Facebook, Section 230, and how we all might be affected

Oh!

Adherent
Joined
Oct 1, 2020
Messages
296
I have never heard of a forum being forced to allow any sort of content. I'd like to see any examples you might have. In my opinion, forums were better moderated back in the 90s. Even the BBSs I frequented in the early days were well run and moderated. I rarely came across one that had been taken over by trolls or abusive members. That is something that seems to happen now on forums with more "hands off" moderation styles.
The Stratton Oakmont vs Prodigy decision:


Four years later, in 1995, another New York court took a different approach in Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Servs. Co. Prodigy was a web services company with two million subscribers that hosted online bulletin boards, including the popular site MoneyTalk. Because Prodigy moderated its online message boards and deleted some messages for "offensiveness and 'bad taste,'" the court found that it had become akin to a publisher with responsibility for defamatory postings that made it onto the site. At the time, Prodigy received 60,000 postings a day—far too many to review in their entirety. But the decision in Stratton Oakmont meant that just for attempting to moderate some posts, Prodigy took on liability for all posts. To avoid liability, the company would have to give up moderating all together and simply act as a blind host, like CompuServe

This is why CDA Section 230(c)(2) - the so-called 'Good Samaritan' clause - of the CDA is just as important as Section 230(c)(1) (which provides general immunity against third-party content).
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,264
Thanks for that Oh!. However, both of these cases were examples of service providers, not the actual forum owner/admin.

I think the outcomes from the cases made good sense. CompuServe acted like the service provider and was not held responsible, whereas Prodigy chose to act as a publisher and was held accountable. What I didn't see was any notion that Prodigy was forced to host content it didn't like, since it wasn't the actual forum.

I can see some value in a law that provides protection for those service providers and upstream hosts from being held accountable for the content on one of their hosted sites. (This is handled in Canada by simply making the site directly accountable.) I can see more value in a law that protects forums and sites from being held hostage by those same providers when site contains content that doesn't agree with the provider's politics or moral leanings.

Section 230 seems to do a decent job of protecting the hosting platforms and upstream providers from liability, while licensing them to interfere with the content of the sites they host ( Facebook is the poster child for this behaviour.) However, it does nothing to protect the actual forum, blog, or site from those providers. From my perspective, the law does more harm to individual sites than it does good, when they are left to the mercy of their hosts' arbitrary policies. It might offer some protection from a spurious lawsuit, but you still aren't really in control of your own site.
 

Joel R

Fan
Joined
Nov 24, 2013
Messages
875
From my perspective, the law does more harm to individual sites than it does good, when they are left to the mercy of their hosts' arbitrary policies. It might offer some protection from a spurious lawsuit, but you still aren't really in control of your own site.
Did you actually think you were truly and ever 100% in control of your own site?

When you signed up for with your domain registrar, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your hosting, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your email services, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for CDN, you agreed to certain terms. When you sign up for a newsletter service, you agreed to certain terms. When you transact through a payment gateway, you agreed to certain terms. All of our sites are bound by the entirety of all of our upstream providers.

This isn't directed at Nev_Dull who is more nuanced than most, but admins who throw out that statement in absolute terms are inexperienced or naïve in the realities of running a forum.
 

DigNap15

Fan
Joined
Sep 14, 2019
Messages
549
Did you actually think you were truly and ever 100% in control of your own site?

When you signed up for with your domain registrar, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your hosting, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your email services, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for CDN, you agreed to certain terms. When you sign up for a newsletter service, you agreed to certain terms. When you transact through a payment gateway, you agreed to certain terms. All of our sites are bound by the entirety of all of our upstream providers.

This isn't directed at Nev_Dull who is more nuanced than most, but admins who throw out that statement in absolute terms are inexperienced or naïve in the realities of running a forum.
Well said
It used to be a hard decison to decided which is the best web host, email server, domain name, payment server etc etc.
Based on service and price
Now new admins will have to check out 20 pages of service terms to find out, that they are all probably mostly the same
 

Oh!

Adherent
Joined
Oct 1, 2020
Messages
296
Well said
It used to be a hard decison to decided which is the best web host, email server, domain name, payment server etc etc.
Based on service and price
Now new admins will have to check out 20 pages of service terms to find out, that they are all probably mostly the same
Not sure if sarcasm. :unsure:
 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
Joined
Sep 9, 2013
Messages
2,121
This also presumes that you're actively trying to set out to host controversial content - most forum owners really aren't in any way likely to fall foul of the standard T&Cs of hosting companies.

Your average forum really isn't the target of these things.

However: redrafting S230 isn't something we should just presume won't affect us because depending on exactly what comes to pass, it *might* affect hosting companies' willingness to host user-generated content (which, incidentally, does include blogs with comments).

The question becomes what processes become mandatory for providers accepting content and whether the legal provisions include 'automated moderation filters' or similar being included because this is out of reach for smaller providers.

Without reaching too far into tinfoil hat territory I would possibly even consider the notion that Facebook etc. may be supporting these measures as a way to clear the field of the smaller players that would otherwise be competition - if automated/AI moderation becomes mandatory, none of us have the facilities to make that happen.

I don't know what the future holds, but it's going to be interesting.
 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
Joined
Sep 9, 2013
Messages
2,121
If you mean 'delete post? Y Y Y Y Y' then yes, that's an option - but in that situation we might as well do everyone a favour and not run the forum in the first place, because that would be more environmentally friendly.
 

DigNap15

Fan
Joined
Sep 14, 2019
Messages
549
This also presumes that you're actively trying to set out to host controversial content - most forum owners really aren't in any way likely to fall foul of the standard T&Cs of hosting companies.

Your average forum really isn't the target of these things.

However: redrafting S230 isn't something we should just presume won't affect us because depending on exactly what comes to pass, it *might* affect hosting companies' willingness to host user-generated content (which, incidentally, does include blogs with comments).

The question becomes what processes become mandatory for providers accepting content and whether the legal provisions include 'automated moderation filters' or similar being included because this is out of reach for smaller providers.

Without reaching too far into tinfoil hat territory I would possibly even consider the notion that Facebook etc. may be supporting these measures as a way to clear the field of the smaller players that would otherwise be competition - if automated/AI moderation becomes mandatory, none of us have the facilities to make that happen.

I don't know what the future holds, but it's going to be interesting.

Regardless of the reason - section 230, hate speech or moderation, Twitter. Facebook and Yotube did lose some major competion in Parler
Will we ever know the real reason or was there any collusion?
So small blogs and forums may be targetted in the future. but by whom I would not like to suggest
 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
Joined
Sep 9, 2013
Messages
2,121
I think you're greatly overestimating the influence that Parler had.

At its peak, 15 million accounts. As compared to 330 million on Twitter or 2.4 billion on Facebook.

What worries me are the people so desperate to believe it was collusion rather than what everyone actually involved says it was. Amazon notified Parler as far back as November that things were not OK, and surprise surprise after they talk about things that are illegal, the service gets pulled.

You don't need to have collusion, you just need a single point of failure (Parler's dependence on AWS, GoDaddy's registration of the name) to fail and if you haven't adequately prepared for this, it's going to end badly.

The real reason is that, quite simply, they were talking about murdering members of the government around the time of a literal insurrection happening at the centre of that very government. It's not legal and Parler made it clear they weren't going to police it - so their vendor said 'fine, find somewhere else to host, we don't want to do business with you'. The fact that no-one else seemingly wants to host them should be a clue that it isn't a problem of collusion but simply that no-one wants to deal with Parler because no-one wants to be the company that hosts 'where they talk about killing people in the government and then actually trying to do it'.

Other countries simply turn off the entire internet to deal with such things - can't plan an insurrection on the internet if there's no internet - but that wouldn't exactly fly in America.
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,264
Did you actually think you were truly and ever 100% in control of your own site?
This is the the main point. Because there's nothing to protect our sites from the whims of upstream providers, a law like section 230 offers very little to forums and other small sites. It is a law that seems designed to offer protection to the large social media sites -- the same sites that many forum owners blame for their dwindling numbers. Removing it and possibly replacing it with something that offered more equal protections for small sites would be a better idea, in my opinion.
 

Oh!

Adherent
Joined
Oct 1, 2020
Messages
296
This is the the main point. Because there's nothing to protect our sites from the whims of upstream providers, a law like section 230 offers very little to forums and other small sites. It is a law that seems designed to offer protection to the large social media sites -- the same sites that many forum owners blame for their dwindling numbers. Removing it and possibly replacing it with something that offered more equal protections for small sites would be a better idea, in my opinion.
I've been meaning to respond to your past 2 or 3 of posts to this thread, but I've been too busy. I think you still misunderstand Section 230 and the protections it provides. As it happens, I just came across a good overview of 230 from EFF, why it so important to us all, and how its demise would benefit the large tech companies and disadvantage the rest of us. The EFF article does a much better job explaining the issues than my attempts in the is thread (and others at TAZ) over the past weeks and months. It is well worth a read.

 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,264
When you signed up for with your domain registrar, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your hosting, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for your email services, you agreed to certain terms. When you signed up for CDN, you agreed to certain terms. When you sign up for a newsletter service, you agreed to certain terms. When you transact through a payment gateway, you agreed to certain terms. All of our sites are bound by the entirety of all of our upstream providers.
A couple things on T&Cs. Most of us probably know this already, but there could be some new forum owners who don't.

All of these terms we "agree to" (we aren't actually given a choice), are completely arbitrary. They are there simply as CYA for the company in the event of legal issues. They don't offer any real legal protection, but they are something the company can point at to say "we told them they aren't allowed to do x, so it isn't our fault".

The terms are policy, not law. Companies can ignore them or interpret them as they see fit. Like any policy, terms have exceptions. If a client is important enough (or spends enough) any or all of those terms can be changed or removed during the contract negotiation. Small sites don't have that power but when the terms are overly restrictive, unreasonable, or contradict existing laws, some people have had success when going public.

The bottom line is most of the terms you have to agree to with these services are ignored most of the time. Providing you pay your bills and don't engage in any activities that cause a lot of negative attention (My Militia) for the service providers, you can run your site the way you like.
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,264
I've been meaning to respond to your past 2 or 3 of posts to this thread, but I've been too busy. I think you still misunderstand Section 230 and the protections it provides. As it happens, I just came across a good overview of 230 from EFF, why it so important to us all, and how its demise would benefit the large tech companies and disadvantage the rest of us. The EFF article does a much better job explaining the issues than my attempts in the is thread (and others at TAZ) over the past weeks and months. It is well worth a read.

It's an interesting article, though not really what I'd call balanced. That said, it doesn't address my point above. Section 230, good or bad, is only a single link in the chain that binds a small forum site. The large social media sites aren't faced with the same issues of upstream providers because they are their own providers, for the most part. Small sites, which is really where my focus is, have little to no protection from our hosts or even software vendors, should they decide they don't like our content.
 

Oh!

Adherent
Joined
Oct 1, 2020
Messages
296
It's an interesting article, though not really what I'd call balanced. That said, it doesn't address my point above. Section 230, good or bad, is only a single link in the chain that binds a small forum site. The large social media sites aren't faced with the same issues of upstream providers because they are their own providers, for the most part. Small sites, which is really where my focus is, have little to no protection from our hosts or even software vendors, should they decide they don't like our content.
Just to point out that this thread is about, specifically, Section 230, its possible repeal, and what that might mean for all of us.

As for your wider concerns, as far the US goes, 1st Amendment principles generally protect individuals AND entities to decide upon what types of content they wish to facilitate through the services they operate. This predates Section 230, the Web and the Internet. And, as it happens, these matters are covered in that EFF article too.

It is also worth pointing out that the article from EFF is not some opinion piece from a blogger who does not really know what he is talking about. Rather, it is the considered overview of Section 230 (and related matters) from an organization - with its own legal team - dedicated to protecting free speech and privacy.


 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,264
Just to point out that this thread is about, specifically, Section 230, its possible repeal, and what that might mean for all of us.
That's what I'm trying to address. The repeal of this law would, in my opinion, have a minor effect on the average forum. Yes it offers some protection against legal actions, but since lawsuits cost money and recovering that cost from a small hobby forum is unlikely, I don't see a rush of legal action against forums happening. Plus, we have the precedent of all the other countries that don't have a similar law and we aren't hearing about a lot of lawsuits against them for their moderation practices or content.

Additionally, as I pointed out above, hosting companies, software vendors, add-on makers, etc. are able override the protections of 230 with their terms and conditions, effectively negating its efficacy for our sites, making it pretty irrelevant, or at least only one small piece of the overall issue facing forums.

Ultimately, it's up to your lawmakers to decide if Section 230 should stay, go, or be revised. It will interesting to see what happens but whatever the outcome, forums will continue.
 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
Joined
Sep 9, 2013
Messages
2,121
The fear is that S230 will be replaced by a need to police forums in a way that 'the little guys' can't enforce and I could see the situation where forums deny access to the US unilaterally to avoid having to deal with policing the requirements (similar to how we see some news outlets still blocking the entire EU to avoid having to deal with the GDPR's requirements)

I could also see it become the cases that small hosting companies start refusing certain types of sites based on *their* protection from S230 going away.

But this is speculation at best, slippery-slope fallacy and tin-foil hat territory at worst. Let's see what actually makes it into law first.
 

Oh!

Adherent
Joined
Oct 1, 2020
Messages
296
The fear is that S230 will be replaced by a need to police forums in a way that 'the little guys' can't enforce and I could see the situation where forums deny access to the US unilaterally to avoid having to deal with policing the requirements (similar to how we see some news outlets still blocking the entire EU to avoid having to deal with the GDPR's requirements)

I could also see it become the cases that small hosting companies start refusing certain types of sites based on *their* protection from S230 going away.

But this is speculation at best, slippery-slope fallacy and tin-foil hat territory at worst. Let's see what actually makes it into law first.
I thought I had responded to your post (and your previous post on this matter) at the time - evidentially, I did not.

You suspicions are undoubtedly correct. Facebook is indeed in favor of more regulation, no doubt operating under the assumption that they (Facebook) can more easily comply with new regulations through automated systems and AI moderation, while their less sophisticated competitors cannot. It is just more of the anticompetitive practices for which Facebook is already known, that's all.


 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
Joined
Sep 9, 2013
Messages
2,121
Any business that big has enough money to throw at lobbying for changes to stifle competition - and to pay off the implementation costs of whatever is passed in the interim.

It's not like we didn't see other variations of this in EU legislation such as the VAT changes in 2014 and the aforementioned GDPR has also been weaponised to raise the cost of implementation.
 
Top