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Moderating Race on Platforms

January 29, 2020 Content Moderation , Platform Regulation , Section 230

In the early fall of 2019, Ryan Williams was driving out of a garage with his wife and child when he was allegedly called a racial epithet by his white neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter. When Williams got out of his car, the neighbor called the police, and as the police arrived, Williams, like many […]

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Speech and Commerce: What Section 230 Should and Should Not Protect

September 24, 2019 Content Liability , Free Expression , Section 230 , Section 230 Series

This is the fourth blog post in a series about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. You can view the full series here. Section 230 plays an important role in allowing sites with user-generated content to operate in general–since it shields them from most liability for third-party speech–while giving them the ability to moderate […]

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Could the FCC Regulate Social Media Under Section 230? No.

August 14, 2019 Content Liability , Content Moderation , FCC , Platform Regulation , Section 230

Last week, Politico reported that the White House was considering a potential “Executive Order” (EO) to address the ongoing-yet-unproven allegations of pro-liberal, anti-conservative bias by giant Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. (To the extent that there is rigorous research by AI experts, it shows that social media sites are more likely to flag posts by self-identified African Americans as “hate speech” than identical wording used by whites.) Subsequent reports by CNN and The Verge have provided more detail. Putting the two together, it appears that the Executive Order would require the Federal Communications Commission to create regulations designed to create rules limiting the ability of digital platforms to “remove or suppress content” as well as prohibit “anticompetitive, unfair or deceptive” practices around content moderation. The EO would also require the Federal Trade Commission to somehow open a docket and take complaints (something it does not, at present, do, or have capacity to do – but I will save that hobby horse for another time) about supposed political bias claims.

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Viewpoint Diversity Requires Media Policy, Not Editorial Regulation

June 19, 2019 Platform Competition , Platform Regulation , Section 230 , Section 230 Series

Many conservatives feel that major online platforms discriminate against them. But their proposed policy solutions, which usually involve modifications to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, cannot have the effect that they want. However, policies adapted from traditional media policy might help ensure that users of all political viewpoints have the ability to freely communicate online.

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How to Go Beyond Section 230 Without Crashing the Internet

May 21, 2019 Content Liability , Free Expression , Platform Regulation , Section 230 , Section 230 Series

The previous post was about what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does, and why it does it. One theme is that Section 230 is a very broad and powerful statute. But the law can change, and given that digital platforms have a very different role in society and the economy now than they did in 1996, when the law was passed, maybe it should. This post will list some proposals that I am not necessarily endorsing, but which may be worth considering. But before that, it’s also important to realize that Section 230 has limits even under the law today.

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