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

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
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A source for data suggesting most Internet advertising would go away?
Because sarcasm doesn’t bode well on the internet. Facetious sarcasm mode enabled.

Anyway, if there is no S230 obviously Google, Facebook etc will have to relocate out of the US and come to Europe (obviously) and then be hamstrung by the privacy rules we have.

Of course this is nonsense because S230 isn’t going away without some replacement in some form no matter how hard Facebook gets upset.
 

Nev_Dull

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Apr 27, 2010
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One is government action, the other is private business. If a private business chooses policies that a client violates it, they have every right to toss them.
I get what you're saying, but I'm not sure that applies here. Here's my logic:
  • If the law states a site is not responsible for the content posted by its users, and
  • a provider takes down the site for the content posted by its users, then
  • the provider is unlawfully discriminating against the site.
Does this make sense?
Further, if that provider is allowed to discriminate, based on its own service terms, doesn't that demonstrate the law offers little protection?
 

Pete

Flavours of Forums Forever
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In the case of Parler vs Amazon, S230 ensured that Amazon was immune from whatever Parler did, and any issues of content were between Parler and their users. S230 does not prevent Amazon from adding rules that Parler has to adhere to, as part of the service agreement between Parler and Amazon, and if Parler breaks that agreement, that’s a civil dispute in basis between a service provider and a service consumer, nothing more.

Thats really what S230 has always been about: making sure ISPs aren’t liable for the things people consume on their service.

What that means for forum owners is something slightly different and that the exact problem over whether editorialising or not is a thing. The solution is that you need terms and conditions stating what is acceptable and what is not, and that you probably should keep content that you delete from public view (unless blatantly illegal) to establish that you are not editorialising but keeping fair unbiased moderation.
 

mysiteguy

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Feb 20, 2007
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I get what you're saying, but I'm not sure that applies here. Here's my logic:
  • If the law states a site is not responsible for the content posted by its users, and
  • a provider takes down the site for the content posted by its users, then
  • the provider is unlawfully discriminating against the site.
Does this make sense?
Further, if that provider is allowed to discriminate, based on its own service terms, doesn't that demonstrate the law offers little protection?

Your position makes little sense to me because the law says nothing about discriminating against those downstream. Within the legal standards of protected groups*, a host can discriminate and there's nothing illegal about it. The law provides immunity while the 1st amendment provides them the ability to make editorial decisions about the content they allow.

A company can, under the law, have a certain level of immunity from what those downstream post, while choosing they don't want to certain kinds of content. It's not one or the other. It's both.

* For instance, they cannot say "we won't host your site because you are ___________ race."
 

Nev_Dull

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Apr 27, 2010
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S230 does not prevent Amazon from adding rules that Parler has to adhere to, as part of the service agreement between Parler and Amazon, and if Parler breaks that agreement, that’s a civil dispute in basis between a service provider and a service consumer, nothing more.

A company can, under the law, have a certain level of immunity from what those downstream post, while choosing they don't want to certain kinds of content. It's not one or the other. It's both.
Thanks for that. You're both saying similar things here, and I agree with it. This is the core of what I've been trying to get to, which is how much value does S230 offer to real sites, like forums.

Oh! has been arguing that S230 is like the glue that holds the internet together and without it, the online world would fall. Whereas my read of it shows a law that primarily protects large providers and social media platforms. Most forums are too small and unimportant to face lawsuits over areas covered by that law so I don't see any big crisis happening for forums if S230 went away (it would be replaced by something different and perhaps even better for small sites). I can't say I'm worried about what it might mean for facebook, et al.
 

Oh!

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Oh! has been arguing that S230 is like the glue that holds the internet together and without it, the online world would fall. Whereas my read of it shows a law that primarily protects large providers and social media platforms. Most forums are too small and unimportant to face lawsuits over areas covered by that law so I don't see any big crisis happening for forums if S230 went away (it would be replaced by something different and perhaps even better for small sites). I can't say I'm worried about what it might mean for facebook, et al.
No. That's not what I have been arguing. Section 230 protects all providers of online services where they facilitate third-party comment. 230 was introduced shortly after some troubling case law. An independent forum operator (in the US) was just as vulnerable to a law suit as a large ISP. The only difference is that independent forum and blog operators are not as an attractive target for litigation. Section 230 was introduced because it was recognized that case law had developed in such a way that it was a very serious impediment to the development/advancement of certain aspects of the Internet within the US. If 230 was not created, all the large social media companies would not be incorporated in the US, all the ISPs would have closed down their discussion spaces, there would be no commenting at news sites, and no access to Usenet, etc. It would be a brave individual who would run their own forum or blog from the US, vulnerable to the rage of a banned member or a thin-skinned politician who was rubbished in a comment to a forum. The forum operator could be named as codefendant, or the only defendant where the identity of the poster could not be determined.

The question now is there a realistic threat to 230? On balance, I do not see it going away. However, there is wide support for its repeal across the political spectrum in the US (including the President). Further, it appears that Facebook would like to see 230 repealed and replaced with regulation it alone could fulfil (through automated / AI services) which no other player could emulate. So, there is a real threat when there is wide political support and a push from the main player for a change in regulations only it can fulfill. A very strange alignment of (vested) interests indeed.
 
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