Biden issues another vague call for ‘reform’ Section 230

President Joe Biden speaks before boarding Air Force One at Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, September 9, 2022, after attending the opening of Intel's new computer chip facility in New Albany, Ohio.

President Joe Biden speaks before boarding Air Force One at Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, September 9, 2022, after attending the opening of Intel’s new computer chip facility in New Albany, Ohio.
picture: Manuel Palcy Cineta (AP)

Since taking over the White House in November 2020, President Joe Biden has made repeated calls to amend one of the most foundational laws that govern the Internet, Section 230 of the Communications Ethics Act. His latest call to do so came Thursday during a “hearing” on the tech platform’s accountability.

Among the “basic principles of reform” announced ThursdayThe Biden administration has called for the removal of “the special legal protections for big tech platforms,” ​​that is, the liability shield that protects social media platforms that distribute third-party content.

Section 230 was passed in 1996 as part of a broad effort by Congress to prevent minors from being present The internet is bombarded by pornography. It was the laws of the times largely prevent website operators from meeting the challenge; Any effort to modify online content has had the unfortunate effect of increasing their civic responsibility. To mitigate this problem, Congress enshrines Section 230 into the law, enabling tech companies and ordinary website owners to weed out the problems. Content without fear of being buried in litigation.

Without Section 230, the Internet as we know it would not exist. Running a social media platform, in particular, is an enormous responsibility for any business. Imagine a world where the Wikimedia Foundation can be sued directly for any changes Wikipedia Made by her army of millions of unpaid editors. Realistically, the site will cease to exist. (If you enjoy leaving comments on our blogs here at Gizmodo, you have Section 230 to thank for the privilege.)

Over the past half decade, Section 230 has become a hot issue between Republicans and Democrats alike, orA lot for very different reasons. Many legislators It has come to display the protection permitted by this provision of the law As a very powerful shield for companies that host massive amounts of disturbing content – from misleading health and political information to pages and groups that incite violence in the real world.

Many experts argue that tampering With the Constitutive Act presents significant risks that will eventually lead to a drastic reduction of speech online. imagine Again, if a company like YouTube had more reasons to fear drowning in lawsuits, what that might mean for the amount of content being blocked on the platform. Companies like Twitter and Facebook have shown themselves to be somewhat inept when it comes to distinguishing harmful content from benign content, and one can only imagine how widespread unwarranted account suspensions might become with the constant threat of financial loss hanging over their heads.

For this reason, while recognizing the problem, many digital rights organizations pushing for better content stewardship at major social media companies have sought non-legislative solutions to the problems of misinformation, racism, and violence, no pressure Companies to implement the best filters and procedures internally. (It’s also worth noting that most of these campaigns yielded little to no results.)

Biden has a long history of advocating for Section 230 “reforms,” ​​which are starkly different from the type of language he used on the campaign trail. In January 2020, then-candidate Biden He told the New York Times, The law must be “immediately repealed”. Urged by reporter Charlie Warzel on the issue, who noted that the law is “fundamental” for the modern Internet, Biden reiterated: “That’s right. Totally true. And it should be repealed.”

After taking office, Biden adopted a more defensible approach the situation, interchanging the word “revoke” for “repair,” while filtering most of his ideas through his former press secretary, Jen Psaki. In October 2021, for example, Psaki told reporters that Biden supports “privacy and antitrust reforms as well as more transparency.” The reforms were mentioned again in November 2021, along with criticism of social media’s failure to suppress misinformation related to vaccines and elections.

The White House has referred to Section 230 several more times since then, but without a higher degree of specification. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the language used by those in 1600 Pennsylvania This week has been defining the “big tech platforms” in particular. Several bills in recent years have done just that, adopting language designed to separate the world’s Google and Facebook sites from small mom-and-pop websites, limiting enforcement to companies that attract more than $500 million annually, or with more One billion users worldwide, for example.

Arguably, though, it is not Biden’s responsibility to decide whether or not to amend Section 230. That would be like Congress profession. Biden is doing his part once you keep the topic fresh, urging lawmakers to take some kind of action. A large number of laws intended to do this have been abandoned by both parties In both chambers, but no one has ever voted. Many of these laws have also been contained Terribly mysterious or overly aggressive Text, the Internet may be grateful.

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