Caution Tape

Linked – The Plan To Sunset Section 230 Is About A Rogue Congress Taking The Internet Hostage If It Doesn’t Get Its Way

Many of our elected officials don’t understand the Internet or Section 230; that’s been clear for years. This article makes clear that many other people don’t understand it either.

Mike’s statement on this hints at what I think the problem is, though:

It’s ridiculous that we’ve gotten to this point, and that the support for this destruction is effectively bipartisan. The underlying framing of this effort as the false belief that the biggest of the big tech companies, Google and Meta, are the only real stakeholders here is equally ridiculous.

As I’ve said over and over again, that’s not the case. Both of those companies have buildings full of lawyers. They, above anyone else, can shoulder the costs of these lawsuits. It’s all the other sites that cannot and will not.

I want to take a moment to consider what the term “user-generated content” means. I want to talk about it because I suspect many people think of a Facebook, Instagram, or other social media post when we talk about user-generated content. Maybe they even think about the comments section of their favorite website or Reddit.

They think that the platforms involved should be held to some high standard when it comes to either allowing unlimited free speech or protecting against dangerous speech. (Yes, those are contradictory. They don’t care. It’s always been magic to them. Undoubtedly, the tech magicians can fix it. See also – encryption backdoors, but I digress.)

What they don’t realize is how much of the Internet is user-generated. This blog is, and most of your favorite websites are. There’s a hosting company somewhere that runs the server that houses those websites. They provide the platform. They might have to go to court and prove they aren’t liable for what I post on my site.

Heck, WordPress provides the tools I need to do it. Are they liable for what I say? If I post the link to X, will Elon have to prove he’s not liable?

If your local online news source runs an opinion piece that slanders someone, is the company hosting the website liable, or just the editors who posted it?

When Mike talks about this being a gun to the internet’s head, that’s what he’s talking about. How many companies that provide hosting or build platforms for other people to communicate can’t afford to defend themselves every time someone posts something that results in litigation? Many will be forced to shut down due to the risk. Many will be targeted specifically in the hope that they will have to shut down.

When that happens, more and more voices will be silenced online. Only the rich can afford to build their platforms and keep lawyers around to defend themselves. Google and Meta will be OK. The rest of us will no longer have any outlets for ourselves. Our opportunities to communicate online with each other will be limited to what Big Tech says we can do.

It’s hard not to assume that is the goal, though.

I depend on several services to host this site, write this blog, and send newsletters, and I do so to share what I learn. However, I can’t afford to build and maintain all of those services if the platforms go away due to the increased legal risks. How many other voices would disappear from the open internet? Is that what we want?

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