Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Senate passes FOSTA as is; CDA230 erosion begins; unclear how tech platforms will react at first

At mid afternoon today, the Senate passed the FOSTA-SESTA bill presented here, without alteration, 97-2, despite passionate floor remarks from Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR). Here’s a typical story on “The Hill” by Harper Neidig.  Congress seems unconcerned about the “frivolous lawsuit” problem.  One of the biggest problems for any provider content moderation (especially without Wyden's amendment) would be "meta-speech" where filters cannot detect whether speech is "about" prostitution or actually trying to sell it. It's also not clear if "websites" are handled differently from social media platforms or hosting providers. 

The passage occurred on a snowy day when reporters were distracted by Facebook’s problems with Cambridge-Analytica, and with Mark Zuckerberg’s later (linked earlier today) and interview on CNN tonight.  Actually, the problems are interrelated.  I’d love to hear CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin talk about the Backpage problems and their contagion, in addition to Zuckerberg, Trump, Putin, and Stormy Daniels.  And, by the way, despite the “#DeleteFacebook” movement, I haven’t lost any “friends” today yet. '

The combination of erosion of downstream liability protections and questions about misuse of user data will create serious sustainability business model problems for many tech platforms. 


Here is my own policy statement on what actions I am taking now with comments on my sites. 

Update: April 13  

Trump has officially signed FOSTA (as of April 11).   I thought it had already been signed in late March.  So we may not yet know how all providers will react.  Elliot Harmon writes on EFF that Section 230 does not require platforms to be neutral (in response to some of the questions at the Zuckerberg hearings). 

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