back to article Section 230 authors despair of Trump, Barr, Biden, US Congress’ aggressive ignorance of critical tech law

The most debated and criticized piece of law in the United States at the moment is Section 230 of Communications Decency Act (CDA), which makes it all that much more frustrating that nobody seems to understand it. Two men that do, because they wrote it, and appeared on a livestream on Wednesday, below, in an effort to inject …

  1. Shadow Systems

    Thank you for this well written article.

    I shall bookmark it, share it to educate those whom seem unable to grasp what the section is *really* about, & try to enlighten the clueless.

    I won't hold my breath, some of them are too stupid to not drink bleach as if it were the sweetest of ambrosia, but I can hope that it'll shine some light into the corners where the FUD likes to hide.

    *Hands you a giant tankard & taps rims in salute*

    Enjoy & keep up the good work!

    1. status203

      Re: Thank you for this well written article.

      To go along with TechDirt's "Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act"?

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Thank you for this well written article.

      Could you patronise that up a bit for me please?

  2. jgarbo

    Trump & Co don't know?

    Yes, a clear, concise article. More importantly, to me at least, it proves there is, contrary to general opinion, intelligent life in the US. Nevertheless, just two men don't make me optimistic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trump & Co don't know?

      All the 'Trumpster's are interested in is getting their Dear Leader re-elected in November. Then he's try to repeal a number of constitutional ammendments and delcare himself 'President for Life'.

      He thinks that he is god and his pal Putin is doing just that over in Russia and he sees it as a good idea.

      Great article by the way.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trump & Co don't know?

      There are plenty of intelligent people in the US. The problem is a culture that favors not intelligence, but bluster and machismo.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Trump & Co don't know?

        "culture that favors not intelligence, but bluster and machismo"

        The media have for ages seemed to think the populace is unintelligent. I recently picked up both the Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone DVD sets dating from 1959 onwards. In both, the essence of the story is in the surprise punch line. However all the Outer Limits episodes include a preview of the surprise before the titles, and all the Twilight Zone episodes include a trailer in which the story line of the next episode is described in detail. So no surprises are allowed.

        I believe that the average American is vastly smarter than the media folks are prepared to admit.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Trump & Co don't know?

          "I believe that the average American is vastly smarter than the media folks are prepared to admit."

          That is so true! However, the bar is set extremely low by the media.

          Having said that, there are some clever USAians who are simply poorly educated or have been fed lies for long they simply don't understand certain things because they have no background knowledge. I've seen it posted here a few times that many, many Americans have no little or no clue about how bacteria and viruses spread because it's either not covered or barely touched on in educational settings lower than university. (Maybe that depends on where in the US they were educated/?) I hear that in some places the theory of evolution is given the same or less importance than the hypothesis of creation.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trump & Co don't know?

        It's what happens when people are bombarded, and possibly indoctrinated, with the "we're number 1" mantra, especially when you're actually waaaaaaay down the list on most things.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trump & Co don't know?

          Precisely the bluster: spending more time bragging about being Number One, than actually do things to /be/ Number One. Plenty sad, since when they want to be, they obviously can be. Sadly, only the military really benefits from this, and we're back to the machismo bit.

      3. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Trump & Co don't know?

        There are plenty of intelligent people in the US. The problem is a culture that favors not intelligence, but bluster and machismo bullshit.

        There. FTFY.

        Although the original made sense, too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Tech companies

    want to have their cake *and* eat it.

  4. jason 7

    Time... get boomers out of politics.

    Sorry guys but the world has passed you by. It ain't 1985 anymore.

    Take that full pension and pop off to your first or second holiday home/yacht and relax.

    You've done your bit...unfortunately.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Time...

      Yeah, like the Gen X'ers (a.k.a. the Greed Generation) are going to do better?

      1. jason 7

        Re: Time...

        Just take it easy Gramps!

    2. Mike Moyle

      Re: Time...

      "Take that full pension and pop off to your first or second holiday home/yacht and relax."

      Why is it that, apparently, every Boomer except I -- and everyone I know -- has all these things?

      It's a conspiracy, I tells ya! A CONSPI-I-I-I-I-I-I-IRACY!!!

  5. mistergoodbytes1

    Again, we see the examination of the softball question while completely ignoring the elephant in the room. 230(1) was never the problem. 230(2), the part that gets conveniently ignored is the problem. 230(2) is the nanny state provision which completely emasculates First Amendment protections, thus: The argument of Big Tech is that everyone has free speech rights AGAINST A GOVERNMENT POSITION. Big Tech, not being a government, is not bound to recognize any such principle. 230(2) basically lets Big Tech determine the parameters of free speech, and like minded politicians use Big Tech as a fig leaf to limit or slant open discussion, flag political speech they find ungoodthinkful, limit or hide search results, cancel or delist social media accounts or content they disagree with. And Big Tech has really gotten to the point where they're not even bothing to hide it anymore. By all means, keep 230(1), just don't protect Big Tech's openly slanted standards on what's offensive. That raises questions of what is offensive and to whom? Big Tech's totally protected response is whatever and whomever they say.

    As a long time computer geek I certainly don't want government in my computer (anyone favor outlawing crypto?). But a Big Tech nanny that feels that no rules except their own preferences and biases apply is equally bad.

    1. James 139

      There has long been a misconception over what "free speech" entitles you to.

      A fair few people believe it means "what ever, where ever, when ever", without limits or restrictions.

      Which is fine, and mostly true, in public owned places or when directed at Governments.

      In private places, which includes publically accessible, the private owner is entitled to set limits, including denying you the ability to speak.

      1. mistergoodbytes1

        The problem with your position (with which I largely agree), and the attendant 230(2) protection is, like wiretapping laws, the privilege of determining what constitutes “otherwise objectionable” was written in and for another time. At the time this privilege was granted, civil discourse was still the standard. Disagreement was not by its very existence “otherwise objectionable”. It was presumed that the grey area would be handled by and as adults.

        They grey areas should be (relatively) easy for adults, educated and mature in a civil society, to navigate. There are some hard questions. The Supreme Court spent years and reams of paper trying to define civil rights. So be it, a civil society matures.

        But Big Tech has shown that is no longer the case. If they find something they consider otherwise objectionable Google may block funding as with Zerohedge or National Review (taking your toys and going home), labeling obvious political satire as manipulated media on Twitter (name calling), built in review processes for "otherwise objectionable" speech (telling teacher). These policies and responses are fundamentally childish in nature. Mature adults should have privileges, children by and large do not, and only receive them when they demonstrate that they can handle them responsibly. If a child finds eating vegetables otherwise objectionable the response of the parent is that the child does not have the privilege of defining otherwise objectionable.

        When Big Tech shows it can handle privileges, it should have them back. In the meantime, if they choose to behave like children, they may need to have their privileges taken away.

        Now go to your room.

    2. genghis_uk

      Why would FB,Twitter or any other private system that tries to cater for the masses allow speech that is: (from 230(2)) obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable?

      Your children use this - do you want them to be subjected to the worst kind of speech or would you prefer that a moderator gets to it first? If you agree that a moderator is a good idea why should a private system have to tolerate lawsuits because of the very same moderation choices?

      In the US, the 1st Amendment means that Government cannot stop you from saying any form of vile, bigoted BS (within reason) but that does not mean that FB, Twitter etc. have to put up with it - don't post vile hatred and you won't get moderated... it's not that hard to grasp!

      Remove 230 and the service provider can be sued for moderation decisions so what do you get? In the first instance comment sections will be switched off on websites. FB and Twitter are big enough that they can take on a lot of lawsuits but most websites cannot. The other option is not to moderate at all - if you don't do moderation, you cannot be sued for moderation decisions. You noe have a situation where only the far right have a voice as everyone else will abandon the services that have all suddenly become extensions of xChan (although even they moderate a bit) - Probably what Trump wants as it plays to his base.

      This is not a partisan effort though - Barr, Trump and Cruz are joined by Nancy Pelosi who want to get rid of 230 for her own (also incorrect) interpretation. Politicians, as ever, peddling uniformed or deliberately misleading interpretations to further their agendas. The outcome of a 230 repeal would be catastrophic and what is really laughable is that the driver isn't a 'think of the children' it is because some really horrible people are a bit upset about being moderated or banned from social media. obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable. Getting rid of 230 will directly harm the children!!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Behind the curve, now....

    I believe what they couldn't foresee was the monetization of "user generated" contents (the business then was selling internet access only) - and the contents that monetize better and are more addictive are often those breaking the law - from the copyright infringements a lot of YouTube is built upon, to objectionable contents aimed at children (and often adults too...), or whatever can generate "clicks" and "ads impressions" anyway.

    Thinking that companies shielded from any responsibility will self-moderate and cripple their own business is wishful thinking. They will only act when the outrage grows too big.

    It's necessary to decide who will bear the responsibility of contents that breaks the law - the publishing platform or the publishing user (and the latter must then be identifiable).

    Publishers may decide to bear the responsibility of the contents shielding users who they believe are in need of being kept anonymous - just like the press always did before - but being then responsible they will have the incentives to verify and moderate the contents - even if it means losing some money.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Platform vs publisher

    From what I heard, the big tech are terrified of putting their house in order, because they worry that by accepting partial responsibility for what goes on their platforms, they'll be classified as publishers and become answerable for everything. They want the money, but not the responsibility...

  8. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Smaller, less intrusive government?

    Wyden agreed with Cox, noting that the draft EARN-IT Act will effectively introduce “the big speech police,” and that he was “stunned that conservative Republicans want speech police with Bill Barr in charge.”

    1. c1ue

      Re: Smaller, less intrusive government?

      Sadly, while I admire Wyden - the reality is that his liberal views are much more shared by the big tech companies (and their management and employees) than views held by those on the conservative side.

      And so it is quite convenient to say that everything is fine.

      Perhaps Mr. Wyden can comment on what the remedy ought to be - should this tech persecution be real - because this is why Trump et al are pushing for 203 repeal.

      1. Roo

        Re: Smaller, less intrusive government?

        Trump et al are pushing for 230 repeal so they and their donors can shut down free speech that they don't like. Their antics don't bear scrutiny, so they are simply preventing all scrutiny.

  9. Jonjonz

    What you see now, the gradual disintegration of civilization is a direct result of choosing "chaos" over law. Let private companies decide who can or cannot speak and what they may say or show. Pure chaos; disease running rampant, violence in the streets, economy running at 50% capacity.

  10. Tree
    Thumb Up

    HATE Speech

    I LOVE hate speech. The more, the better. What I don't care for is thought police, whether employed by government or Suckerberg. Bring back the Polack jokes! Speak rudely, whether about morons or blondes. That's real freedom.

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