Monday, October 05, 2015

Repeal Section 230? A "modest proposal" by Arhtur Chu of Crunch

Arthur Chu, a “Crunch Network” contributor, has authored a controversial proposal (Sept. 29. 2015) on Techcrunch, and it seems rather obvious: Repeal Section 230 (or “Mr Obama: Tear Down this Liability Shield”, link here.  The picture of Brandenberg Gate in Berlin (which I visited in 1999) makes for a silly analogy to Reagan and Gorbachev. The comments (about paid negative reviews on Yelp!, etc) are certainly telling.  Chu does make the interesting point that originally Section 230 had an intention rather like a pineapple upside-down cake, or a baseball “inside-out” swing.  That is, it was supposed to make it easier for intermediaries to screen for TOS violations without discretionary liability.  It is true that harassment is against most reputable intermediaries’ terms of service, but many are lax in doing so.  However, some could argue that YouTube has been rather pro-active.
And, predictably, Electronic Frontier Foundation has its rebuttal on Oct. 2, by Danny O’Brien, well reasoned, here.  O’Brien discusses countries that don’t offer much of any protections to intermediaries, and shows that intermediary liability exposure doesn’t prevent online harassment or revenge or cyberbullying.
O’Brien summarizes Chu’s modest proposal (like Jonathan Swift) by saying “To Chu, it seems that an Internet that worked the same way as a letter to the editor – where only those who reached certain standards of editorial acceptability would have a voice – would be a better Internet” – to which EFF “respectfully” disagrees.  This is an argument against amateurism (Book Reviews, regarding Andrew Keen, June 26, 2007).   Imagine, as I have asked here before, if any self-published material had to prove it could sell on its own to stay up (to pay for the extra liability exposure).

I've also noted the potentially dangerous parallel of arguments like Chu's (for greater liability exposure and bonding) with arguments for gun control (the nexus between First and Second Amendments in the libertarian's world).  If we can live without self-defense, maybe we can live without self-motivated self-published and unedited speech.  

In fact, Section 230 makes everything I do possible now.  Otherwise, I would have to make myself “popular” with other people to sell to them to have a voice.  It gets wordy to go through it, but ponder a world where people have to compete so brutally to even be heard.  (This is behind a lot of “sales culture” today, including cold-call techniques that have become objectionable to many in today’s world of self-sufficiency.)  I do understand how the “left” and much of the community of faith sees social “radical solidarity” (with those less fortunate and intact), as demanding personal engagement from everyone, a kind of intentional communalism (and “radical hospitality”), as then necessary.  That’s how it would come full circle in my own life.

I don’t know whether Chu’s article carries any real weight or is going anywhere with politicians.  Remember, in 2014, 49 states attorneys-general wanted to exempt state laws from Section 230 impact. Would Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Wordpress even exist in Chu's world?  Even print-on-demand leads to interesting and disturbing questions. 

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