Lawmakers remain conflicted about what to do about Section 230

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The CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter squared off with lawmakers Thursday in a hearing focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Credit: WikiMedia Commons
Credit: WikiMedia Commons


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sunday Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were the three witnesses testifying before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee at the joint hearing. Lawmakers pressed the three tech executives on their platforms' content moderation and efforts to curb misinformation.

Although Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Dorsey are no strangers to testifying to lawmakers, the hearing marked the first time the three appeared before Congress since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Rep. Mike Doyle, the chairman of the U.S. House subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said that his staff was easily able to find anti-vaccine content on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

In his opening remarks, Zuckerberg shifted blame from Facebook for fomenting the January Capitol riots. Instead, he attributed the unrest to President Trump and a "political and media environment that drives Americans apart."

Lawmakers appeared eager to hold the technology companies accountable. The focus appears to be reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, even if there was no consensus on how to reform the act.

Section 230 reform

The legislative focus of the hearing was Section 230, a portion of the Communications Decency Act that shields online platforms from liability for the content that their users posts and allows them broad freedom to moderate content. It has become a key target for reform from both Republicans and Democrats, though for different reasons.

Republicans grilled the tech CEOs about the alleged censorship of conservative voices on the platform. Democratic lawmakers were more concerned about the proliferation of misinformation, both about the COVID-19 vaccines and the 2020 election.

One prominent theme among Republican arguments to Section 230 was protecting children. In her opening remarks, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she was concerned about the safety and mental health implications of social media.

"I have two daughters and a son with a disability. Let me be clear," she said. "I do not want you defining what is true for them. I do not want their future manipulated by your algorithms."

In their written statements, each tech CEO defended their platform in different ways. Zuckerberg said he welcomed Section 230 reforms that increased transparency and focused on implementing systems to moderate unlawful content. Pichai didn't offer solutions, but said he was concerned about whether Section 230 updates could backfire. Dorsey said that mandating internet platforms to behave the same way "reduces innovation and individual choice."

A memo from House committee members didn't seem appeased by arguments from the three executives. It cited research that indicated misinformation and extremism are still rampant on the platforms.

Legislative changes

Potential reforms to Section 230 have come from several places, including Congress and the Justice Department. One bill, unveiled in February, could strip protections from platforms if they are monetized and harmful content is identified. Another bill from late 2020 focused on curbing alleged censorship.

Although some of the tech CEOs appeared to welcome reform, others in the technology industry are concerned. Back in December, a group of online heavyweights released a statement defending Section 230, saying they rely on the legal shield to "make their platforms safe for users and support free expression."

Lawmakers still appeared divided about what how to reform Section 230. By the end of the hearing, it was unclear whether they were any closer to legislative updates.

The entire discussion was colored by a clear lack of lawmaker understanding about the internet landscape. One lawmaker, for example, seemingly thought that Facebook owned YouTube, and questioned Zuckerberg about his family's use of the video sharing platform.

However, the fact that change is coming was made clear. At the start of the hearing, Rep. Jan Schakowsky said that "self-regulation has come to the end of its road."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 502member
    Keep 230, and make it clear that bans and algorithmic promotion are both speech by the platform (which doesn't get 230 protections), rather than merely on the platform.

    Platforms remain not liable for what other, unrelated people say on them (comments, product reviews. etc.), while they are unambiguously responsible for decisions they or their agents make. Done.

    Though it's more than a little preposterous to claim more conservatives are being censored. Twitter and Facebook both absolutely bend over backwards to find the most charitable interpretation of anything conservatives say. Tom Cotton, a sitting US senator, used Twitter to call for the military to execute protestors. He still hasn't even been suspended temporarily.
    drdavid
  • Reply 2 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,105administrator
    You can't keep 230, and not allow for user bans. There's literally no way to do it.
    gatorguybluefire1muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 33
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,602member
    "I do not want you defining what is true for them. I do not want their future manipulated by your algorithms." - from a social system founded upon a deception, that’s rich!  I guess not all propaganda is created equal.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 33
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,150member
    All of these companies have policies against the types of destructive disinformation and hate speech which congress has issue with. 

    They’re in front of congress because their history of poor enforcement of these policies have made them a magnet to nefarious individuals. 

    Just this week the CCDH released a report demonstrating that just 12 individuals are responsible for the majority of anti-vax information. Similarly political disinformation dropped massively after Trump was booted from Twitter. 

    It’s plain to see that these companies could do a lot more to clean up their services. 

    However a problem also exists: certain political figures want this disinformation and are equally likely to punish these companies for culling such disinformation.
    edited March 26 drdavidFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 33
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 720member
    Why can't 230 protect the SITE and the POST?  These sites want their cake and eat it too...

    If there are no repercussions for the SITE why do they have to remove the POST?

    BUT if you want to remove POST, then you don't get 230, you get something else...

    Just a thought!

    Laters...
  • Reply 6 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,105administrator
    rezwits said:
    Why can't 230 protect the SITE and the POST?  These sites want their cake and eat it too...

    If there are no repercussions for the SITE why do they have to remove the POST?

    BUT if you want to remove POST, then you don't get 230, you get something else...

    Just a thought!

    Laters...
    As it stands, there are no protections for the site if the post in question is not removed. Protections only apply if there is moderation.

    This whole concept hinges on what "something else" is.
    drdavidFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 33
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,498member
    You can't keep 230, and not allow for user bans. There's literally no way to do it.
    That is the problem with all of these ideas for reform. From the article
    One bill, unveiled in February, could strip protections from platforms if they are monetized and harmful content is identified. Another bill from late 2020 focused on curbing alleged censorship.
    Either you censor the content, or you shield the platforms You literally can’t do both or neither. Unfortunately the ideas they are coming up with are mutually exclusive and to bundle them into one bill, or even several parallel pieces of legislation will create chaos. I’ve said before that the legislators will likely be surprised at the result of any changes they make. I suspect the result of any change that can get bipartisan support will be exactly the opposite of what each of the supporters think it will be. 





    edited March 26 gatorguyFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 8 of 33
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,633member
    zimmie said:
    Though it's more than a little preposterous to claim more conservatives are being censored. Twitter and Facebook both absolutely bend over backwards to find the most charitable interpretation of anything conservatives say. Tom Cotton, a sitting US senator, used Twitter to call for the military to execute protestors. He still hasn't even been suspended temporarily.
    Well, BOTH (and ALL) sides get away with an awful lot that should be banned according to the ToS. The problem is more that certain *ideas*, not behavior, tend to get banned more on the conservative side of the fence. (I know, because it has happened to me, and many I know... who are quite polite and well-reasoned with absolutely nothing in our banned content that was against the ToS as far as we can tell.)

    And, there tend to be quite a bit of absolute ToS violations by very visible left-leaning public figures that don't get banned.

    Anyway, the solution isn't getting rid of Section 230, but allowing other platforms that are more fair (ex. Gab) to compete. I really don't know what the solution is, or how one could write laws, to prevent the bias and censoring, as I think that will always come back around to bite everyone else.

    EsquireCats said:
    Just this week the CCDH released a report demonstrating that just 12 individuals are responsible for the majority of anti-vax information. Similarly political disinformation dropped massively after Trump was booted from Twitter. 
    The problem is... is it disinformation? Yes, there are anti-vaxxers with totally wacky ideas. But, there are also vex-hesitant scientists and doctors who have had their content taken down that were (as far as I could tell) 100% accurate. And, then we have media who are funded by big-pharma promoting the big-money-making solutions as the only way, and labeling everything else as conspiracy theory or disinformation. (For example, the orchestrated take-downs of HQC and Ivermectin should be criminal!)

    It's completely messed up, and I don't know what the solution is, aside from allowing good competition (which currently isn't happening).
    docno42FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 33
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,287member
    cgWerks said:

    The problem is... is it disinformation? Yes, there are anti-vaxxers with totally wacky ideas. But, there are also vex-hesitant scientists and doctors who have had their content taken down that were (as far as I could tell) 100% accurate. And, then we have media who are funded by big-pharma promoting the big-money-making solutions as the only way, and labeling everything else as conspiracy theory or disinformation. (For example, the orchestrated take-downs of HQC and Ivermectin should be criminal!)

    It's completely messed up, and I don't know what the solution is, aside from allowing good competition (which currently isn't happening).
    Because we don't need "good competition" when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, we need to vaccinate people and get to herd immunity. 

    There is no evidence hydroxychloroquine does anything beneficial with regard to Covid-19:
    https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/chloroquine-or-hydroxychloroquine-with-or-without-azithromycin/

    There is no evidence that Ivermectin is a practical treatment in humans either:
    https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/ivermectin/

    Vaccines work. The taken down information you think is "100% accurate" (as far as you could tell — whatever the hell that means) is not helping get people vaccinated. Pushing questionable (at best) treatments for infections is not helpful when we're trying to *prevent infections* first and foremost.
    drdavid
  • Reply 10 of 33
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,633member
    fastasleep said:
    Because we don't need "good competition" when it comes to dealing with the pandemic, we need to vaccinate people and get to herd immunity. 

    There is no evidence hydroxychloroquine does anything beneficial with regard to Covid-19:
    https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/chloroquine-or-hydroxychloroquine-with-or-without-azithromycin/

    There is no evidence that Ivermectin is a practical treatment in humans either:
    https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/ivermectin/

    Vaccines work. The taken down information you think is "100% accurate" (as far as you could tell — whatever the hell that means) is not helping get people vaccinated. Pushing questionable (at best) treatments for infections is not helpful when we're trying to *prevent infections* first and foremost.
    Good competition was in regard to social media and news outlets.

    The 'vaccine' won't help herd-immunity, as it doesn't prevent Covid, it just lessens the symptoms (you can still get it and spread it). Real herd immunity would be more like letting people get it and treating those with severe symptoms to prevent the deaths (which we didn't do). So, instead, we're 'vaccinating' (a.k.a. gene therapy) people which is quite likely to make them more susceptible to future wild viruses (cf antibody dependent enhancement / pathogenic priming), not to mention a plethora of autoimmune disorders which probably won't get linked the the 'vaccine'. But, we're going to find that out the hard way, as we're currently in phase 3 trials on the public.

    If you're looking for facts, you probably should venture outside the Collins/Fauci info exchange.

    Maybe you'd learn about the hit-job done on HCQ so emergency use could be declared (so big-pharma doesn't have to do trials and can make their $trillions):
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/two-elite-medical-journals-retract-coronavirus-papers-over-data-integrity-questions

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32205204/

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354220302011

    https://hcqmeta.com

    https://c19study.com

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3765018

    https://c19ivermectin.com

    BTW, *one* of the clips taken down, was actually a clip of Fauci on a virology podcast discussing the problems with the Ct of the PCR test being used. Yeah, wouldn't want misinformation like that out in the wild, huh?
    docno42FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 11 of 33

    Vaccines work. The taken down information you think is "100% accurate" (as far as you could tell — whatever the hell that means) is not helping get people vaccinated. Pushing questionable (at best) treatments for infections is not helpful when we're trying to *prevent infections* first and foremost.
    You need to read more widely and look at history closely. Also look at the agenda of the Politicians who run the CCDH and WHO. When you have been around as long as some of us, you will cease to believe all the Govt push as truth. At the moment all Vax for COVID-19 are experimental and will be for at least 10 years. Furthermore RNA treatment is not a vaccine it’s DNA Altering system. There are plenty of ppl from medical and scientific backgrounds who question this whole program but are being muzzled. 
    The most important thing is that no company or Govt should be treating us like children and deciding what we read. If something is not factual, say so and give arguments, don’t censor it by deletion 
    docno42cgWerksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 12 of 33
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,010member

    Vaccines work. The taken down information you think is "100% accurate" (as far as you could tell — whatever the hell that means) is not helping get people vaccinated. Pushing questionable (at best) treatments for infections is not helpful when we're trying to *prevent infections* first and foremost.
    You need to read more widely and look at history closely. Also look at the agenda of the Politicians who run the CCDH and WHO. When you have been around as long as some of us, you will cease to believe all the Govt push as truth. At the moment all Vax for COVID-19 are experimental and will be for at least 10 years. Furthermore RNA treatment is not a vaccine it’s DNA Altering system. There are plenty of ppl from medical and scientific backgrounds who question this whole program but are being muzzled. 
    The most important thing is that no company or Govt should be treating us like children and deciding what we read. If something is not factual, say so and give arguments, don’t censor it by deletion 
    Every word in your post is disinformation. None of it is true. If you paid attention in high school or college biology you would know that. But you didn’t and you don’t.
    drdavid
  • Reply 13 of 33
    Every word in your post is disinformation. None of it is true. If you paid attention in high school or college biology you would know that. But you didn’t and you don’t.
    Can you see that your idea of what constitutes disinformation is an opinion that others might disagree with and that it is better to allow people to express their opinions so that others might judge what is true?   I want to hear what others think so I can potentially learn from them.   As adults we should be fully capable of filtering logically inconsistent or unfounded ideas.   If it is true that many can not then the solution is to fix our system of education not censorship.
    cgWerksFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 33
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,010member
    Every word in your post is disinformation. None of it is true. If you paid attention in high school or college biology you would know that. But you didn’t and you don’t.
    Can you see that your idea of what constitutes disinformation is an opinion that others might disagree with and that it is better to allow people to express their opinions so that others might judge what is true?   I want to hear what others think so I can potentially learn from them.   As adults we should be fully capable of filtering logically inconsistent or unfounded ideas.   If it is true that many can not then the solution is to fix our system of education not censorship.
    There is no ‘judging’ what is true. Something is either true or not true based on fact. The assertion by the OP that the mRNA vaccines alter your DNA is patently false and that’s a fact. There is no opinion involved. These alternate truths are proposed by people who have no knowledge of how science and these vaccines work. They rely on conspiracy theories and confirmation bias. Anyone who remembers their high school or college biology classes would know what mRNA is and how it works. The vaccines use custom engineered mRNA to build special proteins. These proteins stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that attack the virus. They do not alter your DNA, they do not attach themselves to your DNA and change it. Scientific FACT!

    It is no secret now that the extreme right has switched its tactics from attacking the Capitol to spreading disinformation about the vaccines. The anti-vaxxers have long claimed that vaccines cause Autism. There are absolutely no scientific studies that link the two. Of course the anti-vaxxers claim it's a government conspiracy as that’s their only grip on the facts that dispute their claims. Then there’s the religious zealots that cling to the fiction that Earth is only 6,000 years or so old. There’s a ‘museum’ in Arkansas I believe that shows humans walking with dinosaurs. Oh, and the flat-earthers, the ‘gassy knoll’ Kennedy assassination people, the ancient alien nonsense, the ‘George Bush blew the levies in New Orleans’ conspiracy.

    I’m a skeptic, a doubting Thomas, a supporter of the scientific method. Show me the evidence, not alternate facts and truth.

    And the biggest part of this is the total lack of education in our schools and the cultural dystopia of everyone getting to choose their own ‘truth’. Blathering idiocy.
    edited March 27 drdavid
  • Reply 15 of 33
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member

    Vaccines work. The taken down information you think is "100% accurate" (as far as you could tell — whatever the hell that means) is not helping get people vaccinated. Pushing questionable (at best) treatments for infections is not helpful when we're trying to *prevent infections* first and foremost.
    At the moment all Vax for COVID-19 are experimental and will be for at least 10 years. Furthermore RNA treatment is not a vaccine it’s DNA Altering system. There are plenty of ppl from medical and scientific backgrounds who question this whole program but are being muzzled. 
    The most important thing is that no company or Govt should be treating us like children and deciding what we read. If something is not factual, say so and give arguments, don’t censor it by deletion 
    And therein lies an example of the disinformation issue... 

    mRNA is not the same as DNA. It can’t combine with your DNA to change your genetic code.  mRNA is also relatively delicate, only surviving for about 72 hours before degrading and never entering the cell nucleus. Fact.

    That you would accept just the opposite as fact and continue repeating it as such plays into more FUD and distrust.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriaforster/2021/01/11/covid-19-vaccines-cant-alter-your-dna-heres-why/?sh=40f53ef72491
    edited March 27 drdavid
  • Reply 16 of 33
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,105member
    I believe part of the problem has to do with the people hired to do the censoring. Their political biases determine the posts that are censored  as well as those that aren’t.  We need better quality control when it comes to determining what millions of Americans can and cannot read.
    edited March 27 cgWerks
  • Reply 17 of 33
    @MikePeterson why no comments on the H&M story? I am sure there is a good reason for it but it would be helpful if you could add an update explaining the situation.
    edited March 27
  • Reply 18 of 33
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,515member
    You can't keep 230, and not allow for user bans. There's literally no way to do it.
    Fine.  Make everyone publish their content moderation rules AS WELL AS all content moderation decision making publicly.  

    Prove, in full view of sunlight that it's content moderation applied universally and not editorial control of content disguised as selective moderation.

    Section 230 protections are a privilege and privileges should be earned and maintained, not granted cart blanche by fiat. 

    If it really is simple moderation and there isn't any bias or editorializing then this should be a very un-controversial position.
    edited March 27 cgWerks
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,105administrator
    @MikePeterson why no comments on the H&M story? I am sure there is a good reason for it but it would be helpful if you could add an update explaining the situation.
    There were, but people were being dicks, in contravention of the forum rules (handily posted at the bottom of every page) even after warnings.

    So, we banned a few folks, and nuked the site from orbit. It rapidly became not cost effective to moderate.
    edited March 27
  • Reply 20 of 33
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,105administrator

    docno42 said:
    You can't keep 230, and not allow for user bans. There's literally no way to do it.
    Fine.  Make everyone publish their content moderation rules AS WELL AS all content moderation decision making publicly.  

    Prove, in full view of sunlight that it's content moderation applied universally and not editorial control of content disguised as selective moderation.

    Section 230 protections are a privilege and privileges should be earned and maintained, not granted cart blanche by fiat. 

    If it really is simple moderation and there isn't any bias or editorializing then this should be a very un-controversial position.
    It's a controversial position because moderation takes time and money. Adding a manifesto after every post gets deleted, or user gets banned makes it even more of a problem, in a world where Google controls the vertical and horizontal and folks that don't work here think that they get a vote about what happened.

    What you're asking for, would also require some modifications to the freedom of speech legal rulings over the last 30 years, as they pertain to businesses.

    This is why, amongst other reasons, if nearly any of the proposed 230 "reforms" get made as written, these forums are closing.
    edited March 27 drdavidmuthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFeller
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