§ 230 and the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act

My PDF testimony, as well as the testimony of other witnesses is available. I also thought it would be interesting to post the text. I have commented separately on five proposals so I thought I would break down the information. My plan was to provide an impartial analysis of the proposals. I will, however, be focusing on non-obvious consequences. Some of these proposals have influenced my opinions, however I’ll try to separate them from the objective analysis.

[I.]The Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act

JAMAA would significantly limit immunity to interactive computer services. We can make recommendations based on your preferencesFor YouTube to recommend videos alongside the video you have selected, click here. These videos are recommended by YouTube largely based upon your search history.

If the recommended material proves to be—for instance—defamatory, then under the bill YouTube could be liable for damages, since defamation often involves “severe emotional injury.” This Act only applies to materially contributing to an emotional or physical injury. Twitter and Facebook recommend postings based on past interests.

Interactive services, on the other hand would be protected. Unpersonalized suggestions—for instance, recommendations of material based on its general popularity, uninfluenced by whether you’ve shown an interest in such material. Interactive services, on the other hand, would practically be exempted from any liability Reccommendation of mainstream media contentThis material is more likely to be injurious or defamatory than mainstream media. In any case, the computer services may ask for indemnification from these organizations in the event of a legal action.

JAMAA would therefore be an incentive to do so.

  • YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Stop recommending user-generated material that you think is particularly interesting.
  • You should instead recommend (1) common material, or (2) content from mainstream media.

I find this a terrible idea. You get to choose what you enjoy the most. For example, if you are a fan of hip-hop you would want to be able to see the top-rated hip-hop video, and not just the best. The more personal the recommendation, the greater your enjoyment of them. There is no reason to force platforms to move to generic material.

The public benefits as well, I believe, by being able see user-generated content and not only professionally created mainstream media content. Due to its established marketing strength, professional content already enjoys a significant advantage. It is not risky for social media platforms to recommend user-generated material (even though algorithms may suggest such content might be just what you are looking for), but it’s safe to recommend the professionals.