The Internet companies claim the First Amendment gives them a right to censor people on their platform.
The Hill’s report on the House Judiciary Committee confuses more than it reveals.
The Hill reports, “Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech.”
During the hearing, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) pressed Facebook on why it had allegedly shown content from Gateway Pundit, when content from other users had been blocked. […]
The provision has widely been seen as pivotal in allowing the growth of web companies by protecting them from frivolous lawsuits over content created by users.
But YouTube’s [head of policy, Juniper] Downs and the other executives said that they shouldn’t be held to the same standards as media companies. They said online platforms don’t edit users’ copy or make editorial judgments in the same way newspapers do.
Throughout the hearing, they stressed that social media platforms are different from publishers and shouldn’t be held to the same legal rules.
Democrats also raised their own concerns about social media, in particular claims that companies have been slow to take down users who promote conspiracy theories or hoax stories.
Raskin asked Bickert why InfoWars was still on Facebook […].
Bickert told him that Facebook had removed content from Infowars but that they “have not reached the threshold” for removal yet.[…]
“We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis — but others call fake news,” the company said last week. “We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.”
This obscures the fact that making factual claims other people disagree with (or really, quoting others who argue for the possibility), was treated by Democrats as the same thing as calling for the mass murder of Republicans!
The story doesn’t really bring out the essential issue. These internet companies aren’t held liable for the content of others. The words that people post online are not considered the company’s words. But, whenever they have to defend seemingly arbitrary removals of content, they claim a First Amendment right to do so.
As Cassandra Fairbanks helpfully explained at Gateway Pundit, “Rep. Matt Gaetz Shreds Twitter Over Censoring Conservatives, Questions If They Should Be Protected Under Section 230.”
While grilling Nick Pickles, an executive from Twitter, Rep. Gaetz noted the tension between the company claiming that they enjoy free speech rights as a speaker while also being protected from facing consequences over things that users post under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 holds that platforms like Twitter and Facebook are not liable for user submitted content so long as the information at issue is provided by a third party, as they are considered a distributor and not a publisher or the speaker.
“What I want to understand is, if you say ‘I enjoy rights under the First Amendment’ and I’m covered by Section 230 — and Section 230 itself says ‘no provider shall be considered the speaker’ — do you see the tension that creates?” Rep. Gaetz asked.
Pickles acknowledged that he did see the tension, but asserted that Congress has previously acknowledged why it is important for platforms to be able to remove content, using child pornography as an example.
The duty to purge and prosecute child pornography is not a license to invoke the First Amendment to justify arbitary censorship. These platforms claim to allow expression and they ought not defraud people by encouraging them to rely on their platforms, if they aren’t going to keep their promises.
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