Moving Social Media Beyond 230

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Remember when Twitter only allowed 140 characters per message and everybody had to edit and serialize to make their points, and then the platform went to 280 characters, and it seemed ideas could fit a bit better.

That shift comes to mind upon seeing that President Trump appears to be playing a little bit of legislative hardball to get a law relevant to social media changed:

President Donald Trump is vowing to veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress repeals a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media platforms from liability for what users post on them.

His comments came in tweets posted Tuesday night. He wrote: “Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity. Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand.

“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!”

It would be understandable for the president to focus on national security even if he weren’t the character he is.  Not only does doing so provide the hook to link his demand to the NDAA, but it also is the level at which presidents should think.

However, the move to take Section 230 protections away from social media is needed for individual protection, too.  I’ve been censored for so much as suggesting that some of the rhetoric around the same-sex marriage movement is misplaced.  (At least, that’s why I think Twitter censored me.)  Yet, the platform is famous for its ability to slander people and pressure their employers to fire them, or otherwise do them concrete and specific real-world harm.

The bottom line really is this simple:  If a social media platform is simply a forum providing a public square for others’ use, then an additional shield against lawsuits is understandable.  However, when they start executing editorial judgment, they make themselves responsible for the content that they allow.  They have, in essence, approved it.

When purported adults in the news media jumped to the conclusion that high-school-student Nicholas Sandmann deserved their public condemnation based on a cut-short video clip, they opened themselves and their employers up to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for the harm they had stupidly done him.  The social media giants’ irresponsibility, bias, and dishonesty should put them in a position to have to make the next Nicholas Sandmann a billionaire.



  • Mario

    I’m glad to see you are willing to take the personal risk of allowing me to comment here. It’s nice to know someone is willing to go bankrupt on my behalf if I choose to slander someone.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I think you overlooked the most important paragraph: “The bottom line really is this simple: If a social media platform is simply a forum providing a public square for others’ use, then an additional shield against lawsuits is understandable. However, when they start executing editorial judgment, they make themselves responsible for the content that they allow. They have, in essence, approved it.”

      • Mario

        If Justin is doing so much as screening out spam, he’s using his editorial judgment. That’s the problem with losing the Section 230 protections, people have this idea that it would result in a free-for-all, but it is more likely that we’d see more restrictions, because the alternative is to have to weed through pages of bootleg fashion ads to get to anything relevant. Everyone wants platforms to use editorial judgment, they just want that judgment to be different. Getting rid of Section 230 wouldn’t do that. It would, at best, turn Twitter into a blue-check only forum long before you saw anything approaching free speech. Unpopular ideas are flourishing now compared to the 230-less alternative.

        • Justin Katz

          Section 230 is not the only law related libel and other speech-related laws. It was created to deal with ISPs, not social media publishers.

        • Justin Katz

          And by the way, I would delete anything I believe was libelous. I’m a publisher, not an ISP. Twitter and Facebook are no different than newspapers that run bloggers on their websites. The fact that they run more of them doesn’t make them different in kind.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          I had an interesting experience the other day. I posted to a Facebook forum in response to a friend’s post. I was informed the forum was for ‘women only”. How is that possible in the age of “Civil Rights”

          • Mario

            I have no problem with single-gender spaces. Men and women are fundamentally different, after all. There is a big problem on the left where there can be either major, important differences between the sexes or no difference at all and you are hateful for suggesting there are, determined entirely by the needs of the moment. On the whole, if someone tells me a place is for women only, I’m probably better off not being there, just not for the reason they think. If I were you, though, I would have just said “that doesn’t apply to me” and let them work it out.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Don’t know what to say. My college was “forced” to take women, the school was 25% funded by the state. The case went to the Supreme Court. My men’s club was “forced” to take women. I thought gender discrimination was illegal.

          • Lou

            What do you believe was “discrimination” in those instances?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            What I believe is of little import. Obviously the courts believed that denial by gender was “discrimination”.

  • Lou

    I don’t know what is sadder, you quoting Newsmax or yourself. Either way, providing kudos to the President for tying your ability to spread propaganda to the national defense speaks volumes about your values.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      That is how things are done. Controversial items are embedded in bills that are thought to be veto proof. That is why executives want a “line item veto”.

  • ShannonEntropy

    Eliminating Section 230 won’t solve as many problems as you hope, Justin

    The law protects any interactive website from being sued over content
    posted by users, whether it’s Facebook posts or comments at the bottom
    of a Washington Post article. It doesn’t matter whether the
    company is a “publisher” or not. The reason Twitter can get away with
    labeling a tweet false is not Section 230; it’s the fact that even
    absent the law, such an action would not raise any sort of legal
    liability. If it did, it would be impossible to run any kind of news
    organization: The essence of publishing is deciding what’s true and
    what’s false, what is and isn’t fit to print. These judgments would be
    impossible if they routinely put publishers into legal jeopardy. (This
    is why the First Amendment makes it very hard for public figures to sue
    for defamation. Even without Section 230, lawmakers would have very
    little recourse when it comes to mean tweets.)

    That whole article is worth reading; but it’s kinda depressing cuz the bottom line is that the social media giants are gonna keep censoring conservative views no matter what happens with 230

    https://www.wired.com/story/senate-hearing-section-230-discourse-dumber/

    • Lou

      “social media giants are gonna keep censoring conservative views”…it’s interesting how you acknowledge most of the fake news is “conservative views” but you have no issue with spreading what you mine from those same fake-news sites.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        A media giants determination that conservative news is fake, does not make it so.

        • Lou

          OK, what makes news “fake” to you?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Facts, rather than opinion.

          • Lou

            You’re suggesting “media giants” aren’t capable of that? Who do you trust instead?

      • ShannonEntropy

        I’ve let this slide cuz it’s kinda off-topic but here goes:

        Whenever you disagree with Justin, you are *very* specific about your complaints

        But with me it’s either pure ad hominem attacks or the same on the sources I quote (( an attack on a web site qualifies as “ad hominem” cuz the site is just a proxy for the those who post it &/or write for it ))

        You never — and I mean NEVER — raise a legitimate argument with any of the substance. A perfect example was that Federalist article I cited recently about election fraud:

        It was packed with facts, figures, statistics, and analysis of all those. Your response: that’s just a right-wing site so no need to argue with anything they say. A pure ad hominem response

        Your act is getting old and stale but I guess it’s all you have so we’ll just have to endure it best we can

        • Lou

          I disagree. I spent a considerable amount of time proving your CPI assertion wrong. I don’t have the time to dedicate to refuting every bit of material you link to. Sometimes I don’t even know if you are being serious or are just putting something out there for a reaction. Please don’t take it personally.

          Justin’s a paid propagandist that generates (some) original material. Some of his stuff hasn’t already been debunked like the material you post. Even though he never admits he’s wrong, it’s fun proving it.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I believe all of the arguments are set out in Sullivan v. New York times