back to article Hold on to your hats, Net Neutrality version 2 is on its way courtesy of Trump and the FCC's moves on Section 230

A flawed consultation into Section 230 – America's safety blanket that shields online platforms like Google and Facebook – has already devolved into a mess dangerously reminiscent of the net neutrality debate. “The censorship of conservative voices is a well known fact to all people,” reads just one comment of hundreds …

  1. Maelstorm Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    A dumpster fire in the making

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act needs a major overhaul. Specifically language that states that in order to qualify for the protection of the law, the provider must adhere to and guarantee the rights bestowed by the First Amendment (Specifically Free Speech and Freedom of Religion.) of the Constitution of the United States. This will help limit censorship of conservative voices on the various social media platforms. Specifically, political speech which is very much protected under the First Amendment. However, it shouldn't be so absolute as to allow foreign governments to broadcast propaganda on those same social media platforms to influence an election.

    It should probably read something like this (added verbiage highlighted in bold):

    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider as long as the following conditions apply:

    1. The provider or user of the interactive computer service cannot block, delete, or otherwise censor political speech as long as the speech originates from a citizen of the United States of America and complies with all applicable laws.

    2. The provider or user of the interactive computer service cannot block, delete, or otherwise censor religious speech as long as the speech originates from a citizen of the United States of America and complies with all applicable laws.

    Penalty for violation of the above provisions are fines up to $10,000 per day per violation and/or removal of protected status under this statute. Complaints are to be handled and investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. Once the provider has been notified of a complaint, the provider has 90 days to respond or face the above penalties.

    Vague? Kinda, but the law was never black and white which falls under the spirit of the law verses the letter of the law. The way that I see it is that the providers such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter will continue to have protection under section 230 with the caveat that they do not censor political or religious speech. Complaints of such are to be filed with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the provider then will have to prove that their censorship has merit. This will pretty much stop censorship of religious and political speech on the social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

    Oh, el Reg, you guys need a dumpster fire icon. I picked the closest one that I thought would work.

    1. Lyle Dietz

      Re: A dumpster fire in the making

      I see two problems:

      1. Define political speech.

      2. Define religious speech.

      Both will make a bushfires look like a lit match. One man's religious speech is another man's hate speech.

      Also, nice of you to ignore legally resident immigrants, and the rest of the world.

      1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

        Re: A dumpster fire in the making

        For your two problems, I would think that the definitions of what political and religious speech are would be obvious to the average person. As for hate speech, the courts here have held, consistantly, that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment as long as it doesn't incite violence. Like it or not, that is the law. I'll give you a point about the immigrants (I forgot to include them as I came up with this off the top of my head.). Companies have to follow the laws in the places they operate. Since this is specific to the laws of the United States, the rest of the world doesn't count in this.

        1. TheRealRoland
          Angel

          Re: A dumpster fire in the making

          >I would think that the definitions of what political and religious speech are would be obvious to the average person

          Hahahaha.... <takes a breath...> sigh.

          That's where your arguments went wrong. "It's obvious to an average person"? This is what would get censorship laws started, anywhere in the world, but perhaps especially in the US of A.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A dumpster fire in the making

      The only time Conservatives are "censored" is when the push batshit crazy conspiracy theories and lies, and generally incite violence and hatred.

      Whatever the paranoids think, there is no left-wing agenda in the social networks - they only care about views and the corresponding money they can make.

      Cucks like Rubin, Shapiro, Kirk et al continue to spout their bollocks on YouTube, and they aren't censored.

      And left-wing groups frequently get demonitised, if the platforms think their posts are "too risky".

      If more conservatives than lefties are banned, that's because more of them are off the rail nutjobs.

      Simple

    3. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: A dumpster fire in the making

      First amendment prohibits government interference in free speech, not whether a private company is obliged to allow your speech. How come Americans don't understand that?

      Also, why restrict your law to political and religious speech? Why not all speech? Obviously complying with all applicable laws... and the TOU you agreed to when setting up your account. You did agree to those remember?

      P.s. proof that "conservative voices" complying with all applicable laws and the TOU are censored? Or was it something Trump just said?

      P.p.s. how can you tell if they are citizens of the US? I know for a fact qanon lives down the street with his mum!

      1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

        Re: A dumpster fire in the making

        What you fail to understand is that I do understand that the First Amendment applies to the government only. What I was suggesting is changing the law so it also applies to social media platforms. Why are people so butthurt about a suggestion and an example? I mentioned political and religious speech specifically because it's those types of speech that seem to be regularly targeted for censorship by the social media platforms. It's not something that the baboon in chief said, I have personally been censored for expressing a conservative viewpoint. Instead of citizens, perhaps a better choice of words are people who live within the jurisdiction of the United States.

        1. HereIAmJH

          Re: A dumpster fire in the making

          What you fail to understand is that I do understand that the First Amendment applies to the government only. What I was suggesting is changing the law so it also applies to social media platforms.

          So what you are saying is that you want Congress to pass a law that changes the intent of the Constitution?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A dumpster fire in the making

          First, downvote for the use of "butthurt"...

          Second, why should the First Amendment apply to social media? You may have a perceived "right to free speech", protected from interference from the government, but nobody owes you a platform.

          You can say whatever you like, providing it doesn't break the law of course, but I don't have to listen to you and I certainly don't have to spread your ideas. Neither do the social media companies.

    4. CrackedNoggin

      Re: A dumpster fire in the making

      Alex?

    5. Circadian
      Stop

      Re: A dumpster fire in the making

      @Maelstorm

      If you think that political speech should not be censored, then there needs to be a law along the lines of “truth in advertising” - anything that is not backed by evidence or facts would not be published. (And dayum, I really wish the UK had something like that in place.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A dumpster fire in the making

        Like this?

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine

  2. Circadian
    Trollface

    First Amendment site

    If the government truly wanted a site that follows first amendment principles, then they should simply implement their own. Having a government-run system should at least provide the rest of the world with a laugh...

    1. Barking mad

      Re: First Amendment site

      To be clear, the first amendment prohibits congressional law making that impinges on freedom of speech. It does not apply to private enterprise. And, as written, it does not seem to apply to executive orders or the federal agencies (FCC) but hopefully there is established precedent that does.

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

  3. overunder Silver badge

    Well then.

    "If we honor the Constitution, we will reject this petition immediately.”

    Soooooo.... this will be considered, reviewed and passed, in what... 24 hours? After all, to be a true patriot you have to honor the freedom of violating the constitution, given by the constitution... right?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Equality for online platforms and social media

    The problem is quite simple. If you post a slanderous article on nytimes.com you get a lawsuit. If you post the exact same article on Facebook you get a pass because of section 230.

    The solution is people should be able to sue the poster and facebook for slanderous articles. Facebook needs to authenticate it's posters just like the NYTimes does its reporters. Facebook should hold its subscribers accountable for all legal bills that result from their posts.

    If individual posters can be sued for posts, they will stop posting slanderous and outrageous articles.

    1. A K Stiles Silver badge

      Re: Equality for online platforms and social media

      More like; if you post a libellous article on nytimes.com you and the newspaper get a lawsuit, because theoretically, everything posted there is edited and approved by the staff of nytimes.com, but if you post the exact same article on Facebook, Facebook gets a pass because of section 230, but you still get a lawsuit for libel, if the complainant can track you down, possibly with the help of Facebook through a court order, oh and prove you are the original author of the piece, or took personal action in publishing (e.g. sharing) it.

    2. VicMortimer
      Facepalm

      Re: Equality for online platforms and social media

      Someone clearly has a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.

      1. james7byrne

        Re: Equality for online platforms and social media

        A.K. Styles. Let me make this ease for you. The difference in the two libel cases is NYTimes gets sued and Facebook does not because of 230. You do not understand the law. The fear of being sued is why 230 exists in the first place.

        1. A K Stiles Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Equality for online platforms and social media

          and yet when I read the words I wrote above, that's exactly what I said, only with better proof-reading...

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Ptol

    Americanisation of the internet

    If the USA want to tear themselves up over their idealistic view of free speech, and the consequences that their laws enables, I'm all for leaving them to it.

    However, please make sure that bun fight stays within the borders of the USA and doesn't affect the rest of the world. In the UK the websites are only protected from liability if they do not remove it within 24 hours of being notified that it is libellous or illegal. Not that I have ever seen Facebook remove reported content that is illegal in the UK for being racist hate speech under the race relations act.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Since the blocking seems to miraculously favor the same tribes over and over and over and is not remotely evenly distributed it’s pretty hard to argue that these platforms aren’t editing their content, just like the newspapers do. At a minimum, they should be required to have clear content guidelines and demonstrate the processes they followed for any content removal.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant. A huge problem is the capricious nature of the decisions that are made and if the heat gets to be great enough invariable the “algorithm” gets blamed and they slink off until they think enough time has passed to try again. So yeah, there are more than a few who think these companies and their defenders are utterly full of it.

    Even better? Just give me tools to filter out content *I* find objectionable. Then again that’s the real danger - a populous that might start thinking for themselves instead of eagerly slopping down the pre-digested gruel so carefully curated for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      miraculously favoring?

      I'm missing your point. Blocking racist comments is obviously going to be blocking the same "tribes". Does there therefore need to be a commensurate topic that is blocked for other "tribes"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: miraculously favoring?

        Except when there are many who blame anything they disagree with as "racist" - whether it actually is racist or not.

        Again, clear guidelines, laid out in advance and an open process leading to decisions. Should be required for section 230 protections - otherwise it's editorializing and it should be game on in court. And I am NOT pro lawsuit by any stretch, but the bias is beyond blatant; tech companies aren't even trying to pretend any more.

  7. peter_dtm

    As i understood it at the time, 230 was put in place to ensure internet provides were treated as common carriers not publishers.

    Common carriers do NOT look at what they are carrying (apart from legal constraints, and they better have a lot more than a mere suspicion of illegality). Common carriers carry & then deliver untouched, uninspected and unseen, that which they have undertaken to carry.

    Publishers on the other hand, choose, inspect, edit and/or comment on what they carry.

    Are Facebook et al acting as common carriers or as publishers?

    Do they refuse, remove, delete or otherwise arbitrarily modify what they are given to ‘carry’ ? As far as I can see yes they do.

    Therefore they are no longer common carriers and no longer deserve the protection that common carriers have to have in order to function. Therefore section 230 is no longer applicable and they should be treated like any other publisher & be liable for the content of what they choose to publish. Let them, like magazines & newspapers before them, publish and be damned!

    Or revert to being common carriers.

    Ask the post office to inspect letters for ‘hate crimes’ never mind any other illegal actions? How do you feel about having your letters opened & inspected because they might contain illegal content? There is quite a high bar on getting postal inspection warrants like there is (supposed to be) for getting wire taps etc.

    Facebook et al gave up common carrier status when they first removed a post that was not illegal which they had not been legally instructed to remove.

    1. HereIAmJH

      Social media as common carriers

      I suspect that they would love to act like common carriers, and only remove egregious violations of their posting policies. But Craigslist, Backpage, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube have already been told that's not going to happen, They will be held accountable for all the nasty stuff that will get posted if nobody monitors it. So that puts them in a tough situation. At what point do you become a publisher, and no longer a common carrier, if you are removing 'objectionable' content? I think they are going to get legislated regardless of what they do.

      I personally think they are still a common carrier because they aren't acting in an editorial fashion (to my knowledge). They aren't editing content, they are simply removing content that violates an ever changing acceptable use policy. I would be more concerned with the insertion of targeted ads. For those they have full discretion about what gets published and who sees them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Social media as common carriers

        "They aren't editing content, they are simply removing content that violates an ever changing acceptable use policy."

        This is the crux of the issue. Policy is being used as a shield. If you want policy to be neutral vs. editorializing as was stated earlier sunlight is the best disinfectant. Companies hiding under 230 should be required to have their stated policies published publicly, and have to also demonstrate publicly how they're policies applied to their actions. Companies should also be held accountable equally for when they fail to apply their policies. For example, violence from the left seems to be tolerated and even encouraged, yet even talking about violence from the left gets anyone else banned.

        I don't think companies policing their problems is the core issue for most people who have issues with big tech companies. It's the utter unequal application of them, and overwhelmingly it seems to tilt in one stark and dramatic direction.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a perfect world...

    we would not only fully restore Obama's Net Neutrality rules we would also break-up Google and Facebook and Ajit Pai would be removed from office and barred from ever working with anything to do with telecommunications.

    But here we are...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eventual Outcome: Czar of Speech

    Get ready for a new Czar who rules as they see fit to approve or ban any speech they choose, not beholding to any law, or government oversight other than being appointed (without review) by the LUMPOTUS and serving at his will.

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