Friday, May 29, 2020

"Section 230"

There's been a long-running debate over whether big-tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube should be considered platforms or publishers. The difference between those two concepts is like the difference between, say, a phone company providing a service that everyone uses (platform) and a company that prints books (publisher). If you, as a publisher, choose to print a book that is somehow inflammatory, deeply offensive, or injurious, then in today's climate, you might find yourself staring down the double barrels of a lawsuit. Publishers are liable for what they publish because—with some notable exceptions—the act of publishing something generally indicates support for the thing published. If, however, you use something neutral like the phone service to spew Nazi rhetoric, the phone service isn't liable for what you say: it's merely a platform for all to use, and this clear from the beginning. The further logic is that, if you're merely a platform, then free speech ought to be close to absolute, and no one should be policing anything that anyone says.

The problem for big-tech firms is that they're trying to have it both ways by acting as both platforms and publishers. On the one hand, they invite everyone to use their services, which is in the spirit of a platform. On the other hand, they unjustly police the content that appears, usually in a way that indicates liberal/leftward bias. Conservatives who merely state that "a trans woman is still chromosomally male," for example, are cited for hate speech and promptly deplatformed. This happens routinely on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. To use social media of any sort is, effectively, to support the left. So-called "free speech" services like Gab (the alternative to Twitter) and BitChute (the alternative to YouTube) exist, but they enjoy only a tiny percentage of the total market.

In the video below, Tim Pool discusses an executive order regarding "Section 230" that, according to Pool's writeup (edited):

[targets] social-media censorship. [The order] has leaked, showing impending action, and it seems Big Tech is scared.

The order directs the FCC to clarify what constitutes certain phrases under Section 230 and could see Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube lose liability protections if they run afoul.

Democrats currently want to outright revoke Section 230 protections because they don't like conservatives' ability to communicate, but conservatives don't like Big Tech getting it both ways, being a publisher that can censor, but also a platform that can't get in trouble.

Many people, like Ben Shapiro and Robby Soave, feel that this could blow back on the right and end up generating more censorship.

I disagree, however, as this EO would restrict what could be censored.

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