back to article US senators propose yet another problematic Section 230 shakeup: As long as someone says it on the web, you can't hide it away

With studied ignorance, yet another piece of proposed legislation targeting social media, and invoking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has emerged this week. This time, three Republican senators – Roger Wicker (R-MS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – are behind the effort “to hold Big Tech …

  1. Peter Prof Fox

    Thank goodness

    We'll never get this in Dear Old Blighty.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Thank goodness

      This is the internet. If you do not explicitly mark sarcasm some people will think you actually believe what your type. So far the UK government is still at the vague threat level of doing something (else) really stupid.

  2. FreemonSandlewould

    If an platform edits then they are editors and responsible for the content.

    Plain / Simple.

    You gits at the register are just serving your big internet masters with this propaganda piece.

    If you are an editor!

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      I agree that if a platform edits (and changes) the original content then they should be responsible for the (modified) content. However Twitter is not changing the original content - it is simply simply making a comment itself that says "this may be fake news, grossly incorrect, or whatever". Really it is no different from you taking a Facebook message with a "like" - its annotating the content, not changing it.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        You miss the point completely and, I suspect, deliberately. The original problem was that ISP's could not moderate content and therefore should be protected from lawsuits concerning that content. The current crop of big media companies have proved conclusively that they CAN moderate content and do so to support their business and their political viewpoints, so the protection should be taken away.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Putting words in someone else's mouth

          If I went round to your house and plastered it with with "Vote Biden" posters you would be well within your rights to remove them. If you post "The sky is blue" on ogletwitface they are perfectly within their rights to remove it or to point out that the sky is grey when cloudy. Domain names are cheap and setting up a web server is not that difficult (or hire someone to do it for you). You can post almost anything you want on your website but ogletwitface is not yours.

        2. _andrew

          There was editorial before socials

          It's never that simple though.

          You're always going to have to support take-down orders to comply with little issues like the law of various jurisdictions.

          Usenet had cancelbots and curated feeds.

          Even at the raw IP level, whole networks used to be de-peered if they continued to host illegal (or just awful or inconvenient like spam) content, collateral-damage to co-hosted domains be damned.

          There is always some "editing".

        3. CrackedNoggin

          "The original problem was that ISP's could not moderate content and therefore should be protected from lawsuits concerning that content."

          Let me fix that.

          "The original problem was that ISP's could not PERFECTLY moderate ALL content and therefore should be protected from lawsuits concerning that content."

          "PERFECTLY" because there is no such thing as perfect moderation. "ALL" because of the sheer volume.

  3. heyrick Silver badge

    not worse and more confused

    Of course, the problem comes when it is the lawmakers themselves that are peddling misinformation. It is to their obvious benefit to create legislation that tries to prevent bullshit being labelled as bullshit, or worse, removed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not worse and more confused

      I can't argue with "worse and more confused", but I will say at least there is _SOME_ light being drawn to the topic instead of being left completely left in the shadows.

      Hey, the first plane didn't fly, the first boat didn't float. So the first of anything is just an attraction and this topic desperately needs attraction.

  4. bazza Silver badge

    I don’t think law can help with the regulation of misinformation, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it’s somehow dangerous (eg “drink bleach”).

    The problem we have is that literally anyone can portray themselves as authoritative online without any checks. Twitter, Facebook et al will quite cheerfully let people write and share a load of tripe without ever once checking that person’s qualification and flagging their content accordingly. This is the social media platforms’ identity issue - they can’t afford to check out people’s identities or qualifications, and so there’s no way for them or others to flag content as “probably wrong”.

    I think the only law that makes any sense is if platforms are required establish the proper id (name address and bank account number) of users. That way posters of garbage can be gradually excluded on a permanent basis (instead of just opening a new account when they get booted off), or referred directly to the police if necessary.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Directed advertising

      The basis for the funding of big web sites is that they know who you are, what you do, where you live, your hobbies, politics and purchase history. Making an automatic connection between a the content of a post and what a person is qualified to talk about is more difficult but that is not the issue. The problem is that people use different alethiometers (devices for measuring truth). Options:

      1) I know in my heart that it is true.

      2) I read it in my book.

      3) The statement is consistent with the results of experiments that other people can repeat.

      These different types of alethiometer give different results (1 & 2 give different results depending on the heart, the book and the interpretation of the book that the heart prefers but number 3 is self consistent). People will fight tooth and nail for their truth especially when contradicted by the rest of the world. Liars demand their right to lie without contradiction and will invent ridiculous conspiracy theories to explain why the world is not powered by their defective cold fusion device and spaceships are not propelled by their fake reactionless drive.

      Anonymous free speech is required to protect the population from their government (expenses). It is abused and dictators love to point at the abuse so they can make certain Edward Snowden get locked in a cell between Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner. (I know none of these people are anonymous. Anonymity, if it still exists at all, requires careful attention to detail and technical knowledge beyond all but a few online drug dealers. Snowden was the only one of the three who understood this and took sufficient precautions to reduce the consequences.)

  5. cornetman Silver badge

    > ... that social media platforms are censoring conservative viewpoints...

    Is there really doubt that that is the case?

    It is certainly true of YouTube, Patreon and Twitter. Don't really know about Facebook, although it is not impossible.

    I didn't think that it was even that controversial.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Censoring conservative viewpoints

      Well, out of the top 10 trending news topics on Facebook, pretty much 7-10 are right-wing outlets, like Fox News, in the US, typically.

      "Consistently, Roose found, conservative pages were beating out liberals’ in making it into the day’s top 10 Facebook posts with links in the United States, based on engagement, like the number of reactions, comments, and shares the posts receive."



      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Censoring conservative viewpoints

        There must be something wrong with those figures, there were 10 stories at the top of my feed this morning which said that Big Social Network receives funding from Bill Gates to push his Antifa agenda.

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Censoring conservative viewpoints

        Trying to show big media doesn't discriminate against conservatives buy linking Vox? Pathetic.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Is there really doubt that that is the case?

      I am sure there is very little doubt. About 40% are completely certain the social media platforms are censoring conservative viewpoints. About 40% are equally certain they aren't. For the sake of less argument let's pretend they are.

      People are (somewhat) protected from government censorship by the first amendment. As social media platforms are not (yet) the government the first amendment does not stop them censoring anything anyone tries to put on their websites. Part of the terms of service for such web sites probably include that by using the service you 'agree' to allow the service provider to delete, modify and distribute any content you provide in any way they choose. If you do not like that use a different service.

      The fact that something is on the website gives some kind of implication that the web site's owner endorses it. Requiring a news outlet to distribute content they do not want is clearly interfering with freedom of the press.

      Republicans are pretending to introduce a law requiring companies to distribute content they find offensive. The first amendment explicitly prevents the government from creating laws that interfere with freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right for pastafarians to wear a colander on their heads. Competent politicians are certain that this kind of law cannot be enforced until the rule of law no longer applies to them at all (Is America that great yet?). They go along with this farce because it plays well with their voters, provides fuel for deep-state conspiracy theory nutters and it makes the libs scream.

      1. The_Idiot

        "People are...

        ... (somewhat) protected from government censorship by the first amendment."

        No. With respect, 'people' aren't. You might, possibly, be able to make an argument that 'people resident in the US' might be - but then there's that whole thing about (for example) the Census that is currently getting debate between 'people resident in the US' and 'US citizens'. So maybe you could offer an argument that 'US citizens are (somewhat) protected from government censorship by the first amendment.' However, the concept of 'people' is, I suggest, rather larger than that. And yes, this is legislation in the US - but the US sometimes seems to have a rather loose definition of where US law should/ does apply on occasion, no?

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: "People are...

          The US constitution does apply to non-US citizen residents, the text itself says it does and repeated precedents have clarified that. Obviously it doesn't apply to non-US citizens outside the US, but if US media corporations based in the US are subject to US law then that affects the service they offer to the rest of the world (e.g. the typical case of "so sorry your past has taught you some lessons that we haven't learnt yet, but we cannot censor hate speech for you").

          Susan Collins spreads central myth about the Constitution

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: "People are...

            Missed the edit window... By the way, in case it wasn't clear, I used 'censor' as in the typical US usage of the word, whereas other countries consider removal of hate speech as something which isn't worthy of the word 'censor' because it shouldn't be published in the first place, otherwise the impressionable and nutjobs latch onto it and it brings irreparable damage to society.

            Perhaps the US view that any removal of text is censorship therefore hate speech must be published is coming home to roost now.

    3. Spanners Silver badge

      Is there really doubt that that is the case?

      Inasmuch as they block various lies, some of those will be "conservative" (US speak for what the rest of the planet knows to be hard right).

      They will also censor anyone who wants to promote violence crime etc irrespective of whether they are centre-right like US Dems or "Slightly to the right of Ghengis Khan" like Potiphar...

  6. don't you hate it when you lose your account


    Social media is simply the old speakers corner opened up to the world. The screamers will scream and the haters will hate. Nuke the lot from orbit is the only way to be sure.

    Legislation like this will only benefit those pushing it. After all no politicians wants their lies not to reach the masses. Laws used to be a way to make people equal, or at lesst thst was the demand, but suppose now some are just better than the rest in their minds and wallets.

    1. skewty
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Inevitable

      > Social media is simply the old speakers corner opened up to the world. The screamers will scream and the haters will hate. Nuke the lot from orbit is the only way to be sure.


      > Legislation like this will only benefit those pushing it.

      I feel the opposite is true.

      Take this hypothetical scenario. Political party A lost the last election and political party B is currently in power.

      Political party A wants to share information about corrupt acts of political party B.

      The media, the speaker's corners, are strongly aligned with political party B because they have been in power for a very long time and has provided them with taxpayer money should they publish favorible content.

      The lobyists are mostly aligned with political party B because they are more likely to have influence that way.

      Posts about corruption of party B are quickly removed from platforms because their policy allows them to remove "probably false information". Said website simply references an article by a news site that heavily sides with party B as proof of "probably false".

      Party B screams that Party A is trying to spread conspiracy theories about them.

      Party A screams that Party B is corrupt and so are the speaker's corners.

      How is the voice of Party A ever going to succeed?

  7. vtcodger Silver badge

    Back in my youth ...

    Back in my youth, there were places like Hyde Park in London and The Domain in Sydney where crackpots could -- on Sunday afternoons -- climb up on soap boxes and harangue "crowds" (typically three to seven people and a few pigeons). The authorities hung around to discourage fistfights and such, but there was (and still is?) general agreement that the activity was basically harmless. Social media seem to be the same thing on steroids. Maybe it's time to reduce the dose of steroids a bit, but it's unclear how to do that. And -- to cite one example -- Donald Trump's opponents would likely be quite unhappy if his frequently unhinged tweets were confined to Sunday afternoons or somehow forced to be tied to reality. They seem far more damaging to his cause than his opponent's ads. And they are free.

    It's probably best to leave Section 230 alone.

  8. disgruntled yank


    I read first read that the senators proposed to hold the Big Ten accountable. That may yet happen. For you transatlantic types, the Big Ten is a collegiate athletic conference, one of two big conferences that has canceled the fall [American] football season. Those who wish to pretend that COVID is no big deal regard this as a bad idea.

    (I see that the Big Ten now has fourteen members and two affiliates--I guess it's the Big 0x10 now..)

  9. DS999 Silver badge

    Whiny snowflake Trumpists

    Should create their own social media that lets them post their racist memes. Oh wait, they did, its called Gab. Too bad that no one aside from them wants to use it, because all the lowlifes that got kicked off of Twitter quickly turned into it a hellhole.

  10. all ears

    Howza bout the Constitution? Remember that?

    "Free speech" is about regulating the government, not private companies. If a private company doesn't want to publish my ravings, they don't have to. You have the right to say what you want, but not the right to force someone else to publish it.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Howza bout the Constitution? Remember that?

      They claim they have to because Section 230. Which they lobbied for in the first place so they could immediately publish content from users for free without spending money on moderation and therefore gain more ad revenue.

  11. CrackedNoggin

    Perhaps it would be better to align the legal rights of traditional media with that of social media. Then we could avoid the legal expenses of lawsuits like these:

    "Washington State Group Is 1st to Sue Fox News for Calling Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’"

    "Liberty University sues New York Times over COVID-19 stories"

    The public already judges - e.g., whether COVID is a hoax - and that public judgement has consequences. I can't see such lawsuits adding anything.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022