Friday, December 07, 2012

EFF reminds Netizens of the importance of Section 230 with a textbook-like illustration

Electronic Frontier Foundation has disseminated an infographic diagram (like you would have seen in a high school government textbook) on why Section 230 is so important for the capacity of ordinary people to self-publish their content on the web.

The link for it is here. It was tweeted yesterday.

Historically, it seems a bit remarkable that Congress, with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, offered downstream liability protections to service providers while at the same time trying to censor speech with the “Communications Decency Act” portion, which the Supreme Court would overturn, 6-3, in 1997.  I actually heard some of the oral arguments on March 19. 1997 (after waiting in the three-minute line in a late winter Washington snowstorm).
The recent lawsuits concerning Yelp postings might stimulate more calls to remove Section 230 protections, as would concerns about cyberbullying and “reputation extortion” that have been aired on some television shows recently (especially by Anderson Cooper, see March 12, 2012 including comments).  One aspect of this discussion to keep in perspective is how things were back in the mid 1990s, when I was writing my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book.  Self-publishing in books was possible then and the cost of desktop publishing  (and “webpress” book manufacturing) had just started to come down, but print-on-demand didn’t exist yet.  It “meant something” to get published, and literary agents had a real presence.  That’s all changed now.  The  Supreme Court has been more supportive of self-distribution and self-publishing (as opposed to the speech itself) than I might have predicted, given the course of both the CA and COPA.  One factor is that “conservatives” have generally felt that unlimited speech is very important to them, too.

It’s also noteworthy that the Washington state has agreed to stop trying to enforce its law against facilitation of sex trafficking (partly over Section 230 issues).  That problem had been discussed here on June 15 in conjunction with a lawsuit brought by the Internet Archive.

In another matter, the SEC has warned Netflix about a public Facebook posting that Reed Hastings, CEO< made regarding the company’s sales performance, without notifying investors through established channels.  Arguably, a Facebook posting in “everyone” mode is public disclosure.  The Business Day New York Times story (Friday December 7, 2012) by Michael J. de la Merced is here.  

Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Rainier approach.  I was on this road in 1976.  I do know people (including challengers to DADT) who have done the supervised climb (getting up at 1 AM).  

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