Tuesday, October 30, 2018

PA attorney general wants to hold Gab (maybe other social media) responsible for attack, but Section 230 would be in his way


Pennsylvania’s Attorney General is reported to have considered legal action against Gab in conjunction with the shootings Saturday at the Temple of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh.  Reuters had contributed to this report

But the story totally ignores Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. 

Section 230 would not apply to actual illegal conduct – planning a terror attack online.  Gab says it would take down content that actually breaks the law.


Rather, the circumstances where Gab said it would censor only technically illegal speech created a climate (by default in comparison to other platforms) where some alt-right extreme figures would join, and over time, they would skew the content on the site.  This is a big practical problem for tech companies.  The practicalities were much easier to manage with radical Islam than it is with homegrown extreme right wing extremism (that is, including white supremacy) for which there is more populist domestic support than most of us were aware – even for all the years of Obama’s presidency -- as Trump's behavior made the built-up anti-intellectual resentment (from inequality) crawl out of the woodwork.

Requiring social media platforms to remove "hate speech" is flawed because defining so much of it is subjective.  True, some of it you know when you see it -- with respect to religion and race and sometimes gender or sexuality issues, especially with slurs. But then it gets messy.  Is saying that there are only two basic biological genders hate speech?  Some people think it is.  The problem is the way intersectionality, as an ideology, has taken over much of the Left. 

By way of comparison, the Oklahoma City bombings by Timothy McVeigh (a right wing terrorist) occurred before user generated content on the Internet had become widespread (but at that time Section 230 was not yet passed – after it passed in 1996, America Online quickly, by October 1996, opened up its platform for user content with multiple text files and multiple images, and later videos. )

Section 230 reflects a moral bias in our legal system to localizing guilt for crimes as closely as possible with the perpetrator only (“personal responsibility”). Many, especially on the political Left, disagree with this bias and think things should be more as they are in Europe  -- largely because of systemic inequality with deflects the incentive for many people to play by the rules and within the law.

The US First Amendment, which protects the content of speech, such not be construed as automatically guaranteeing a right to broadcast one's speech without gatekeepers.  The First Amendment explicitly protects assembly, petition, and religion, and the established press -- but not the actual process of or infrastructure for  broadcasting amateur speech.  This is bound to come up before SCOTUS again.  For example, you could imagine requiring a non-partisan community license (or else a legitimate transactional business) to have Internet broadcast privileges, earned by community service.  If you're on the Left and feel this way about shared responsibility, then propose it.  It sounds a bit like "skin in the game". I wonder if it would get anywhere. 

Section 230 was weakened already by FOSTA, the Backpage bill.  It will surely come up again in Congress as the result of this incident. 
  
 Some bloggers are suggesting getting familiar with some blockchain-and-token based platforms (like Civil and Steemit), which I have started looking into. It appears that digital currency is used for audience upvote, which might be used to decide who stays on later. The conventional lobbying so far on issues like net neutrality and FOSTA has not been able to stop deterioration of the Internet's respect for self-broadcast.  



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