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Michael Hiltzik: Trump's attack on Twitter is a complete fake

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

But FOSTA has failed to achieve its goals. Law enforcement officials have said it has made it harder for them to root out sex trafficking, because it drove perpetrators further underground, and interfered with posts aimed at warning consensual sex workers away from dangerous situations or clients.

In Congress, attacks on Section 230 or services that rely on its terms are bipartisan. For years, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been asserting that under Section 230, online services that remove conservative-leaning contents lose their status as "neutral public forums" and therefore their immunity.

Those services "should be considered to be a 'publisher or speaker' of user content if they pick and choose what gets published or spoken," Cruz wrote in 2018. (His target then was Facebook, which he complained had been "censoring or suppressing conservative speech for years.")

Cruz's take was wrong and in any event unenforceable, since any content moderation whatsoever entails picking and choosing what to allow online. Cruz is a graduate of Harvard Law School, so it's reasonable to assume that he knows he's wrong, and just as reasonable to conclude that he's merely preaching to an ideologically conservative choir .

But an attack on 230 has also come from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who in 2018 proposed a sheaf of regulations on social media aimed at stemming the tide of disinformation, including faked photos and videos, posted online.

Warner advocated making online services liable for defamation and other civil torts if they posted "deep fake" or other manipulated audio or visual content. But he acknowledged in his position paper that distinguishing between "true disinformation and legitimate satire."

 

He also recognized that "reforms to Section 230 are bound to elicit vigorous opposition, including from digital liberties groups and online technology providers."

The best approach to Section 230 is to leave it alone, but manage our expectations of what it can achieve. For the most part, legitimate online services find it in their best interest to combat material widely judged to be socially unacceptable -- hate speech, racism and sexism, and trolling. But the debate on the margins is always going to be contentious.

"We're never going to be happy with internet companies' content moderation efforts," says Goldman. "You can't ask whether one company's doing it right and another's doing it wrong. They're all 'doing it wrong,' because none of them are doing it the way I personally want them to do it. Your standards may differ from mine, at which point there's no pleasing everybody."

Online services will always be vulnerable to attacks like Cruz's or, indeed, Trump's.

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