Section 230 WRT Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

by Octapoo

Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 03:33:00 UTC

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As "pro-freedom" as republicans supposedly are, you'd think they'd realize that it's not their place to tell someone else what content they have to be willing to host. Yet they want to turn section 230 into a tool they can use against these companies by saying "if you don't allow everything, then we'll allow you to be sued for anything."

I read an article a couple of weeks ago which basically said that the whole reason section 230 came about was because a company had been removing bad comments from its site, but then a court decided that because it had removed some bad comments, it was liable for the ones it hadn't removed. So section 230 was meant to say "you're allowed to do what you can to police your comment section and doing so won't make you liable for what you fail to remove."

So what the republicans are trying to do is effectively repeal section 230 to bring us back to the days when no one could have a comment section because it would open them up to liability. Does that sound like a good plan for protecting free speech on the internet? The conspiracy theorist in me thinks it sounds like a great plan for removing freedom of speech while giving the appearance that you're doing the opposite.

I don't think anyone should be liable for any user-generated content. Even if someone posts something illegal, how am I at fault when I then say 'so-and-so said "[insert illegal comment here]"?' When Twitter puts someone's name above a comment, that's effectively what they're doing. They're saying "this person said this." That's a factual statement, and factual statements are protected speech. If someone has a problem with it, they should take it up with the person who said it, not the person providing the platform.

So what republicans are trying to do here is anti-freedom and anti-free-speech, but they're totally fine with it because YouTube is evil. It's "the ends justify the means" I guess, which is a bad philosophy because it excuses people from finding a less-harmful means. The correct solution to what YouTube is doing is for everyone to just quit using YouTube.

They try to compare these platforms to "the town square," but they're really not. Rather, it's more like someone owned a bar beside the town square and invited everyone in to have their political debates there, and everyone became accustomed to going to that bar to discuss things, and then the bar started kicking out some people with views it didn't agree with. Then, rather than take the discussion outside to the actual town square, the people who were kicked out of the bar decided to declare that the bar was the town square. Sure, the actual town square is outside and they're still free to use it, but they aren't interested because everyone is inside the bar, and the bar pays people to speak whereas if you speak in the town square, not only do fewer people listen, but no one pays you.

It's a shitty situation for sure, but I don't think the correct solution is to declare the bar to be a town square. Rather, I think the solution is to educate people about the harm of using any platform that is owned by anyone, and encourage everyone to move back to the actual town square.

In the beginning, the internet was all open standards. It didn't matter who your email host was, as they could all talk to each other. Thus, you can never be banned from email because no one company controls email. If you get kicked off of one email host, you just go to another one and tell everyone your new email address. The same is true of web sites in general: If one web hosts bans you, you just get a new web host, and you're still a part of the "worldwide web" because it's an open standard that allows anyone to link to anyone regardless of which hosting "platform" they are on. It was meant to be as open and distributed as possible, and because of that, it's so impossible for anyone to ban you from the worldwide web that the idea that anyone could be banned from the worldwide web sounds completely ridiculous.

The problem with Twitter isn't that they ban people for stupid reasons. The problem is that they can ban people from tweeting at all. If the concept of tweeting were built as an open standard, then when Twitter bans you, you'd just find another tweet host, sign up with them, and just let everyone know your new tweet address. That's how XMPP works if you want a truly free instant messaging client. It's how Diaspora works if you want a truly free alternative to Facebook. Indeed, I've never heard of it before, but it looks like someone created a distributed version of Twitter called Mastodon.

...but people don't care about these alternatives. They care more about being where the users are than they care about this kind of freedom. All of the users are on these platforms because these platforms essentially hold everyone hostage by making it difficult or impossible for them to interact with people on other platforms. If Twitter were like Mastodon, then you could move to a different provider and still be on the same network and thus not lose the ability to communicate with anyone. However, it's not, and so Twitter gets to use your friends and followers as hostages to keep you on their platform.

...but never mind all of that. According to Republicans, the problem is just that the government isn't mandating that Twitter support speech that it doesn't want to support. According to Republicans, any place where people choose to congregate should become the town square and thus public property. I understand the problem they want to solve, and I think that what these platforms are doing is bullshit, but it's not OK to solve bullshit problems with bullshit solutions.


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