Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Would a Section 230 "repeal" affect only social media "platforms" and leave self-published websites alone?


Smallwood St Park MD "canyon"

Timothy B. Lee (writes for Arstechnica) just pointed out an interesting post by Steven Randy Waldman on his Interfluidity blog, “Repealing Section 230 as antitrust”. 

Waldman makes the case that hosting companies for regular sites is very different from running a social media “platform”. Indeed, he says, if you repealed 230, web hosts could still leave ordinary site owners alone as long as owner-users were identifiable (which breaks EFF’s idea of the right to anonymity) and hosts were absolutely neutral (regard them as “common carriers”).  He considers Blogger and Wordpress as “edge cases”, although Wordpress is typically installed on hosted sites.

There is still one difference between web hosting (or blog hosting) and a telephone carrier as in the past:  a website's content is, in theory, accessible anywhere in the world (maybe not China?) it is not blocked and normally searched.

That implies that people presume a right to globalized speech on their social and political views without supervision of others.  That is not necessarily constitutionally guaranteed (this point was argued with COPA in 2007), and many observers think it isn’t such a good thing not to have to please and work with others before you are heard.  The far Left, for example, wants to recruit more protesters and fundraisers, not more citizen journalists who don’t believe in intersectionality and hiding behind group oppression.

There is also a lot of underground thought that people should have their own global web presence only if they are serious about selling things, that is, have legitimate commerce (that pays rent and can even hire employees) to offer.  Now, I have an unusual history into how I got into “social commentary” (it started in the 1990s with gays in the military and my own history, and expanded circumferentially). I don’t have anything to sell (or pester people with emails or deals or beg for donations – but that’s how you play the game).  Maybe my music will work some day.  (And I do have a novel, and a screenplay, based on the books – which are old and not really viable to sell as a “real business” any longer). 

Lee has an earlier article, June 10, 2020, in Arstechnica as a full explainer of Section 230. “The Internet’s most important – and misunderstood – law, explained. 

Note the ACM’s forum on Section 230 from Nov. 23, 2020. I'll take a look at this one. 

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