solving for? 230 already allows platforms to ban spammers. Specifically whose “noise” are you trying to silence?

      1. In addition to NToJ’s question, I’m curious which version of the 1A you think allows the government to tax people based on how much they speak. Can they impose an extra tax on newspapers that print too many copies?

  11. To my knowledge the by far number one cable news network, Fox, has never had Noam Chomsky on to air his views. What can we do about this speech suppression/censorship?

    Boy, the Trump Cult has certainly made it clear that Victimization 101 is the preeminent conservative value right now, overriding all others. Waah, they won’t give my Dear Leader a platform, regulation and taxation come save me!

    1. They were, (Past tense!) just the plurality leader, but their percentage of the market wasn’t that impressive.

      They just did well because most of the networks were openly hostile to half the electorate. Now that they’re alienated their own customer base, they probably won’t be doing too well in the future.

      1. Now that they’re alienated their own customer base by not reporting ridiculous conspiracy theories as fact

        FTFY

    2. Fox is a content provider, not a broadcaster. They are not required to have Chomsky and their lack of having him is not censorship; it’s a preference.

      1. So are the cable companies required to carry Fox News, then? Would they also be required to carry the new network that I would like to create next week?

        1. Not sure about viewpoint diversity but I know Comcast for instance agreed to racial/ethnic diversity quotas to get approval for a merger. They had to offer new “diverse” channels recently when a programming change would have reduced black-focused channels available on their service. I imagine similar “voluntary” promises have been made by other cable TV companies to get favorable treatment from various levels of government.

    3. I might reply that Victimization 101 is the preeminent SLW mentality

      1. I agree!

        Who is going to protect the poor, white, Christian male?!?!?!

        (sheds a tear)

    4. To my knowledge

      You’re really limiting things here.

      the by far number one cable news network, Fox, has never had Noam Chomsky on to air his views. What can we do about this speech suppression/censorship?

      Your analogy sucks. Is Fox (or any other broadcast media outlet) an open platform where just about anyone can create an account and post content (making them a content hoster), unless the outlet selectively prevents that? Or are they content creators who by their very nature have to pick and choose the content that they create?

    5. They’ve had Noam Chomsky on there.

  12. ‘Clingers can’t compete, so let’s penalize mainstream companies for . . . well, just because’

    Flailing, disaffected, grievance-consumed, market-hating, authoritarian conservatives and Republicans are among my favorite culture war casualties.

    Does everyone have a great beer selected for tomorrow’s celebration?

    1. I will enjoy the agonies of the Democrat constituencies that busted records of prosperity under Trump. They will have all their gains taken away and given to illegals. The feminists in my suburb will be forced to house homeless, addict Democrats in their upstairs bedrooms. Black voters will have their murder rate doubled, as the criminals are loosed ontheir neighborhood. The Jews will have Israel boycotted and undermined by the Tlaib foreign policy agenda.

      You, a lawyer, will thrive under Biden, the President of the rent seekers and agents of the Chinese Communist Party. Tech billionaire owners of the Democrat Party will transfer another $4 trillion to their pockets.

      1. You’re a nut.

    2. Beer? beer? go talk with Brett.

      1. Nah, I do mead and wine. Nothing personal against beer, I just don’t like the taste of hops.

        Though Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is pretty tolerable. It’s my go to for cooking purposes.

  13. That would not even begin to work, you’d just have 30 identical Facebooks all acting the same, because ideological uniformity is being enforced all through the IT ecosystem.

    1. “ideological uniformity is being enforced ”

      translation: many companies are coming to the same conclusion that their bottom line is impacted and are acting to address that.

      What other industries would you like to see government step in when that happens?

      1. Translation: At the same time Google and Apple kick a competitor out of their ap stores, Amazon shuts down their servers, (And competing hosting services are pressured to refuse to pick them up.) Visa and Mastercard stop processing their payments, and their law firm drops them as a client. All in the space of a day or two.

        That’s enforcement, coordinated across multiple industries.

        This isn’t the first time we’ve seen that sort of coordination, either.

        1. So, if talk radio, Fox and the WSJ all push the same message tomorrow, especially one about deplatforming someone (like the SF QB), you’re for regulating them? Coordination, right? Enforcement?

          I mean, has it occurred to you that a bunch of big companies might have simultaneously dropped people because they were implicated in something awful in the news?

          1. “So, if talk radio, Fox and the WSJ all push the same message tomorrow, especially one about deplatforming someone (like the SF QB), you’re for regulating them? Coordination, right? Enforcement? ”

            FB and Twitter in fact are mass distributors with the same kind of reach as the phone companies. The point is not “punishing” anyone. It is about calling a duck something that walks and quack like a duck.

            1. “FB and Twitter in fact are mass distributors with the same kind of reach as the phone companies. The point is not “punishing” anyone. It is about calling a duck something that walks and quack like a duck.”

              AM talk radio stations and their syndicators are mass distributors with the same kind of reach as the phone company. They just use different parts of the radio spectrum. Do you hear quacking?

          2. So, if talk radio, Fox and the WSJ all push the same message tomorrow, especially one about deplatforming someone (like the SF QB), you’re for regulating them? Coordination, right? Enforcement?

            How exactly is multiple news services reporting on something that actually happened either a form of coordination or enforcement? Is English not your primary language?

        2. The way antitrust law deals with this situation is confusing to me. Uniformity of actions is sometimes evidence of illegal coordinated action and sometimes legal response to market conditions.

          I’d like to see a lawsuit against cancel mobs on the theory of intentional interference with contractual relations. The plaintiffs could draw from prosecutors’ briefs in the forthcoming Capitol mob trials. Some of the defendants could argue, “yeah I was there, but I wasn’t the one who drove Congress into hiding.” (When interference with Congress is an element of the offense.) And the prosecution needs to argue conspiracy or aiding and abetting, or find some other way to convince the court “if you’re part of a mob, you’re still personally responsible.”

          1. You are right. Best thing Biden could ever do is pardon them all because otherwise, that’s gonna be a nasty precedent.

          2. “I’d like to see a lawsuit against cancel mobs on the theory of intentional interference with contractual relations.”

            Hello, Mr. First Amendment. Wasn’t expecting to see YOU here! Are you proposing that anyone who asks a business for something be liable for damages? I’d like this in a blue color, please. BOOM! sued by the manufacturers of red coloring agents for interfering with contractual relations.

          3. ” The plaintiffs could draw from prosecutors’ briefs in the forthcoming Capitol mob trials. Some of the defendants could argue, “yeah I was there, but I wasn’t the one who drove Congress into hiding.” (When interference with Congress is an element of the offense.) And the prosecution needs to argue conspiracy or aiding and abetting, or find some other way to convince the court “if you’re part of a mob, you’re still personally responsible.””

            Simple, really, if you stayed outside, you were lawfully protesting. If you went inside, you weren’t. If you weren’t lawfully protesting, you share liability for the actions of everyone else who wasn’t lawfully protesting.

        3. Hence “totalitarian”.

        4. “Translation: At the same time Google and Apple kick a competitor out of their ap stores, Amazon shuts down their servers”

          In what way did Google or Apple kick a competitor out of their app stores? Hint: Google and Apple are competitors with each other.
          As for Amazon, do we at least agree whose servers we’re talking about? If you don’t want Amazon to be able to shut down your services, don’t host them on Amazon’s server farm.

        5. “That’s enforcement, coordinated across multiple industries.”

          Or that’s reaction. When Joe Celebrity turns out to have some skeletons in the closet, it’s likely that all the celebrity endorsement deals that Joe used to have will be dropped within a couple of days of the word getting out. Ask Johnny Depp how it works, or Jared the Subway guy. That’s association at work, (not free association because these guys get paid for their association.)

        6. Huh. I wonder if there were some precipitating event right before all of these companies took these actions that inspired them to reconsider doing business with Parler.

        7. Parallel conduct is not coordination.

    2. because ideological uniformity is being enforced all through the IT ecosystem.

      This is really the key issue isn’t it ? The attempted fixes such as a 230 repeal or taxes are just treating symptoms. The fundamental issue is how do they enforce ideological orthodoxy and how can that hold be broken. Taxes or repealing 230 just are not going to hack it.

      This begins and ends where the government guns meet the market. The root of the issue is the control and weaponization of the banking system. The ideological powers that be have taken this over to such an extent they can prevent the market from working to grant favors to insiders and squelch competition from outsiders be it for monetary or ideological reasons. Unholy political alliances between the puritan faction of the day and those who are willing to play along for favors in the market never ends well for the rest of us. Bandaids will do little until this fundamental assault on your liberties is dealt with.

      1. “. The ideological powers that be have taken this over to such an extent they can prevent the market from working to grant favors to insiders and squelch competition from outsiders be it for monetary or ideological reasons.”

        Plus we have entrepreneurial capitalists who want shortcuts. There’s a cool business. I want to be in that business. I could start from the ground up to build my own business that I can run with the ideological slant that I would prefer, but that would be difficult and require time and money. But I don’t want to use any of my time or money. So how can I use the government to make them run their business the way I want to run mine? While simultaneously whining about how terrible my political opponents are when they do the exact thing I want to do.

        1. Not having the banks refuse to process your financial transactions with your customers is a “shortcut”? Not so long ago, before Obama instituted his Operation Choke Point, it was basically unheard of for a financial institution to refuse to let somebody spend their own money because they didn’t like what it was being spent on.

          1. If only it were possible to launch one’s own credit-card brand, or payment-processing business. The only possible solutions for payment-processing is to use one of the already-existing payment processors.

    3. “you’d just have 30 identical Facebooks all acting the same, because ideological uniformity is being enforced all through the IT ecosystem.”

      This is a lot of words to try to obfuscate that you aren’t good at understanding how IT business works. What you are seeing is a business that succeeds by drawing a mass audience, and a toxic subgroup complaining that the general audience doesn’t like them and doesn’t want to associate with them. Since these businesses succeed by appealing to the largest audience possible, they aren’t trying to appeal to your particular nutboys. It’s a choice freely made. 20 years ago there was a critical tipping point met in the adoption of cable television, and as a result a large number of channels were launched attempting to serve a niche market. some of them succeeded, because the niche audience was big enough, but many more quickly found that even if they captured 100% of their niche audience, that still wasn’t a big enough audience to make them profitable. Shortly thereafter, a lot of those channels launched to serve a specific niche market rebranded as general-interest channels and you can find Law & Order reruns on dozens of cable channels now because the potential audience for L&O reruns is higher than a number of niche audiences. There was a similar process for secondary HDTV broadcast stations, except that by then the things that made the channels unique wasn’t a desire to serve a specific niche audience but rather to re-monetize existing programming.

  14. Maybe we could repeal Section 230. No president would be brave enough though to publically call for it…oh…

      1. Yep, like a president brave enough to stand up against the intelligence community, that spied on Congress, that Congress did nothing about, and that has six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

        It’s really just a new version of saying “don’t pick fights with folks who buy ink by the barrel” as a reason to be cowardly with newspapers.

    1. That would be colossally stupid, so of course there’s a candidate somewhere who’ll stand up for it. Probably a Conservative.

  15. And . . . another rousing meeting of Libertarians For Government Winner-Picking (Because Clingers Are The Marketplace’s Losers) is convened by the usual suspects at the usual spot.

    1. Tomorrow’s episode: local cake maker won’t make cakes celebrating the Glorious Capitol Steal Stopping, why can’t we tax that guy for that?

  16. No president would be self-involved enough though to publicly call for it

    FTFY

  17. Abusing the tax code to achieve social goals has been a big part of what’s gotten us into the current mess. So, yeah, let’s just double-down on that same mistake.

    If it’s a good idea, pass it as stand-alone legislation. If it can’t survive on it’s own, it probably wasn’t the good idea you thought it was. Stop trying to jam everything into the tax code.

    1. How long will it be until a future Republican just comes along and cuts the taxes out of reflex?

      1. When have you ever seen a loophole closed? Taxes designed to enact social policy get perpetuated forever. The tax rates might be tampered with at the margins but getting something out of the tax code entirely? I can’t think of any examples of that happening.

        1. I didn’t say anything about loophole-closing. I asked about how long it would take until Republicans saw a tax and reflexively cut it, because of the ideology that all taxes are bad.
          Try answering that question.

  18. Thats poppycock. The only reason any of these companies is worth anything is because of the network effects of having so many users. And its not even like Uber/Lyft where regionalization could plausibly work as a dividing line.

    Instead you’re just going to make Facebook try to figure out arbitrarily whether I should be forced to defriend my High School soccer team, or my college soccer team.

    1. What it does mainly is “suggest” to these companies that they’d like to re-incorporate outside the US, and operate the profit-generating parts of their operations from outside the US.

  19. I love me some taxing big tech, but this is an awful idea. Easily evadable, clearly partisan and spiteful, and imposing on the right of association.

    1. And getting it passed into law is a complete fantasy

      1. The fact that team Red is on a bit of a losing streak is just now setting in, isn’t it?

      2. So? That doesn’t immunize the idea from mockery.

  20. I think removing the various immunities created by courts and Congress is the way to go.

    In the early days of the internet, service providers were more interested in providing a platform for use and did not mind so much for how the platform was being used. The concept of administering all the user generated content was simply not possible prior to the era of automation. And to require it (de facto or explicit) probably would have killed the internet

    Now that these platforms are more actively managed by trillion dollar corporations with the manpower and tech to do so, it is more appropriate to hold them accountable for their content and moderation practices.

    1. Now you see why tossing net neutrality so that a couple of large corporations could make a few more bucks was such a bad plan.

  21. I expect some liberal judges will discover First Amendment rights of big corporations hiding under a penumbra somewhere. And as noted above the tax could be evaded. Facebook Advertising, Inc. runs the ads and gets the revenue, while Facebook Censorhip, Inc. sets the rules and makes almost nothing.

    The common carrier approach is better but deciding who gets regulated is hard. For a service like AWS it would be fine to say, “host Parler or the black helicopters disappear your board of directors.” Amazon has great market power AND the service being provided is not speech. But how do we draw a line so Reason, Mother Jones, New York Times, HuffPo, Breitbart, etc. get to control their message boards but Facebook and Twitter have to put up with dissent?

    1. I expect some liberal judges will discover First Amendment rights of big corporations

      Yes, it’s definitely been liberal judges who formed the majority in cases like Citizens United. (Which, for the record, I think was correctly decided.)

    2. ” how do we draw a line so Reason, Mother Jones, New York Times, HuffPo, Breitbart, etc. get to control their message boards but Facebook and Twitter have to put up with dissent?

      More importantly, WHY would we want to do this? Let’s make sure ALL the media outlets have to carry our propaganda! That’s what we really want to do, isn’t it?

    3. liberal judges will discover First Amendment rights of big corporations hiding under a penumbra somewhere

      Is…is this satire? Because if so, bravo.

  22. How about treating big tech’s censorship as an in kind campaign donation, and thus, their failure to report as such a campaign violation.

    1. How about discarding reality in toto and just don’t pretend to be talking about anything real.
      After all, if they filter out your propaganda because it isn’t true that’s the same thing as running your opponent’s propaganda, right?

  23. This sounds like a less sophisticated version of the kind of “size tax” that Paul Romer has been talking about.

    https://promarket.org/2021/01/15/paul-romer-facebook-competition-pigouvian-tax-digital-ads/

  24. This sounds like a less clever version of the “size tax” that Paul Romer has been talking about. These kinds of taxes don’t have to single anyone out as long as they’re designed to promote competition.

    https://promarket.org/2021/01/15/paul-romer-facebook-competition-pigouvian-tax-digital-ads/

    1. Sorry, my first comment disappeared on me, so I re-wrote it.

  25. “Often libertarian”

    Not always, that’s for sure.

    1. That this blog’s self-description includes “libertarian” but not “conservative” is striking. And not flattering.

  26. I think there is a need to point out that the latest and greatest censorship drive by Big Tech is a response to market demands.

    Back when the internet was more or less a free for all that was because the market pushed it that way.

    Then all the big companies got “woke” and found out it was easier to play the PC censorship game so that is what they did. It paid off because the institutional left backed the move and that was good for share prices.

    Want a more “free” internet? Drive the profit motivations that way again and see Twitter dump its censorship regime in 3 seconds. I am actually wondering if with the huge drop in tech stocks in the last few days might already be fueling this.

    1. … that analysis would be better if it was more clear on the RADICAL difference between “stock value” pressure and “profit” pressure.

      They’re, frankly, barely related, at least in some places (see Tesla). The big institutional investors and retirement funds don’t care about “getting a value rise this year” – they care about long-term growth and stability, which needs actual profit to sustain, not rah-rah stock boosts (which can only be ephemeral if not based on long-term profitability or stability).

      Stock fluctuations in the short term have almost nothing to do with those things.

      (The only way Twitter’s gonna stop censoring is if people stop buying ads/promoting tweets. I don’t see that happening because they’re censoring, at least not without dramatically more censoring.

      But equally nobody’s refusing to promote tweets “unless they censor”.

      I don’t see the market demand you postulate must be The Cause.

      The “institutional left” isn’t buying stocks or paying to promote tweets IFF the company censors, is it? Sources?)

  27. That strikes me as a terrible idea. Like a lot of other people, I don’t use Facebook as a source of news. I use it to get news about friends. Breaking it into six or seven parts would destroy its value to me and a lot of other people. It’s already easy enough to make your own custom settings about what you see in Facebook that you can limit what you see or who sees what you post.

  28. Stewart Baker comes up with an right-wing classic:

    Damn, near-monopoly is hurting right wingers. Government must compel oligarchy!

    1. Maybe should have been, “oligopoly.”

    2. Oh, you think it’s only “the right wing” being hurt or endangered or punished here?

      How quaint.

      They haven’t come for you yet.

      1. I think it’s only “the right wing” whining here.

  29. “The Washington Post has published my op-ed on social media speech suppression and what to do about it.”

    Why does your “what to do about it” include only government action(s)?
    If you don’t like the way social media platforms regulate the use of their computer equipment? Then don’t use them.

    1. Because “government” is the only obvious solution to this “problem”, in that social networks by their nature tend to either fail or become huge and powerful by network effect.

      (“Libertarian” does not mean “no government ever for anything”, after all.

      That’s Rothbard’s thing, not Hayek’s, and both are libertarian worldviews.)

      1. Actually government is primarily the “cause” of this little problem not the solution. That was the whole point with Parler and things like Telegraph. What you were seeing that there was real demand for an alternative to the Progoverse. This was threatening enough that their infrastructure providers kneecapped them. The market would eventually route around that as well because someone would want to pick the cash up off the table and parallel infrastructure would grow into existence. Managing servers and web commerce is not rocket science.

        The fundamental problem is that at some level the usual ideologues and crony capitalists are going to sidestep the market by using government run regulations and government guns to keep their competitors at bay. Try forming a startup to provide a parallel infrastructure when you can’t pay your employees and receive cash from your customers. Try building the financial infrastructure so have startups when the regulators have been captured by the true believers. Get the cronies out of the way and the market will correct.

        Hmmmm, powerful corporate providers where the ideologues in the government are pulling the strings. I believe we have a word for that …..

      2. ““Libertarian” does not mean “no government ever for anything”, after all.”

        Although you can certainly find that kind of “Libertarians” if you look, but this isn’t a “Libertarian” idea being promoted. It’s Conservative from conception to marketing. They’ve finally gone full-circle, and abandoned their fantasies of regulation-free business environment to embracing government control of private property, where the owners of said property won’t kowtow to their politics.

  30. Interesting idea! What prevents these companies from running their shop out of Ireland, or some other country that doesn’t have this tax?

    1. The same thing that prevents them from shutting down services they currently offer.

  31. No taxes. Isn’t the simplest solution to make the social media companies “common carriers” under the law. Then they would be forbidden to censor communications in the same way that phone companies are not allowed to censor audio phone calls.

    Of course, that makes it difficult to suppress kiddie porn, but we survived all these years without preventing kiddie porn via phone calls. (If you’re old enough, you used to have an acoustic coupler modem that allowed you to receive dirty pictures over your phone, not to mention dirty talk.)

    1. That and, well, the KP people already seem to use “the dark net” (in that case, the REALLY dark net, not just “people progressives don’t like, talking”), since mere possession of it is a felony, let alone distribution.

    2. ” Isn’t the simplest solution to make the social media companies “common carriers” under the law. Then they would be forbidden to censor communications in the same way that phone companies are not allowed to censor audio phone calls.”

      Just embrace the darkness and suggest that the data centers be seized and nationalized.

    3. “Of course, that makes it difficult to suppress kiddie porn, but we survived all these years without preventing kiddie porn via phone calls. (If you’re old enough, you used to have an acoustic coupler modem that allowed you to receive dirty pictures over your phone, not to mention dirty talk.)”

      Of course, a good deal of porn was suppressed back in the days when modems were used for data communications. The days of AG Edwin Meese are not fondly recalled. Back then, you could be sued for violating the “community standards” of a community you weren’t even in, because someone in that community could use their modem to access your system. This peaked in 1994, long after Meese was in retirement.

  32. 1) As others mention, won’t they just move outside US jurisdiction?
    2) The whole point of a social media system is to have reach – you want your FRIENDS to be on the same one as you, right?

    With a “break up at 1/11 the US population” limit, that becomes absurdly difficult and makes them all relatively pointless for a lot of people.

    ( 2b) People say “oh, just make it Some Kind Of Open Thing So They Can Share Data!!!”, but the programmer and “has met a human being” person in me says that’s fantastically harder than you think and also attracts every sort of abuse and attack.

    “Oh, so any company gets to connect? Okay, who’s the one-source-of-truth for account verification or creation? And if there isn’t one, what stops Joe Bob’s Abusive Service from making accounts for everyone in America and charging you to use your own name on The Big Social Network?”

    No, no, the problems are awful, the user story is a mess, and nobody wants to use that or try and work with it.)

    3) Yeah, there aren’t any solutions in my comment. Because there might not be any solutions that aren’t awful, one way or another.

    We’re why we can’t have nice things.

  33. So Mr. Baker wants to punish these companies for acting responsibly? Moreover, he is punishing their own success. How terribly un-Republican, un-libertarian.

    In effect, he wants to control the Terms of Service/Acceptable Use Policy of private companies through the tax code.

    Presumably Baker is wed to the notion that social media companies are guilty of imposing an anti-conservative bias. That represents a confusion of causation with correlation.

    I haven’t done a study subjected to robust peer-review but it seems that a majority of indecency comes from the extreme right. It is a sense of entitlement to make racist, anti-semitic, homophobic and transphobic statements and to threaten violence. Even Log Cabin Republicans is transphobic (so is Richard Grenell).

    Companies have an absolute RIGHT to determine what is acceptable on their platform. Attempting to undermine that right through the tax code presents a far greater bias than these companies have been accused of.

    Someone needs to exert some control over crazy people when their lack of self-discipline engenders violence. A considerable portion of out citizenry believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They embrace that belief in spite of the lack of evidence.

    Overall, confirmation bias has replaced intellectual curiosity. The MAGA set is a cult. Adherents will believe just about any loony proposition that Trump utters.

    1. “In effect, he wants to control the Terms of Service/Acceptable Use Policy of private companies through the tax code.”

      We’ll just seize the means of production, rise up Conservatives, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

  34. The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy.

    1. Does that lead you to the conclusion that it’s unconstitutional to tax newspapers?

      1. Arguably, one specifically focused on newspapers would be unconstitutional. A general corporate or sales tax would not be.

        1. No, if you set it up so it isn’t unconstitutional. For example, you can impose a tax on bulk use of paper, to cover the cost of cleaning up discarded paper. Such a tax would affect dead-trees publishers, but wouldn’t abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press.

    2. “The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy.”

      Coincidentally, the power to destroy is also the Power to Destroy.

  35. Serious question: does anyone actually think Twitter is some sort of monopoly? If so, what is the market that it dominates?

    I ask because there’s an actual antitrust case against Facebook and I can mostly understand the arguments there. Twitter gets lumped in alongside I think mostly because Trump really likes using it, but has a user base that’s an order of magnitude smaller, hasn’t bought up potential competitors, and isn’t super economically important. If Twitter’s not a monopoly, what’s the basis for worrying about what they’ll let be published on their platform, any more than anyone other than the Rev. worries about the moderation strategy for this comment section.

    1. The main danger of monopoly that anti-trust law is designed to combat is extracting monopoly pricing from customers. Anyone have any documentation that anyone’s extracting monopoly pricing from anyone?

  36. Max Boot: Blacklist Fox News ‘as We Do with Foreign Terrorist Groups’

    In a Monday op-ed, the Washington Post called on heavyweight telecommunications corporations to shut down conservative cable news outlets including Fox News, One America News, and Newsmax TV, comparing the need to do so with that of shutting down foreign terrorist influencers. . .

    “There is a whole infrastructure of incitement that will remain intact even after Trump leaves office,” Boot writes. “Just as we do with foreign terrorist groups, so with domestic terrorists: We need to shut down the influencers who radicalize people and set them on the path toward violence and sedition.”

    The essay then heaps praise on the recent purging of conservative voices on social media platforms by tech giants, hoping that broadcast media will follow suit.. .

    “If [they] won’t listen, then large cable companies such as Comcast and Charter Spectrum, which carry Fox News and provide much of its revenue in the form of user fees, need to step in and kick Fox News off,” states Boot.

    The essay also targeted other conservative outlets.

    “And if smaller competitors such as One America News and Newsmax continue to incite viewers, they, too, should be booted off,” the author writes.

    Claiming that the United Kingdom “doesn’t have its own version of Fox News” due to a government regulator, the essay concludes with a demand that Joe Biden take heed.

    1. “As president, Biden needs to reinvigorate the FCC”..

      Earlier this month, a Forbes magazine op-ed warned ..“Let it be known to the business world: Hire any of Trump’s fellow fabulists above, and Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie,” Forbes magazine’s chief content officer, Randall Lane, wrote.

      Also this month, the anti-Trump Lincoln Project announced that it is building a database of Trump officials and staffers with the intention of holding them professionally “accountable” for supporting the president.

      Last month, a Washington Post essay encouraged the media to shun Republicans who questioned the election results.

      The essay itself admitted promoting “a radical approach” yet stood by it as “the only way to safely proceed with live interviews with Republicans who may be carrying a dangerous conspiracy theory that spreads on air.”

      Also last month, the Washington Post published an essay comparing denying election results to denying the Holocaust and using that as a pretext to silence opposing voices.

      1. Gasp! Someone’s suggesting holding people responsible for their actions! Republicans, the “party of personal responsibility”, won’t sit still if that happens! Mobilize! Mobilize, partisans who are in favor of giving people a free pass for wrongdoing! Your party calls on you!

  37. I continue to believe that the best solution is to require detailed disclosure of the site’s takedown policy. With answers to specific questions, not just “we take down anything we find offensive.”

    And condition the Section 230 immunity on following one’s own published policy. You want to censor anything to the right of Hillary Clinton? You are free to do so, just be explicit about it. If you try to hide that, no more immunity.

    That is a free-market solution.

    1. This is harder said than done, because a lot of these issues are emergent and getting policy right is hard even for issues you’ve seen before. This is a pretty thoughtful piece on why this is hard through some of the recent decisions about Trump’s accounts:

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20210108/17022646023/not-easy-not-unreasonable-not-censorship-decision-to-ban-trump-twitter.shtmlon

      1. Sigh. “Easier said than done”, which I noticed as I was hitting Submit.

      2. I appreciate that this is not an easy task, and that the devil is in the details. Nevertheless, I think it is the only way to do so while both disincetivizing political censorship while maintaining a free market approach. Right now it is just a half-baked idea of mine, but one I think fair-minded people from both sides of the political spectrum could agree to if properly structured.

        (And I sympathize with your harder/easier issue. As I have said before, the comments here need an edit function.)

        1. The free market supports broad audiences while punishing niche ones. This is only a problem if you are a niche market in open opposition to the mass audience.
          A business that reaches a mass audience will have many more opportunities to monetize their reach, whether via sponsorship, product placement or leverage. This means they’re not going to place their ability to reach a mass audience in jeopardy, and they’re going to act in a way that reinforces their access to the mass audience. Comcast has a level of customer-service reputation previously unknown to non-used-car-salesmen. But none of their programming partners is complaining about this very loudly, because the alternative way to reach that potential audience is to get with AT&T, which has a similar record on customer-service and is hemorrhaging subscribers. Would-be cord-cutters are left to scramble for alternative methods of access to the programming. Everybody with a back catalog of programming is launching their own streaming service.

    2. The SCOTUS was fine with “I know it when I see it”, but you think Twitter should have to put it in writing?

      As well-meaning as this is, this suggestion is unworkable and DOA.

      And no, this isn’t a “free market solution”. It’s a “fuck the market solution”. A free market solution is what we already have: if you don’t like how other companies do it, make your own. Pretending that you’re somehow victimized if Amazon Web Services tells you to fuck off is to ignore the decades of folks putting up their own blogs without using Amazon Web Services at all.

      1. “I know it when I see it” was said about pornography. The complaint against these companies is that while they claim to be removing only certain content (calls for violence, pornography, racist content), in fact they are censoring one side of the political opinion.

        The free market does not mean that you can act deceptively. False advertising laws (both FCC and privately enforced) are in fact free-market enhancers. Free-market does not mean laissez-faire.

        And, of course, what we currently have is NOT the free market. These online platforms are propped up by Section 230 of the CDA. Without it, many would collapse. (Not Amazon, but likely Facebook and Twitter). These online sites have an immunity that traditional media, like newspapers, television and radio, lack. When these companies give up their immunity, they can do what they want.

        1. ” The complaint against these companies is that while they claim to be removing only certain content (calls for violence, pornography, racist content), in fact they are censoring one side of the political opinion. ”

          Specifically, they’re censoring the side of the political opinion that likes to post calls for violence, pornography, and racist content.

          ” These online platforms are propped up by Section 230 of the CDA. Without it, many would collapse. (Not Amazon, but likely Facebook and Twitter). These online sites have an immunity that traditional media, like newspapers, television and radio, lack. When these companies give up their immunity, they can do what they want.”

          Or they can keep their immunity, and do what they want, because that’s what “immunity” fucking means. You don’t want them censoring for political viewpoint, and think you can get there by requiring more censorship. This is why people keep looking at you as if you were stupid.

    3. I continue to believe that the best solution is to require detailed disclosure of the site’s takedown policy. With answers to specific questions, not just “we take down anything we find offensive.”

      So… you want to require them to disclose their takedown policy, but not allow them to disclose their takedown policy?

    4. “I continue to believe that the best solution is to require detailed disclosure of the site’s takedown policy. With answers to specific questions, not just ‘we take down anything we find offensive.'”

      It’s “we take down anything that might alienate our mass audience”

  38. I suggest a somewhat different approach. At present, 47 USC 230 reads, in part:

    “(2) Civil liability
    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
    (A) 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; or”

    I suggest deleting from (A) of the words “the provider or user considers … objectionable, whether or not such material” above, so that the same part would read:

    “(2) Civil liability
    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of— (A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that is constitutionally protected; or

    The legal system, through litigation, probably can handle the fallout that would result from services allowing a wide range of protected speech. First amendment jurisprudence is broad and deep enough that getting spurious lawsuits dismissed should be relatively easy, and even startups should not have a lot of trouble or expense engaging attorneys to defend such suits.

    1. No one is going to change that. Congressmen like Google and Facebook money.

      1. Just a thought experiment.

        1. Take some time to think more before you write next time.

  39. Or, and this is just a thought, we could move away from silo’ed infrastructures and move back towards protocols and interfaces, which would avoid the whole problem?

    1. You want protocols and interfaces put in place for selling your eyeballs?

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