In a OneZero piece that highlights the hateful through-line “that’s been hanging around since the days of Waco, that found its home on Breitbart, that was mainstreamed by the Tea Party movement, and that was weaponized during Gamergate”, Colin Horgan makes a revealing rhetorical connection between GamerGate and the right's push to bastardize Section 230 that hadn't occurred to me: “For Trump, it’s all about ethics in content moderation.”
Beto O'Rourke apparently thinks it will pass legal muster to “require large internet platforms to adopt terms of service to ban hateful activities” and “remove legal immunity from lawsuits for large social media platforms that fail” to do so. There's no indication as to who or what determines which platforms qualify as “large”, nor any mention of who or what determines which platforms have failed to adopt the prescribed terms of service and therefore which companies have their Section 230 immunity stripped away.
ETA: Or, on the political side, as Adam Steinbaugh puts it, “[W]onder which version of 230 amendments will succeed: the one requiring social media sites to host offensive speech or the one requiring them to ban it.”
“Efforts to expand the definition of ‘public charge’ through welfare and immigration reforms of the mid-1990s laid the groundwork for the current Trump policies,” writes Alonso-Yoder, “but so too did the original 19th century statutes limiting migrations of poor people. When examined together, these immigration policies on public charge bear striking similarities to the racist rhetoric which peaked in the 1990s surrounding Black families’ use of public benefits.”
From ‘Public Charge’ Policy Racism: ‘Welfare Queens’ to ‘Anchor Babies’ by Brentin Mock
Ayman Mohyeldin just conducted on MSNBC an entire conversation with Tony Romm and Clint Watts about today's White House meeting with tech companies to address online extremism without once mentioning the draft White House executive order to protect online extremism, although they did mention the recent White House social media summit of online extremists.
Somehow in all the general wow and flutter, I missed that back in April Nancy Pelosi also threatened Section 230, deriding it as “gift” to internet companies that merely established a “privilege”, and threatening that it “could be removed”. Section 230 was not gift to internet companies, it was written as a gift to internet users since it would authorize and empower websites to engage in community management without fear of legal reprisal.
It's confirmed: Trump is coming for Section 230, the sole remnant of the long-overturned Communications Decency Act which protects internet companies from liability when engaging in content moderation and community management.
The draft order, a summary of which was obtained by CNN, calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration's draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.
As I suggested the other day, when you connect the dots this is the White House moving to protect white nationalist speech on the internet, something essentially underscored by an unnamed “close to the tech industry”.
Some people close to the tech industry expressed frustration that the White House seemed to be trying to have it both ways — excoriating tech companies for allegedly censoring conservative speech, a claim the platforms vigorously dispute, while castigating them for failing to block enough violent or hateful content.
According to CNN, the draft proposal seeks to put the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission in charge of the executive branch's interpretation of Section 230's provisions.
In the wake of another mass shooting by a white nationalist whose language apes that of the President of the United States, the White House is preparing an executive order targeting 47 U.S. Code § 230's protections for moderating online content. I'm expressly tying these things together because it's already been established that social media companies have resisted clamping down too hard on white nationalist content “because the collateral accounts that are impacted can ... be Republican politicians”.
As bluntly noted by Nicolle Wallace recently, “If I were an algorithm, and I were looking for intersections between the language in the manifesto from the killer in El Paso and Donald Trump’s Twitter feed or Donald Trump’s MAGA rallies, I’d be going, 'Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!'”
So, as Beto O'Rourke urged this weekend, let's go ahead and connect these dots, because the picture that emerges is crucial.
We know that moderating away white nationalism in online communities threatens to impact Republicans because their rhetoric in essence also is white nationalist. We know that the perpetrators of many mass shootings, including the one this weekend in El Paso either expressly support Trump or echo and ape the same white nationalist rhetoric he employs. And now we know that Trump is moving to sanction tech companies which moderate “conservative” voices.
This comes after the news earlier today that the White House intends to meet with still-unidentified tech companies this Friday. They are coming for Section 230, and they are doing so to protect the expression of white nationalist beliefs.
ETA: One more dot to connect: funny isn't it, that The New York Times only just yesterday published a front-page-of-the-business-section hit piece on Section 230?
And then The New York Times publishes on the front of its business section a story with the headline, “Why Hate Speech on the Internet Is a Never-Ending Problem”. The subhead, after including an excerpt from 47 U.S. Code § 230: “Because this law shields it.”
That's the entire front-page framing of this piece: that Section 230 protects hate speech. Except that it doesn't.
Buried all the way at the bottom of this piece by technology reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi is a correction that confounds and contradicts the way that the editors of the business section wanted people to think about the issue.
Correction: Aug. 6, 2019
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the law that protects hate speech on the internet. The First Amendment, not Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, protects it.
After going out of its way to position the story as being about one particular law protecting hate speech on the internet, you have to read all the way to the bottom and notice the correction to be told that it does not.
This is the worst piece of journalisming about Section 230 since last month's BuzzFeed hackery. Why do the nation's business and technology reporters want to come for Section 230?