back to article With the US election coming up, when better to petition regulators for a controversial way to chill online speech?

The US Department of Commerce (DoC) has formally asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review a critical law that provides blanket liability to online platforms such as Google and Facebook. The “petition for rulemaking” filed [PDF] by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an arm …

  1. jake Silver badge

    More obvious signs ...

    ... of senility in the idiot in chief.

    Think before you vote, America.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More obvious signs ...

      We can't get the President to think before he posts, getting the populace to think before they vote might be a bridge to far. Vote Giant Meteor 2020, let God poke thru the wreckage for trinkets.

      1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: More obvious signs ...

        I'm still for Cthulhu, why vote for the lesser evil. Last election it was the SMoD, but he failed me. Sigh.

        1. Jim Mitchell

          Re: More obvious signs ...

          If Giant Meteor wins, we go out with a bang. If Cthulhu wins, we go out with either a whimper or a scream (not quite up on my Lovecraftian horrors). I know which I prefer and will vote accordingly!

          1. A. Coatsworth
            Mushroom

            Re: More obvious signs ...

            According to the Cthulhu cultists, the Great Old Ones will teach humanity "[...] new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ectasy and freedom"

            Given the current world situation, that sounds far from being the worst option!

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: senility vs narcissism

      Wakipedia redirects senility to dementia. The key point is a gradual decline in the ability to think and remember that is faster than what would be expected from age. Although there are some matches to the symptoms it is not clear that the symptoms are getting worse. Trump's speech was rambling and incoherent before he was nominated. Likewise the with the delusions and impulsivity.

      Try the symptoms for narcissictic personality disorder. I think you will find a much stronger match.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: senility vs narcissism

        I hear what you are saying, but I'm not sure I agree. The thing is, he's getting more child-like, petulant, paranoid and in denial with each passing tweet week .... and from here, it seems the pace is accelerating. Worse, quite sadly his wife is no Nancy, not by any stretch of the imagination ... Frankly, I'll be surprised if his handlers manage to hold things together until the election.

        We'll see.

        1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

          Re: senility vs narcissism

          Getting worse responses is coherent with NPD, not per se a sign of declining mental ability.

          Doubling down on the bluff based off NPD makes all worse, and more a sign of consistent (low) cognitive ability.

        2. onemark03

          Trump'S Getting Worse

          Due to the pressure, he will continue to get worse in the period up to the election. After that, God knows.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Trump'S Getting Worse

            There's been a rumor flying around that he had a minor stroke a few months back during that 'unexpected health checkup' that occurred.

            Personally, I had the Orange One's personalty pegged years ago- he's a narcissistic, sociopathic con-artist who does'nt give a load of dingo's kidneys what happens to anyone else but him, as long as he's made out to look good. (which means that 'world leader' is absolutely the worst job to have.)

        3. c1ue

          Re: senility vs narcissism

          You might want to make it more clear who you are referring to, since the OP mentioned dementia...

      2. Julz Silver badge

        Re: senility vs narcissism

        From the linked wiki article:

        "The occurrence of narcissistic personality disorder presents a high rate of comorbidity with other mental disorders. People with NPD are prone to bouts of psychological depression, often to the degree that meets the clinical criteria for a co-occurring depressive disorder. Moreover, the occurrence of NPD is further associated with the occurrence of bipolar disorder, of anorexia, and of substance use disorders, especially cocaine use disorder. In that vein, NPD also might be comorbid with the occurrence of other mental disorders, such as histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or paranoid personality disorder."

        Maybe there will be an interesting 'kiss & tell' book coming out soon'ish...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More obvious signs ...

      "Think before you vote, America."

      President Beaker will walk it. "Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!..." It's just a reality show contest now, an Trump is pretty good at those.

    4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: More obvious signs ...

      Sorry, the senility is in the OTHER camp. DT is just crazy.

      But I'm *more* concerned about the puppetmasters that will be controlling the senile one.

    5. EagleZ28

      Re: More obvious signs ...

      Forget what Trump SAYS...

      Look at what he DOES... or more to the point, does NOT do...

      Most importantly of all... how many people has he killed or gotten killed?

      Love him or hate him... the answer to THAT question is...

      less than even Kennedy in his half-term... two years... and FAR FAR FAR less than LBJ.

      Less than Harry Truman... and less than BHO, too.

      (BTW, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016. Who I vote for in 2020 is going to largely depend on who Biden's team picks for VP.)

      1. walterp

        Re: More obvious signs ...

        How to you calculate those numbers?

        Excess deaths during the Trump Admin are now greater than Kennedy or LBJ.

        1. EagleZ28

          Re: More obvious signs ...

          How do I calculate?

          YOU appear to be referring to COVID19? I don't count it on Trump's "scorecard"... HE didn't cause it.

          If people choose not to wear masks and not isolate as much as is possible, that's on them... THEIR choice.

          BTW -

          I recommend large frame glasses to help PROTECT your EYES from being a point of infection.

          Safety glasses... tinted/not-tinted as appropriate.

          Back to Trump's "butcher's bill"...

          Has he started a WAR? No. Kennedy and LBJ dragged USA and thus some of our allies into Vietnam.

          Clinton is at least partially responsible for 9/11... Clinton had a perfect opportunity to try to reset relations with Russia, but he was "too busy" playing with Monica and cigars... and "Black Hawk Down" and Somalia...

          Obama and his drone strikes... ISIS/ISIL... Syria and his "line in the sand"

          ILLEGAL immigrants DIE trying to "break in" to USA, because of "coyotes", desert/dehydration and heat stroke, etc. STOPPING that (which he appears to have SLOWED) helps PRESERVE lives...

          Bush II - Iraq and Afghanistan.

          Truman - Korea and the start of the Cold War.

          The "sanctuary cities" on the other hand ENCOURAGE people to try to immigrate illegally.

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    LSoT

    Just another outrage. There will be another tomorrow. Pay no attention to the Lying Sack of Trump babbling at the podium and his dismantling of the necessary structures of government.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Of the 300 Million of so Americans how come Trump and Biden are at the top of the political ladders, Where are all of the Harvard and Yale geniuses, the actual thinkers and doers .... Is this really the best that the USA has to offer ? It's almost as though they want to write themselves off..

    1. jake Silver badge

      The best we have to offer?

      Hell no!

      But none of those guys and gals would touch that job with a ten foot pole. Not the way politics is played these days, anyway, No sane, intelligent person would.

      So we're stuck with idiotic lunatics, and we've got to pick the best of a bad lot. Is it any wonder that people are ignoring their voting duties in droves?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As has been said many times "America has the best politicians money can buy". With the emphasis on money, vested interests and lobbyists.

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

        Unfortunately even that is no longer true. Surely the buyers could find politicians that would obey them while still having an IQ larger than their shoe size.

        1. HereIAmJH

          There is no interest in finding anyone with a higher IQ. The people backing Trump have gotten exactly what they wanted. Whether it's the White Supremacists or the very rich. Do you really think no one has been taking advantage of all the stock market bounces from random tweets? My personal opinion is that this administration will go down in history as the most corrupt ever.

          1. EagleZ28

            It wasn't the White supremacists who elected Trump.

            The very rich aren't enough in numbers to swing even a couple of counties, much less a single

            state, much less multiple states... any more than my one vote could have turned MY state from red to blue... or even my *precinct*... which is smaller than a county, for our friends in the UK and elsewhere.

            As for the White supremacists... there probably aren't enough of those to fill even ONE Congressional District... which would take about 730,000 people. THEN... you'd have to get them all to vote one way.

            In the OP's argument... for Trump... which would mean getting them to vote AGAINST abortion. Ha! I'd bet that a large percentage of WS's are just as PRO-choice as they are ANTI-whatever-other-race(s), which simply means that you can't count on that particular group voting, as a group, for any specific candidate.

      2. EagleZ28

        The buyers don't want people smart enough to think for themselves.

        The buyers don't want people who are too honest to BE bought.

        The buyers don't want people are too personally wealthy.

        The buyers don't want people who are too independent.

        In a lot of cases (hopefully not all), you can substitute the word "establishment" for buyers,

        and the same things will apply.

        There, you have the reasons that Bloomberg didn't win the nomination... too wealthy, and probably also too independent.

        There, you have the reasonS that Biden DID get it... he's "likable"... by every standard listed above.

        There, you have the reasons that Trump was such a long-shot back in 2016... and why so

        many of "the establishment" didn't like... and so many still don't... and also some of the

        reasons that so many people voted for him, first in the primaries, then in the 2016 election.

        (*I* was not one of them.)

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      US Politics

      is dominated by Lawyers. I've spoken to people studying law. Some had no intention of ever really practising law. Law was just a stepping stone into Politics.

      The thinkers and doers are all out making shed loads of money to really care about Politics. Besides, they get the laws that they need by 'campaign contributions' to the right people. The payback is when laws favourable to their business get passed.

      In the USA, 'those that can do, those that can't become lawyers and politicians'.

      The best government that money can buy!

    4. mrobaer
      Unhappy

      The thinkers and doers might want to try and actually serve the nation, as public servants should. The left/right wings (of the same bird) won't have any of that. Did you watch the culling of the Democratic candidates, from the party who decried, "We don't want another old white guy!", leave themselves with Joe Biden? There are silent majorities on both sides, and clearly the Democrats underestimated their own.

      By the time the candidates are whittled down to each party's messiah, half the country has no interest in voting for the lesser evil. It remains a great challenge to get the non-voters involved from the beginning.

      1. HereIAmJH

        I think the Democrats were more focused on who can beat Trump than the person who would do the best job. Biden was more middle of the road, and was expected to pull more Independents. The last election has a lot of people nervous about poll numbers.

        You can bet the conversations about universal healthcare would be strikingly different if COVID-19 had been COVID-18. And fewer candidates would have been dismissed for having ideas that were too expensive (and too progressive). (Healthcare, Universal Basic Income, etc)

        1. EagleZ28

          Dems more focused on who could/might beat Trump...

          Yes, I agree...

          Universal healthcare in USA?

          The Dems aren't REALLY for that... too many doctors are Dems... and the insurance companies have too much power... with BOTH parties... INCLUDING the Dems.

          Medical malpractice lawyers tend to be OVERWHELMINGLY Dem... because the Dems are in favor of UNlimited lawsuits, while the Reps are in favor of limits. If we in USA go to gov't healthcare, like England, Canada, etc., it would be, in THIS country, FAR harder to sue for ANY amount... because we have to have the Fed. Govt's PERMISSION to sue the FG. Essentially, it would put the ambulance chasers out of work... along with the medical insurance companies and all of their employees, as well as quite a few employees at the hospitals who handle billing... and that is a LOT of votes/voters... not to mention money... which is MOST of the reasons that Obamacare went the way that it did.

          Universal Basic Income -

          OMG...!

          Okay, this sounds nice... getting a paycheck for just being a warm body...

          Beyond THAT, though... if it's "universal", then who the hell is PAYING for it?

          The government can't give anything to anyone without first taking it from someone else.

          So, if everyone is getting it, then who is the gov't taking it FROM in order to... give it to everyone?

          Are they just printing money like it grows on trees? Maybe. Of course, that causes inflation... which

          means that they are just giving with one hand and taking with the other...

  4. Franco Silver badge

    Given how the FCC and Ajit Pai acted on net neutrality it would not be at all surprising if they thought this was a great idea

  5. conel

    Platforms to Publishers

    The immunity is a good thing for platforms and shouldn't be removed. But the more social media sites go down the route of promoting/ censoring content based on political preferences the closer they are to publishers and publishers shouldn't have immunity.

    The platforms can of course define what content they want to host at a certain level, in the way that sub-reddits are for particular topics. The rules should be transparent and clear to users, so if a platform wanted to be political and be pro/ anti a particular position that's fine and should be in the rules of the platform. If a platform claims to be politicaly neutral but actually censors/ promotes political views they should be considered a publisher with all the liability ramifications.

    Then platforms can decide for themselves what they are and consumers can know what they're getting rather than this pretend neutrality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Platforms to Publishers

      While I agree on the "promoting/censoring content" makes them closer to publishers (and thus not immune), what I've seen the most is simply marking particular content as false (typically intentionally and blatantly false), and linking to a reasonably legitimate source to show it. That's not promoting or censoring, and is specifically targeting provably false content.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Megaphone

    "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

    Really ?

    Bring back the Fairness Doctrine !

    Bring back the Fairness Doctrine !

    Bring back the Fairness Doctrine !

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

      Pascal,

      That title should have been :

      "The Fairness Doctrine would have made MSM illegal..."

      NBC, CNN, Fox news are all extremely tainted to a point where you're lucky if you get even 5% fact, with the remaining 95% pure conjecture...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

      Pascal Monett,

      I'm no fan of Fox News. Not that it's avaiblable to me, I live in the UK. But as I understand the US national media landscape, it was all pretty similar back in the day. You had all of the TV networks and the big newspapars, like the NY Times and Washington Post all being slightly centre left (in US terms - so econonmically that's on the right in most of Europe), and quite socially liberal. Probably because they were often from similar social groups and based in just a few of the big cities. Which is all fine and dandy, but maybe quite annoyng if you were on the right of politics (either socially or economically) and there was nobody to represent you.

      Whereas in the UK we've always had a broader media mix. TV has to comply with quite strict impartiality rules - but the written press has always been a free-for-all - and we've had major voices in the national press on all sides. Also our press tended to set the agenda for the TV news (it still does, which is odd given how much their readership has fallen).

      You may think it's changed for the worse. I only know what I've seen and read about as an outsider, so can't really tell for sure. But there is a danger in suppressing, or simply ignoring, political views that you don't like. In that they don't actually go away, and if enough people share them, they will eventually make themselves heard some other way.

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

        The difference between the past and today is that in the past, media outlets were expected to be un-biased in reporting the news and giving their opinion in editorials. There was (believed to be) a distinct line drawn between them. You'll note old media still have editorial pages and mark articles as opinion pieces.

        Fox News launched a generation of 'entertainment news', where it's nearly impossible to differentiate between the facts and Fox opinions. So many people single source their news, if they watch any at all, that they can't filter fact vs opinion on their own. This has inevitably led to a push from other sources to get attention to their positions. Has this affected CNN/NBC/Etc? Maybe.

        The next wave is fake news. We are seeing lots of articles pushing agendas that have no basis on facts. This will be beneficial to the the people who jump in early and successfully utilize it. I suspect the reason for wanting to push liability to Google/Facebook/Twitter is to stop them from blocking fake news. It gives the government a huge lever in controlling new media.

      2. EagleZ28

        Re: "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

        You've got a pretty clear take on the US media.

        Back in the 80's, it used to be slightly Left/Liberal/Progressive, BUT it was also often (not always), BALANCED out by the individual LOCAL news stations.

        As time went on, the nationwide MSM kept drifting further and further Left... the "spin" became overwhelming... blatant... to the point where Conservatives were no longer WILLING to put up with it, which they HAD been... and often still are... to a point. Conservatives became accustomed to having the Left-view crammed down their throats.,, at least when they had no other choice.

        Then, along came Fox... and they suddenly HAD a choice... Likewise with talk-radio... and a few surviving newspapers.

        IMO, the NYT and WaPo and CNN (etc.) would have done FAR better to try to serve both sides of the stories equally... to try to EDUCATE their readers/viewers... Instead, they chose to alienate half in order to "gratify" the other half.

        If Fox is a "devil", it was the MSM that gave birth to it.

    3. EagleZ28

      Re: "The Fairness Doctrine would have made Fox News [..] illegal"

      FOX News ONLY exists because the other (TV) news outlets became so heavily Left-biased.

      FOX News is #1 in US because it's the ONLY Right-leaning (national/international, as opposed to purely local) TV news, while the MSM is so numerous (and completely Left) that it divides up small pieces of the total Left-leaning viewership.

      Also, it's not simply that the MSM is Left-leaning... they often insult the Right... and quite frankly, slander and/or libel them, as well.

      Just some examples...

      "Flyover country"... as if the only part of the US which matters are the two coasts.

      "Covington Kids" - the MSM universally panned them as Christians (probably correctly) but ALSO as RACISTS... without evidence... AND as the instigators of the "racist incident"... definitely NOT correctly.

      "Deplorables" - This single comment by Hillary probably was enough to cost her the election... by itself. A lot of Americans who had voted for Obama, TWICE, decided to vote for Trump instead of Hillary.

      Russian Collusion... They've been on an don about this since Trump won the election... but it wasn't Trump and his team who colluded with a Russian to put lies into the Steele Dossier and then used that to weaponize our own legal system... AGAINST Trump. No, that was the Left, the Dems, and the MSM.

      More... I could list more, but that would turn into an entire book...

  7. JonSaul

    Apparently not "literally everyone" if it was proposed as legislation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About Time

    This conservative thinks it a fine idea and long overdue. From my view in the US the big tech companies Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al are censoring a lot of conservative thought. The mainstream media is so bad that I refuse to watch or listen to it. Hearing the president is evil 1000 times a day is a total bore and a waste of valuable time. I get my news online where I can check things out when my BS detector goes off.

    If the platforms wish to have neutral and open rules which are fairly enforced I would feel differently. Sadly they do not.

    Let the down voting begin.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: About Time

      Have an upvote from me. And this coming from a long-time Libertarian.

      The idea of the exemption for the tech services like Google, FB, etc was to allow them to be *neutral* services, to allow the free flow of ideas and opinions (I figure if someone wants to espouse a stupid opinion, they should be allowed to embarrass themselves publicly).

      But these companies have decided to interfere, to decide what is "goodspeak" and what is "badspeak". At the point when they decided to manipulate their content to match their own particular agendas, that's when they lost the right to be excluded from content responsibility.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: About Time

      If the platforms wish to have neutral and open rules which are fairly enforced I would feel differently. Sadly they do not.

      I'm not sure this is possible. First define your open and transparent rules...

      But even if you can do that, you've then got to enforce them. If you're talking about say the BBC - well they've only got 20-30 news editors, who can all be sent on training courses and can be watched closely by management. And there's only so many bulletins to be monitored by Ofcom, when there's a complaint.

      If Twitter are going to have policies on what can be posted, that's still subject to the whims of individual moderating staff. Didn't Trump's account get locked briefly a few months back, because a Twitter staff member was leaving and decided to do it on his last day to make a point? Hence his account has now got special protection to stop rogue moderators doing it without management say-so.

      I've been a forum Mod (admittedly as a volunteer doing it only for free game credit) - and it took much effort to get moderation to be similar. And even though the company tried very hard, and had a few paid Mods in overall charge, the different country teams had totally different standards and it sometimes led to some fun internation spats - where the moderation staff ended up getting into conflict over who'd banned which idiot troll from their country.

      Not that I don't think Google and Facebook should be made to tidy up some of the shit they publish. Especially when they promote particlar posts into other peoples' news feeds - at which point they are publishing and should be treated as publishers.

      But the choices are free-for-all or imperfect moderation. Even with well-considered and transparent guidelines, moderation on that scale is going to be of extremely variable quality.

      1. c1ue

        Re: About Time

        The point which your experience should inform is that moderation can not be fairly accomplished through small teams and opaque means.

        The benefit of transparency and public scrutiny is that the overall picture is much easier to assemble and make fair than the outcome of the views of a handful of moderators and AI devs.

        It isn’t clear to me that FB, Goog and Tw are deliberately discriminative at the top level, but their hiring practices can accomplish the same outcome. If you hire nothing but libera moderators and coders, you’re going to get liberal moderation and filtering policies.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: About Time

          c1ue,

          I don't see how you can moderate publicly or transparently. The very nature of the thing is private - otherwise you're publishing the offensive stuff in question. But I agree they need more scrutiny. I'd say the best thing for Facebook and Twitter (where the content is all the posts of their users) that they create some sort of appeals panel that's transparent and staffed by outsiders. And have other outsiders do audit reports on what they're up to.

          In the case of all of them, I think they should lose their exemption to being publishers, where they are in fact publishers. So if Facebook select a post to promote into other peoples' timelines, then they have chosen to publish that. And they shouldn't be allowed to get away with claiming a nasty algorithm did it, and ran away. And the same should be true for Twitter and Google.

          If they can't safely publish with algorithms alone, then tough.

    3. c1ue

      Re: About Time

      I would be totally fine with ending Fox News if CNN and MSDNC were also ended.

      As it is, it is Alien vs Predator: No Matter Who Wins, We Lose

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This article is foolishness

    There is mounting evidence that Google, twitter and the rest of the gang are manipulating searches and disappearing information. As a conservative and a software developer, I believe it's absolutely true because I've seen the bias. If you lefttards can stomach the truth, head over to Breighbart and just look at the graphs of search results.

    The censorship is real.

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