Some Much-Needed Pushback on the Anti-Section 230 Craziness (Linkwrap)
The criticisms of Section 230 are a sign we’re living in Crazytown. The lies and misdirection about Section 230–coming both from cranks/trolls as well as our government leaders (please, no jokes about how those are the same thing)–are out of control. Fortunately, some smart and knowledgeable people are pushing back on the craziness. Some of what I’m seeing:
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Why Conservatives Allege Big Tech Is Muzzling Them
we have heard a steady, coordinated chorus of complaints about conservative bias on these platforms. As serious policy makers wrestle with the complex challenges that Big Tech poses—in areas such as disinformation, Russian propaganda, antitrust, and privacy—Cruz, Hawley, and others on the right keep insinuating that platforms are somehow suppressing conservative views.
There is no evidence for these accusations. There are no legitimate studies supporting these contentions. There is no documentation of company officials ordering up anti-conservative bias or policies.
But to say there is no evidence for these accusations is too weak. These complaints are just false. Coming from smart people who know better—smart people like Cruz, the first U.S. presidential candidate to hire Cambridge Analytica and try to use its trove of personal Facebook data on millions of Americans—this looks like an intentionally duplicitous move…
The campaign to label these platforms “anti-conservative” does two main things.
First, conservatives are working the refs….
The campaign to convince people that the problem with Facebook and Google is that they lean left has a second, more dangerous effect. Fundamentally, it undermines seriousness—that is, it makes any productive discussion impossible.
Deep, measured, scholarly critiques of the most powerful elements of our information ecosystem get drowned out when Cruz, Hawley, or Trump crows about bias….
Widely misunderstood and widely misinterpreted, often by those with political ambitions and agendas, Section 230 is, at its core, about making the internet safe for both innovation and individual free speech. It is the internet’s First Amendment—possibly better. And it is increasingly threatened by the illiberal right and the regressive left, both of which are now arguing that Section 230 gives tech industry giants unfair legal protection while enabling political bias and offensive speech.
Ending or amending Section 230 wouldn’t make life difficult just for Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of today’s biggest online platforms. Eroding the law would seriously jeopardize free speech for everyone, particularly marginalized groups whose ideas don’t sit easily with the mainstream. It would almost certainly kill upstarts trying to compete with entrenched tech giants. And it would set dangerous precedents, with ripple effects that extend to economic and cultural areas in the U.S. and around the world….
What both the right and left attacks on the provision share is a willingness to use whatever excuses resonate—saving children, stopping bias, preventing terrorism, misogyny, and religious intolerance—to ensure more centralized control of online speech. They may couch these in partisan terms that play well with their respective bases, but their aim is essentially the same. And it’s one in which only Washington, state prosecutors, and fire-chasing lawyers win.
If the problem is that we don’t know what content platforms are taking down, we should start by demanding real transparency and protections such as the ability to appeal. If our concern is that giant internet companies are chokepoints on the flow of information, we should be talking about competition law. If the problem is illegal speech, there are a dozen legal knobs and dials lawmakers can adjust. Looking at what the statute actually says would help us move past today’s unproductive posturing and on to the serious policy discussions we deserve.
Former Rep. Chris Cox (co-author of Section 230): Protecting The Internet From Government Censorship Is Key To The Future Of Global Trade
An argument in favor of Section 230’s inclusion in USMCA:
Winning approval for these policies in trade agreements with countries that, unlike Mexico and Canada, rely upon government supervision and control of user-created content on the internet will always be difficult. But attacking the problem patiently and incrementally in each new trade agreement will help to reduce the overall threat to the global trading system. It’s a reasonable ambition to extend Section 230’s guarantees for social media, news sites and email in every nation where people wish to benefit from a truly worldwide web. Many among the WTO’s 164 members will agree.