For those who hope that Washington will enable the next generation of startups to benefit from the same rules that allowed the creation of American social media giants – and offer those giants the ramifications for America’s new ideological censorship – , there might be a good test case on hand.
Confused politicians want to remove a provision of federal law known as Section 230 because they mistakenly believe that it has given the giants of Silicon Valley general-purpose liability protection. But it does not protect them from the consequences of misguided decisions to become the new arbiters of public debate in America.
The law allows “interactive computer services” to act in good faith and block obscene, violent, or otherwise offensive material posted by users without being treated as the publisher of all user-generated material, and is therefore responsible for its content. The law does not protect these services if they are no longer just providers of communication platforms and slip into the role of publishers.
The removal of the law would transfer assets from tech shareholders to litigation attorneys. This would also prevent the creation of new rivals for the social media titans. A better solution is to require judges to interpret the law as written and allow plaintiffs to perform cashectomies on Silicon Valley companies for posting defamatory content.
Best-selling author Candace Owens may want to explore the boundaries of Section 230 after this week’s online kerfuffle with rapper Cardi B.
Alex Heigl Remarks in the New York Post:
An ordinary Twitter argument between Cardi B and Candace Owens on Tuesday night ended with Owens claiming she was planning to sue Cardi for posting a digitally altered tweet suggesting that Owens’ husband was cheating on her with her brother would have.
Ms. Owens says the claim is not true and that Ms. B is distributing a fake photo shopping. If this is correct, the rapper would be liable for defamation. Ms. B says she will sue Ms. Owens for claiming the tweet was Photoshoped. Perhaps both of them will have their days in court at some point and can defend themselves like everyone else.
If Cardi B’s tweet was Photoshoped, the fact that popular Ms. Owens is a well-known public figure would likely not provide Ms B with any additional legal protection. Since Cardi B’s tweeting clearly appears to be intended to humiliate Ms. Owens, this example appears to meet the high standard of “actual malice” if the statement posted by Twitter is found to be fabricated.
If Ms. Owens has a good case, she may want to sue not only Cardi B but Twitter as well. An en-banc panel of the Ninth Circle Court of Appeals previously determined that a website can be both a service provider and a content provider, even if it only has a role in content creation or development. In other words, Twitter can be considered both a platform and a publisher under the law.
Regarding the general Candace Owens topic, Twitter appears to have made some changes. Mrs. Owens reported last year that the site blocked their tweet and encouraged Michiganders to oppose blocking orders from the state’s Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer.
As for Cardi B, Twitter didn’t just choose to block their content, which some users may find inconvenient. Instead, your Twitter account contains a warning that it “may contain potentially sensitive content”. Some may consider this a heading describing the material published. Was it the idea and initiative of Cardi B to label their content in this way, or does Twitter play a role in the application and maintenance of the label? Has Twitter ever monitored or investigated your content in any way?
Twitter claims it is not a publisher, but merely a distributor of information published by others.
A lawsuit could help clear the responsibilities of communications service providers, speakers and publishers on social media.
Extra credit for essays to abolish the filibuster?
Many universities have responded to Covid by greatly reducing the role of standardized tests in this year’s approval process. This requires the admissions officers to make more subjective judgments than usual. Given the political streak of the average admissions officer, we can only guess at the results. Melissa Korn and Douglas Belkin from the Journal report::
Ivy League schools and a host of other highly selective institutions foregone the SAT and ACT requirements for Class of 2025, resulting in an unprecedented flood of applications and possibly the most chaotic selection experiment in American higher education since the end of World War II. .. Interviews with college admissions officials, as well as public and private high school advisors, point to an epic effort behind the scenes to make tough decisions at the highest speed.
In other news
Let children learn
“Florida Schools Reopened Without Becoming a Covid-19 Superspreader,” The Wall Street Journal, 17. March
Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China, and American Revival.”
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