What is Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act?
“Platforms are more or less immune from liability arising out of user-generated content.”
Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act is a legal shield of immunity and protection for Social Media Companies.
Has section 230 been amended?
No. Section 230 has not been rewritten in 24 years.
Does Section 230 protect users?
No. Blanket legal immunity for social media companies doesn’t protect individual users the way people think it does. It protects tech companies from getting sued. Translation: someone trashes your business on Facebook. The social media platform- Facebook- is not liable.
Small businesses are killed by big tech giants every day because of their inability to moderate or their decision to incorrectly moderate. Those who control the algorithm control the platform. Whoever programs the platform is the arbiter of truth in the public square.
Trump can’t shut Twitter down, but he could potentially claim that it is violating the Section 230 provisions that have made it billions of dollars. It is a safe-harbor provision that says online platforms are not responsible for the content their users generate.
Personal Bias and Internet Law: where do you draw the line?
When the person or entity deciding what the facts are has clear preferences, a political agenda, and money to make from advertising, “facts” are nothing more than opinion. The facts will always be swayed towards where the ad dollars flow and what is most profitable. Bias exists within those who script the code and determine the rules of these platforms. Fact-checkers are people. People have political bias and deep-rooted opinions and beliefs. That will always impact the definitional term of a fact and in many cases, small businesses will suffer because of it. This is much larger than politics. The future of business depends on it. The problem with “fact-checking” misinformation on social media platforms by big tech giants is that it is beholden to who the tech Gods believe are the ones telling the truth.
Google, Facebook or Twitter should not have the authority to determine what is real vs. fake and what is dangerous vs. what is helpful. This choice should be left to the platform user.
Shouldn’t social media companies be open to liability for open defamation and slander? How many businesses have been ruined because Facebook refuses to do anything re negative reviews? This gives business owners power back. They deserve that vs. a one-way street.
U.S.C. § 230, a Provision of the Communication Decency Act
How does Facebook currently censor content and what role will Trump’s social media executive order have in altering that?
Facebook currently censors content for violence and a laundry list of other items that can be found in their updated community standards document, which they have now made publicly available. Facebook states that it is currently working to reduce the spread of fake news with machine learning that “predicts what stories may be false” and by reducing the distribution of content “rated as false” by independent third-party fact-checkers. There are several problems with this.
Every human being has a level of internal bias. So, whatever the fact-checkers say is false is flagged as false. Meaning: they are engaging in fact-checking, but everyone’s views of facts are distorted by their own personal opinion. What I see as a fact may not be what you see as a fact because of the theory of internal bias. This is why it is critical for Facebook and big tech companies to decide if they are truly publishers or if they are neutral parties. You can’t be both.
The other problem is, AI often gets things wrong. Machine learning is rarely perfect; the machines are learning on the job, often at your expense. We saw this several times during the pandemic when content moderation staffing was down at Facebook and content was incorrectly flagged and taken down. It was later put back up- but we learned a powerful lesson- AI is still learning. Mistakes will be made while these machines are learning- and those mistakes will be made on you and your business until the machine gets the algorithm right.
What would happen if Section 230 went away? What limits does section 230 of the communications decency act put on libel suits with social media platforms? Can Trump revoke Section 230?
Trump’s social media executive order could impact social media platforms’ liability. Currently, social media platforms are not responsible for the content that appears on their platforms. Revising section 230 could change that.
As it currently stands, many social media platforms are immune from liability arising out of user-generated content. Gutting Section 230 could significantly change that and would remove this immunity. Social media bias lawsuits continue to fail in court- largely because of the protection and immunity offered by section 230. If it was altered, that could significantly change the trajectory of some of these cases in the future.
Preventing censorship on social media platforms
Where has Facebook wrong in its censorship trajectory?
Facebook has become one of the largest news outlets and media publishers in the world. Where have they gone wrong? They went wrong with their brand positioning. Do they put users first? Are they a publishing platform? A media platform? An advertising company? Usually, companies are transparent with their positioning from the get-go. Facebook is a company that grew very fast and acquired more power than it ever knew what to do with.
What they started out as when they first launched is not who they are today. This is a common mistake that people make: they grow too fast, and do not rebrand accordingly. Facebook started out in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room and now has the ability to interfere with major elections. It is okay to admit that your purpose or mission as a company has changed; what is not okay is to pretend it hasn’t. They have lost trust with the public after a number of data breach scandals and it has been hard to regain that ever since. It takes years to build a reputation, but only a second to destroy one.
Is it hypocritical for Facebook to ban the protests pertaining to the recent stay at home orders, all the while last year they profited off Iranian groups sharing “death to America” ads that encouraged protests in Baghdad?
This is a perfect example of why their fact-checking standards are inconsistent. Why? Because of human bias. Their guidelines consistently change and are unreliable. As a New York-based social media marketing consultant, I always tell clients that social media platforms are rented space. You must diversify your assets.
You cannot build all of your virtual “property” on one platform such as Facebook. Why? Because one change in their algorithm or one new community guideline could leave your business in shambles.
Business owners are better off creating owned content on their own platforms rather than relying solely on other people’s platforms. Remember, everything you have built on a social media platform can be ripped away from you at the drop of a hat simply because a content moderator says you violated their community standards or their AI incorrectly flags your page as spam.
How effective is Trump’s social media executive order?
Getting people to take a hard look at Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act and whether it still makes sense to uphold is a good outcome, regardless of what changes. People cannot see past their hatred for the President to realize this law makes very little sense in the social media-driven world we now live in. If someone trashes your business on Facebook today, you can’t sue Facebook. Facebook is not legally responsible, even though they are hosting that content. People deserve the right to go after the person hosting content that is defamatory, and right now, they do not have that right. This isn’t only a political issue; it is an economic one.
Social media companies can control the outcome of your business. So many small business owners have lost the fight against big tech. They have tried to sue and were unsuccessful because the companies have indemnity.
If I host a web site, and someone trashes your business on my web site, I should be responsible for that content. Someone should have the right to come after me for hosting it. As it stands now, American’s do not have that right.
The future of your business rests in the hands of social media companies who ultimately decide what is true and not true about you and your business. I urge business owners to take the power back and really think about the meaning behind this executive order, above and beyond and political party lines or divides.
How should Section 230 be changed?
The future of social media
Why should big tech platforms have an unfair business advantage and be immune from lawsuits when other businesses are not afforded this advantage? This law has not been changed in twenty-four years. Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s social media executive order, it is important that we review this policy to see if it still makes sense for the 2020 digital economy and ecosystem we live in and beyond. You can’t say on the one hand that you are not responsible for the content that appears on your platform, but on the other say here is a list of 50 reasons why we will delete your content. The law doesn’t make sense anymore in the current world we live in. The pandemic has pushed digital transformation forward at an epic pace, the legal regulations must also transform with the times. Contracts have to be revisited, and so do laws that pertain to Internet usage. Can you imagine if you changed your business contract with a client once every twenty-four years? The contract you created twenty-four years ago would no longer be relevant to where your business is at today. The same is true for social media platforms. Social media platforms play a critical role in the dissemination of news today. Transparency disclosures and disclaimers are critical as we move forward.
Social Media Executive Order Section 230 Communications Decency Act Resources:
Kris Ruby was interviewed on Fox News about Social Media Censorship and Section 230.
ABOUT KRIS RUBY
KRIS RUBY is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, an award-winning social media marketing agency based in New York. Kris Ruby has more than 12 years of experience in the social media industry. She is a sought-after digital strategist and social media marketing consultant who delivers high-impact personal branding training programs for executives. Over the past decade, Ruby has consulted with small- to large-scale businesses, including Equinox and IHG Hotels. She has led the social media strategy for Fortune 500 companies as well as private medical practices, and is a digital media strategist with 10-plus years building successful brands. Ruby creates strategic, creative, measurable targeted campaigns to achieve an organization’s strategic business-growth objectives. Ruby is also a national television commentator and political commentator. She has appeared on national TV programs over 150 times covering big tech bias, politics and social media. She is a trusted media source and frequent on-air commentator on social media, tech trends and crisis communications and frequently speaks on FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and other networks. Ruby is at the epicenter of the social media marketing world and speaks to associations leveraging social media to build a personal brand. She graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication with a major in public relations and is a founding member of The Young Entrepreneurs Council. For more information about Kris Ruby, visit https://www.krisruby.com and https://rubymediagroup.com