Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Section 230 in the News Again

 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prevents web sites from being sued as if they were publishers. Without that, there would be no Facebook or Twitter, or product reviews on Amazon. Any site that allowed users to post could be sued for what they said.

I was a CompuServe Sysop when the Cubby case hit, and if it had been decided differently, the Internet as we know it today would not exist. Now the President has signed an executive order to review Section 230. This isn’t a huge surprise; two of the original authors of the bill have called for reviews based on the changes to the Internet since the 1990s. Here is an excellent article on the subject.

If you want to know the real story about all this, I would be glad to share review copies of a book I narrated last year, The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet. Send me a message if you would like a promo code for a freebie. This is a very well-written analysis and history, starting with the legal difference between a publisher and a distributor…and who you can sue for what.

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Senator Ted Cruz warned FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter quite clearly two years ago. You get the protections if and only if you fulfill the predicate of conducting yourself as a neutral public forum. Choose to control content, beyond that which is illegal, and you become liable for all the content:

    • #1
    • May 28, 2020, at 2:07 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    See this well-written analysis by law professor Eugene Volokh on Section 230 and the distinctions between publishers, distributors, and platforms. I also have a related post up: Do the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop approve?

    • #2
    • May 28, 2020, at 2:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    See this well-written analysis by law professor Eugene Volokh on Section 230 and the distinctions between publishers, distributors, and platforms. I also have a related post up: Do the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop approve?

    Thank you for the Volokh link, you beat me to it. An excellent analysis. 

    • #3
    • May 28, 2020, at 3:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Douglas Pratt: Now the President has signed an executive order to review Section 230. This isn’t a huge surprise; two of the original authors of the bill have called for reviews based on the changes to the Internet since the 1990s. Here is an excellent article on the subject.

    In that article, O’Neill states: 

    Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, platforms like Twitter are immune from liability for what users post on the platform. It seems unlikely that Trump could seriously revise this without changing the law, which would require an act of Congress.

    Trump’s DoJ can make a recommendation to Congress. Is there any likelihood Congress will amend Section 230? 

    Maybe an amendment is buried in the 3 trillion dollar stimulus bill. 

    • #4
    • May 29, 2020, at 8:00 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I think the Trump EO is a shot across the bow of people like this. The Twitter content czar.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/head-of-twitter-site-integrity-called-trump-white-house-officials-actual-nazis-and-mitch-mcconnell-a-bag-of-farts

    Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, has posted multiple tweets deriding people who voted for President Trump, his staff, and other Republicans.

    Roth’s responsibilities at Twitter include “election security and misinformation,” a role he has held since 2018. Roth compared Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and likened the Trump administration to Nazis. He also attacked people who live in “fly over” states, saying, “we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.” The Twitter executive also used his timeline to attack Sen. Mitch McConnell, referring to him as a “bag of farts.”

    Maybe Twitter will back off to avoid a court battle. There is no chance of legislation with the House in leftist hands.

    • #5
    • May 29, 2020, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Now here is something the President’s DoJ can actually do to Twitter. 

    • #6
    • May 29, 2020, at 9:48 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. cirby Member

    The fun part is when you realize that, if the big platforms like Twitter and YouTube are found to be publishers instead of platforms, they get into some really murky waters related to copyright. Volokh mentions it in that one paragraph, but they only get that level of DMCA protection if they’re platforms – not publishers.

    By admitting that they can have very explicit control over posted content (by taking down posts without a previous complaint), they’re opening a door they might not be able to close.

     

    • #7
    • May 29, 2020, at 11:58 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    See this well-written analysis by law professor Eugene Volokh on Section 230 and the distinctions between publishers, distributors, and platforms. I also have a related post up: Do the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop approve?

    I looked up the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, whereby Congress effectively classified social media companies as platforms immune from liability. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

    • #8
    • May 29, 2020, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. The Reticulator Member

    What I’d rather see is an action that would prohibit agencies of the federal government, their contractors, and grant recipients from using social media platforms that engage in political censorship (other than the usual inciting of violence, etc.) I’m thinking that this should be modeled on prohibitions against racial discrimination in federal government employment, but I must confess that I don’t know what all that would imply. 

    • #9
    • May 29, 2020, at 6:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    What I’d rather see is an action that would prohibit agencies of the federal government, their contractors, and grant recipients from using social media platforms that engage in political censorship (other than the usual inciting of violence, etc.) I’m thinking that this should be modeled on prohibitions against racial discrimination in federal government employment, but I must confess that I don’t know what all that would imply. 

    While we’re waiting for that all to get enacted, we could at the local level put pressure on local governments to use only those platforms that allow free speech

    • #10
    • May 29, 2020, at 6:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    What I’d rather see is an action that would prohibit agencies of the federal government, their contractors, and grant recipients from using social media platforms that engage in political censorship (other than the usual inciting of violence, etc.) I’m thinking that this should be modeled on prohibitions against racial discrimination in federal government employment, but I must confess that I don’t know what all that would imply.

    While we’re waiting for that all to get enacted, we could at the local level put pressure on local governments to use only those platforms that allow free speech

    This could happen more readily if some conservative legal organizations would develop model language that could be used so I could go to a township or county meeting and propose an enforceable ordinance or policy.

    • #11
    • May 29, 2020, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • Like