Nick Clegg (Facebook’s Head of Global Affairs and Communications), appearedCNN State of the Union After a difficult week, Sunday was a happy day for Facebook. Frances Haugen was a whistleblower who testified to the Senate last week on several topics related to Facebook’s insufficient transparency and its potentially harmful effects on users. Clegg answered a question on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from liability for any user-generated content they post to their site, but it was baffling.
Facebook’s Nick Clegg says Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be changed: “My suggestion would be to make that protection, which is afforded to online companies like Facebook, contingent on them applying… their policies as they’re supposed to.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/CiJ2gB2UAn
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 10, 2021
Dana Bash, Dana’s host asked him if he was in favor of “amending Section 230” to permit “hold companies like”. [Facebook]Clegg replied that he was liable for some posts on their websites and suggested “mak[ing] that protection…contingent on them applying…their policies as they’re supposed to, and if they fail to do that, they would then have that liability protection removed.”
Is that what it means in practice? Jeff Kosseff is a U.S. cybersecurity law professor. Naval Academy. Author of Internet: Twenty-Six Words– A book that explains the history of Section 230 and its application.
Facebook was not the first to offer suggestions on how government should regulate it. Facebook’s ads complaining about the lack of a significant update on Internet regulations for 25 years have been broadcasting over long periods. They list details on a separate webpage: New standards for transparency, privacy and data portability as well as thoughtful updates to Section 230 “to improve content moderation.”
While this sounds magnanimous—a social media juggernaut currently in the hot seat, offering ideas on how best it can be tamed—don’t believe the hype.
Both political parties have been focusing on Section 230 lately, but for very different reasons. Republicans believe that social media giants censor too many content while Democrats think they censor not enough. A law that is so evenly divided would probably not pass any fine tuning. Moreover, Section 230 has not been amended since 2018, when the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act was passed. However, this law did more harm than good.
However, any potential repeal or revision would only serve to protect Facebook’s status as the most widely used social media platform in the world and discourage its competitors.
Kosseff states that “Section 23 was essential to Facebook’s inception and its growth.” However, the company’s current status as a trillion-dollar corporation means Section 230 may seem less crucial, although it is still vital for smaller companies. Facebook is able to defend a number of cases against defamation on their merits better than sites like Yelp and Glassdoor.
Yelp states, in the content moderation section, that it prohibits hate speech, bigotry and racism; however, they don’t usually take sides in factual disputes. Yelp can maintain its strong Section 230 position without worrying about getting sued for content posted by users. They would be at risk of being sued for defamation or taking down requests from businesses that have negative reviews. Since even the most serious lawsuits are costly and time-consuming to win, Yelp could become unreliable.
Kosseff does not like Facebook’s regulation push and says that Facebook should “not suddenly be the spokesperson” for Section 230 Protections. In fact, Facebook has a significant influence over the drafting of Section 230’s protections in the event that Congress does not repeal it. This is what regulatory capture looks like. In this way, regulatory agencies serve the interests of firms that they were supposed to oversee.