This quote really sums up how ridiculous Google is being:
> What Google is asking of Podcast Addict would be comparable to Google asking a web browser app to remove references to all the websites and social media posts that reference the coronavirus unless the reference comes from an official government entity or public health organization.
Of course that's assuming that they don't get the same play store treatment from GOOG
It's a little too ironic that Goggle, who has countless times made the argument that they aren't responsible/liable for what their users do on a service ("honestly senator its just a platform we provide"), and then here they are the ones calling for some downstream accountability. Not that I agree at all with the logic- you may as well say that a bank is responsible(liable) for the use of any money they lend out ;} -- but its the hypocrisy that stinks to high heaven here!
F-Droid only lists FOSS software, but Google sorely needs competition. Unfortunately, any alternative store is unlikely to succeed since the users only have incentive to use it when Google misbehaves, so all Google has to do is misbehave rarely enough to kill the alternatives off.
Call this an oversimplification of a nuanced issue if you want. Because it is. I’m not shying from it. Just doesn’t seem all that much different from the amount of nuance that goes into and subsequently comes out of the kinds of flame wars commonly immolating this topic anyway.
This is just opinion though, I wouldn’t encourage anyone try to unearth anything objective out of it beyond what pleasantry is warranted for such idle (and wholly inane) thought.
I tend to think that it contributed to Trump's election, because it has the effect of creating massive polarization.
You can't segregate sites by viewpoint and thought filter everything in favor of one side or the other and expect it not to devolve into extremist conflict.
But the people doing this didn't want to admit that they caused the problem to begin with, so instead they double down.
Before them, politics was still very cutthroat but not polarized along party lines.
That was certainly a thing that happened, but as far as I know Rupert Murdoch never got Gore Vidal blacklisted by book publishers or whatever.
It's one thing to say your piece, something else to stop the other guy saying theirs.
Have to say — Murdoch has been remarkably influential as a massive negative impact on humanity
Except usually a web browser doesn't include a index of sites, You go to a another site (Google/Bing) for that. If a browser does include "recommended sites" the landing pages of those sites best keep to Google's and Apples rules. For an extreme example, If Firefox was promoting PornHub on the new tab page we could understand why Google or Apple would tell them to cut it out, but it doesn't stop you from visiting the site.
I'm not saying I agree with what Google have done here (IMO they should re-instate Podcast Addict), Just that I can see why Google could think "recommended podcasts" and podcast indexes come under the "included content" of an app.
EDIT: As others has said here, It's more like Google banning YouTube because it contains video's about covid 19 which don't come from "approved sources" (Though Google did demonetize people for talking about it and de-rank non "approved sources")
> Except usually a web browser doesn't include a index of sites, You go to a another site (Google/Bing) for that.
OK then, it is like asking a search/video/advertising company to remove all such references from its search, and hosted videos, and other properties, and banning their apps & services until they do.
I don't see the youtube app being banned for all the C19 rubbish they are currently hosting and indexing. Or the Google news app for the C19 rubish it is indexing and actively pushing to some people (depending on what the relevant sacred algorithm, hallowed be its name, decides who should see).
What they appear to be expecting Podcast Addict to do is exactly what they themselves have said they can't do. Either it is not possible (this is the case IMO) in which case it is not fair to expect it of PcA, or it is possible and Google are hypocrites of the highest order in this matter.
EDIT: after reading the rest of TFA...
Even worse "additionally, Google isn’t applying these same rules to its own podcast app – Google Podcasts" - we don't even need to argue service equivalence to show that as hypocritical.
Of course this is most likely to be an undesirable side effect of some automated system. I'll give Google that benefit of the doubt if they reinstate PcA immediately and apologise for their cock-up.
Why? It's not as if no one in Google knew that this would happen. I don't think Grace Hopper's 'Better to ask forgiveness than permission' applies here. Google knew what they were doing when they instituted the rule and their behaviour suggests malice aforethought.
It's beyond fucked up what Google is doing.
You also get to see just how low the lowest common denominator of society is for the default recommendations.
I want a tool to work without having to sift through hundreds and hundreds of videos and try to guess which one caused the drift into crazy town.
"The only winning move is not to play."
I now live in the Subscription section, and it's great!
In my case, I once made the bad decision to watch a Jordan Peterson video. By itself it wasn't crazy, he was mildly provocative, a little paternalistic, not my cup of tea. But geez, the trash that then ended up appearing in the side bar after that was awful. I find that if I watch some "bad" videos, I have to spend a fair amount of time culling shit out of the subsequent recommendations.
Another way to keep your feed from being polluted is simply to create "garbage user" that you toggle to if you want to view potentially garbage content.
What I really wish youtube did was to allow users to filter out videos that contain keywords we choose, like twitter's somewhat effective "muted words" list.
It isn't just "sketchy" videos. Someone linked me to a video of a dog being rescued, which I watched on my logged-in profile, and it was fine and all, but explaining to YouTube that that doesn't mean I'm interested in hearing about every dog ever rescued (since I didn't know about the 'delete from history' trick) has been a lot of "Never show me videos from this channel" button pushed.
On the other Hand people like Dr. Erickson get censored, because they simply dare to question the lock down and argue that there is no evidence supporting it's effectiveness in saving lives.
Erickson, among other things, makes provably false statements about the prevalence and mortality of covid19. You’re allowed to be misinformed as a private citizen; you’re not allowed to grandstand in public as a physician and spread misinformation. He’s lucky he only got deplatformed, rather than have his license taken.
You make it sound like he was expressing an unpopular interpretation of the data, rather than actively spreading untrue assertions.
For all I know Erickson is saying no one died of Covid or something that ridiculous/obviously false, but labelling statements as misinformation and censoring them instead of retracting endorsements and getting others to realize those statements are false is an aggressive seize of power by authorities over what is or isn’t true.
I realize authoritative knowledge is necessary; not everyone has the time or ability to parse through medical information and come to reasonable conclusions.
But authoritative bodies should have to earn their authority from the public, not use censorious platforms to assert it. The fundamental problem we’re running into now with misinformation is a lack of trust, not a lack of information. Forcing people to listen to sources they don’t trust and blocking sources they do trust will make the situation worse.
If people trust a crackpot more than they trust an established authoritative body, that authoritative body should take a real hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why that’s the case.
Not saying there is a logical equivalency here, but this type of thinking is exactly why free speech is important, not why it’s dangerous.
No harm in spreading lies and absurd conspiracies, right?
Additionally, no harm? Movies encourage terrible behavior as well, but we are not trying to ban them on Netflix. If there is a movie where they glamorize alcohol or unprotected sex, there is no effort to have them removed from streaming platforms.
At one point, saying the world was round would have been an absurd conspiracy. Just because something appears and most likely is inaccurate, doesn't mean that we should have a central fact checking authority. That is some 1984 stuff right there. People can make choices for themselves and do their own research. There is no law preventing people like Sandra Bullock from telling people that baby foreskin is good for their skin, even though most people would know that is disgusting.
OP’s point stands without modification.
I don't agree with Googles decision (I strongly disagree with it). Just stating that under the letter of the law (of the app stores policies) I can see why app stores feel they have the power to govern the search results in such apps (iirc web browsers have a exception to the clause - /me goes to double check Googles policy on web browsers - brb)
EDIT: With a quick 5 min glance at the policy it looks like Google have been extremely heavy handed because "Any apps referencing COVID-19, or related terms, in any form in their metadata will only be approved for distribution in the Play Store if they are published, commissioned or authorised by one of these entities." But podcasts in their search couldn't be in their play store meta data. (Still digging)
Nothing in the metadata. Pure evil.
I say this because I remember the days before Apple’s Podcast directory when it was often easier to Google and listen in your browser or copy it on to a music player via drag and drop than it was to remember to launch an app that would do the downloading for you. (Partly because you still had to remember to connect and/or sync the player, and worry about disk space etc.) Nowadays, subscribing and listening via phone is so easy that I probably download 100x the shows I used to and barely listen to 5%. These days I use the apps as sources of possible content to listen to, but I would be really annoyed if some of the content disappeared with no warning, particularly if it was one daily/weekly episode that covered COVID.
It was more that Podcast app's come with a curated list of podcasts and a search feature backed into the application then the actual hosting of the content.
You mean sites like the BBC? That's where all the COVID-19 related content I have listened to with Podcast Addict came from. Is the BBC supposed to kowtow to Google's self serving rules and propaganda?
* Podcast Addict offers auto skip intro seconds, auto skip outro seconds -- and the seconds setting is per podcast
* P.A. offers "stop after episode" if the sleep timer is active, and also allows not marking the episode as played if that "artificial stop" is active
* in Antenna Pod, "delete and remove from queue" does not clear it from the now playing bar
* the "auto download" appears to be opt-in, not opt-out, meaning one must set it for all 85 podcasts
* the bamboo menu doesn't include "delete" for an episode
* and a few more UI nits that bugged me
This isn't a rant, but rather an observation that the Podcast Addict developer wakes up every day thinking about how to make P.A. better, and that doesn't seem to be true for Antenna Pod
> What Google is asking of Podcast Addict would be comparable to Google asking Google to remove all references to the websites and social media posts that reference the coronavirus unless the reference comes from an official government entity or public health organization.
Now is the perfect time to get more censorship in place, be it for commercial or policial reasons.
We need to go back to the web, where anybody could install Apache and off they went. Bandwidth is cheap now. BitTorrent exists.
I hope google and twitter and Facebook and all the rest just hurry up with all this.
Some other ridiculous examples of them becoming the ministry of truth:
There was a joke image going around on Facebook saying: “Arizona beaches packed during coronavirus!”. A joke about Arizona not having any beaches because it’s a desert. Facebook censors this and gives you some creepy warning before your allowed to see it.
Or how about: there is a doctor from the university of Minnesota who is running a large scale, international, placebo controlled RCT for a potential covid prophylactic. Twitter is censoring his links to find out more about the study. HE IS A DOCTOR RUNNING A STUDY AT A MAJOR UNI, and twitter is telling him he is misinformation.
It’s all just disgusting and is exactly what a lot of people feared would happen with these companies.
Much more often (as here), these companies are 1) making decisions in a way that allows them to abstract away and thus ignore the nuances of individual cases 2) putting the burden of implementation on underpaid workers who are not equipped to make these decisions and 3) reacting to any noticeable pushback by moving 200% in the opposite directions.
Locating the problem in Political motivations overlooks the economic incentives that monopolies have to 1) lobby/appease the people in power 2) use political opportunity to squelch competition and 3) treat their workers as disposable commodities.
What about things like google search suggestions being manipulated to hide unfavorable suggestions, but only for certain candidates? I remember seeing this happening real time after trying it one day per a reddit post and then a few days later per another reddit post that such suggestions had stopped showing.
The invention of the tools may have been orchestrated well outside of political leanings, but once invented and handed over for employees to use their application has follow political leanings.
It becomes progressively more inconvenient once some of those people with complaints can subpoena you or fine you millions of dollars or exclude you from large markets.
So your next best option is hamfisted moderation.
Tuning things costs money and time, it's generally easier to just shoot the moon on either false negatives or false positives.
 and given conflicting preferences from different powerful groups, is arguably impossible anyway
Or, "I tend to go with philosophers from Voltaire to Mill to Popper who say the only solution is to let everybody have their say and then try to figure it out in the marketplace of ideas. But none of those luminaries had to deal with online comment sections."
EDIT: I should add, Podcast Addict is my go-to. I get how this can happen, but this is all really annoying and I feel for Xavier Guillemane and all the other users. Here's hoping the massive press blitz on this gets a quick reversal in this case, and Google finds a way to prevent it for apps with less visibility. Maybe we can enforce tuning by getting as upset as possible at the false positives.
The best part is that they let actual fake news and misinformation run amok on their platforms.
From your mouth to God's ears friend. I can't tell you enough how maddening it is to observe the way technology has evolved since the time I first encountered the net in 1998. My vision of the future was and remains a server in every home, powerful enough to handle all your digital communication/entertainment needs. Everyone with their website and domain, email etc. What a world that would have been! Well so much for that. All we did was bring back the AOL model in a different skin. The AOL guys must be so mad now, they were just too ahead of their time!
Google could write a public blog post saying "We've sacked all our internal moderators and censors, so if you have any complaints about something being unfairly deleted, or not deleted, then vote for a better government next time."
We could then watch the rhetorical gymnastics of some governments saying that of course it would be a terrible infringement of human rights to have a government decide what people can watch and say online, without any sort of due process, not to mention the terrible mental health effects on government workers having to review all the potentially harmful content.
the ISPs are a concern. these can turn into an even more dangerous monopoly. can there be a new internet? home antennas? or maybe a way to somehow remove ISPs from the equation. a free flow.
: https://yggdrasil-network.github.io/ and
Is there even any evidence that this app was banned because they "don't like" it? I mean, come on. This surely got flagged by an automatic system that thought it was a covid app. Google and Apple and social media and basically everywhere are absolutely flooded with apps and content designed to scam people by using fear of the pandemic. The need for a heavy hand to prevent this is real.
The world you want where people are free to talk about covid on every forum is a world where everyone's terrified grandparents are being scammed out of their savings. Scams like that were literally front page news on this very site not 15 hours ago!
Now... if they don't reinstate the app, then there's an argument. But I think the direction of the cuts made by Occam's Razor are really clear in this case: this is a false positive from a scam detector.
If we treat Android, Window, Twitter, Facebook, as public spaces/goods, then private companies should not have a say in what is allowed/not-allowed on their platforms. This is work for the courts and police to decide and enforce.
If we treat those platforms as private. Then we are playing in s/o's backyard. You are totally at their mercy. They have every right to kick you out if they don't like your face. It's their property. You are a guest.
I think we need constituted digital public spaces and platforms with:
- democratic footing (users are in charge)
- public ownership
- division of power (politicians =!= judges =!= police)
- effective policing
In such a system it would be for independent courts to decide which Apps can be distributed
and which not. Those courts would be bound to a constitution/body of law, which applies to all parties a like.
Yes, this will be expensive. Yes, you will have to give up some privacy.
But you will be a citizen in a society, and not a stranger playing in a backyard.
Maybe the current platforms can be coerced into a system which approximates the above.
But I have my doubts.
I hope in 200years people will have figured this out, and will look back to this age as the digital dark ages.
In the EU you don't need to filter pornography the same way as in the US. In the US you don't need to filter personal information (eg individuals' faces) the same way as in the EU.
Or does Google need to ban insults of the Thai king?
Which legislation should apply? Already now China has split the global internet in a China and non-China part...
Every nation should have the right to impose whatever restrictions it sees fit on companies wanting to distribute content to that nation.
Is it a pain to do this for the content distributor? Of course! But national sovereignty is far too important to be traded for ease of content distribution.
Of course, there is a problem (which some may consider a benefit) with the design of the Internet itself: there is no easy way to define what it means to distribute content to a particular country. But probably using national IP blocks is going to generally be good enough for many use cases.
However in reality the company acts conservitively and bans content that violates in Thailand for the US. "it's their platform". That's the same case as in the US. (See the article earlier talking about the CCP protest comments on youtube.)
Even more in reality than your example, YouTube is censoring content the US or China or maybe Russia doesn't like everywhere, and it is not censoring content that Thailand or Uzbekistan or wherever else doesn't like even in those countries.
But if the US were to impose a no-censorship policy on YouTube (or at least a no-censorship-except-our-censorship policy), you would probably see some fragmentation to appease both the US and Chinese governments. And if a few dozen other countries did the same, with true force behind their decisions, you would either see YouTube retreating from those countries (perhaps opening the way for local alternatives), or many more YouTube front faces. Either way, there may be some advantages compared to the current system.
They don’t have to, they choose to, in the name of growth.
If New York Times decided to operate in China too, deliver news in chinese about China, they would have the same problem.
If this problem is not addressed, the internet may well segregate along national boundaries (just as you describe).
Public ownership does not solve censorship. See: the CCP.
Effective policing does not solve censorship. The police will be tools of whoever and whatever is funding them.
The only way to combat censorship is through decentralised and distributed platforms that are made publicly immune to takedowns, censorship, and prosecution.
It astounds me that people are happy to accept that free speech in the US only applies in public spaces, while handing over control of the best places for spreading information to private companies. What's the point in that? "Free speech only applies to public space! Private companies can censor who they want! proceeds to make sure the information superhighway is entirely owned and controlled by private companies".
But public control doesn't work either. We've already seen government around the world censoring information in the "public interest".
Decentralisation, and distributism are the only ways.
That's why everything has to go decentralized, encrypted, headless, and amorphous. The endpoint should be the end of platforms in favor of protocols and interfaces to those protocols.
Get to work.
Yes, they can win. The problem isn't that you're "too loose" or "too strict". The problem is that you have different users with different views of whether the same things is acceptable. You win by restricting your user base to people who agree on what should and shouldn't be allowed.
The whole point of 230 was to answer that: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider".
Some courts had said that filtering makes the provider a publisher and liable for the content. Congress passed 230 to reverse that.
> No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
To be more clear, Google and other web publishers already enjoy immunity for content posted by other users and services. That is the default state of things under American law.
What section 230 does is preserve their immunity even if they exercise editorial discretion over some of the content that other users/services post. Without section 230, they would still have immunity. But they'd lose it as soon as they did any moderation at all of user-provided content.
Section 230 did not preserve any rights at all, it created entirely new ones. Companies were previously able to enjoy common carrier immunities, if they behaved like common carriers. Section 230 granted them those immunities without giving them the obligation to behave like common carriers.
It's hard to argue that the legislature in 1996 were imaging the future we would have in 2020 where the vast majority of content is controlled by such a small collection of companies, and where those companies often operate a lot like a cartel when it comes to moderation of that content. Section 230 is really the only example we have of common carrier immunities being granted to non-common carriers. The reason you don't see that more often is because it creates exactly this set of problems. It's clear that section 230 has had impact far beyond the scope of the 1996 legislation, the world has changed significantly since then, and those problems really should be addressed.
Like any other regulation, it harms small businesses disproportionately to the costs it imposes on large ones. There are plenty of examples of regulations that are appropriate to apply to large businesses, but much less appropriate to apply to small ones. Luckily, this incredibly old problem has been solved many times over through the idea of having regulations apply to companies after they reach a certain size. There is little harm to society in allowing small content distributors full editorial control over their distribution channels. There is significant harm to society in allowing that same level of control to entities which control an enormous majority of modern content distribution.
This trope that "the internet wouldn't exist without Section 230" is just an overused excuse that people peddle out to distract from the fact that regardless of how important it was in 1996, as the internet has changed, this law is now responsible for an entirely new category of very serious problems, that really weren't envisioned at the time it was written. It also ignores the fact that these problems can be easily fixed without removing the elements of it which have been beneficial to the growth of online services.
> Section 230 did not preserve any rights at all, it created entirely new ones. Companies were previously able to enjoy common carrier immunities, if they behaved like common carriers. Section 230 granted them those immunities without giving them the obligation to behave like common carriers.
It's kind of funny for you to open with "this is not true" and then go on to agree with everything I said. What part did you think wasn't true?
I said that in the world without section 230, you start with immunity from responsibility for content provided by other parties, and you lose that immunity if you moderate those other parties' content.
Whereas, in the world with section 230, you start with immunity from responsibility for content provided by other parties, and you keep that immunity if you moderate those other parties' content.
On the other hand, you've provided the counterpoint that everything I said is absolutely correct, and I should be ashamed of putting out such ridiculous misinformation.
You are trying to disagree as strongly as you possibly can -- despite the fact that you agree with me in full. What's going on?
By selectively funding the development of information they favor, YouTube or app stores could be considered in part responsible for the creation of that information, in which case that section would not protect them, because they would then be the information content provider, not merely a provider of an interactive computer service.
Aside from the details of 230, I would think long and hard about the unintended side effects of what you’re proposing. Attempts to control what Google and similar can and cannot moderate either results in Google having no moderation power at all (a disaster for the entire internet), or gives the government the power to decide what and what is not protected from Google’s moderation (which is contrary to the point of this exercise).
> the Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse
> to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services
The law was not intended to protect a near-monopoly throwing its weight around in the political arena, or a duopoly blocking competition with their own apps.
And if that interpretation did somehow give the government the power to decide what is and what is not protected, that would still be an improvement over the present situation, because the government at least answers to the people and the Constitution, and right now nothing is protected.
You are creating a test for platform vs. publisher that is not in the law. The law as linked does not even prohibit the censorship of political opinions, and in fact states that internet service providers may block constitutionally protected speech. It may be intended to free the Internet up for political discourse, but that doesn’t mean we get to totally ignore the text of the law and make up what we think it should be doing.
> The law was not intended to protect a near monopoly throwing its weight around
It wasn’t intended to do that, but that’s what it does. You don’t get to ignore the text of the law because you think it’s not acting the way you want it to. Legal systems work off the text of the laws, not what you think they should be doing.
Also, there are damn good reasons why I advise caution in these areas; unintended consequences are the norm and not the exception here. Section 230 wasn’t designed to protect monopolies, why do you think that trying to make Google “fair” wouldn’t have other unintended consequences?
Besides, if your problem with Google is that they’re a monopoly, why not use anti-monopoly laws? You can target Google specifically with those without the risk of putting all internet speech under the jurisdiction of the courts.
> And if that interpretation did somehow give the government the power to decide what is and what is not protected, that would still be an improvement
It might feel cathartic to use the power of government to force Google to do what you feel is expedient right now, but it’s something we’ll all come to regret. Understand that the nature of democracies is that people you disagree with will one day wield power, giving them the ability to control speech on the Internet is not a wise long term strategy.
There's a clear distinction between "publisher" (information content provider) and "platform" (interactive computer service) in the law. But the law provides no test for which category a particular entity falls into, so we have to provide this. No one is claiming that the proposed test is the current test, just that it's a good test, consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the law.
> That doesn’t mean you get to change what the law does on your own
Of course I don't. But the courts do, and when they do so, they consider the legislature's intent. If an interpretation is consistent with both the wording and intent, even if it isn't the original interpretation, it's possible to convince judges to adopt it.
> It might feel cathartic to use the power of government to force Google to do what you feel is expedient right now, but it’s something you’ll come to regret.
That sounds like fear mongering. If we can trust the US government to do anything, its to respect the first amendment. And if the day comes when we can no longer trust the US government to respect the first amendment, then this discussion is pointless, because at that point we'll have lost all freedoms.
But it's clear now that we cannot trust Google to respect freedom of speech. Of the two, in this narrow case, the government is more trustworthy than Google.
> The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.
These two combined mean that you cannot find a way to consider Google to be a publisher under section 230. If they meet the definition of an Interactive Computer Service, then they cannot be a publisher under 230.
> But the courts do.
The courts have not weighed in on this aspect of Section 230, but they taken a very expansive view of the level of immunity that it grants. Particularly interesting here would be Blumenthal vs. Drudge, which granted AOL Section 230 immunity even though the content in question was written by AOL’s contractor, which is probably closer to the line than moderation.
Outside the courts, the general legal consensus is that Section 230 does not require impartiality or neutrality at all, based on both the text of the law and the congressional record around when it was passed.
> That sounds like fear mongering. If we can trust the US government to do anything, its to respect the first amendment.
Or, you know, it’s in line with the past few centuries of liberal democratic tradition to limit the power of the government in the area of free speech. The point of the 1st amendment is explicitly to get the government out of the business of deciding what is and is not acceptable speech. You would put it back into that process.
Also, you probably shouldn’t trust the government too openly here. Ever heard the phrase “shout fire in a crowded theater”? It comes from a supreme court case that jailed somebody for protesting WW1 (Schenck v. United States). That bad precedent stood for 50 years. Just saying.
Of course, there are so, so, so many practical problems with just saying “Google cannot block anything that’s protected speech.” Pornography is protected, violent videos are protected, hate speech is protected. Much of the internet becomes completely inoperable if you set the bar at protected speech; surely we’ve all seen enough poorly moderated forums to predict that.
It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Google can block “obscene” speech but not political speech. But where is that line? And who do you trust to have permanent, hegemonic power to decide what is and is not offensive for the entire Internet? Remember that we got into this mess partly because one group of people decided that another group of people’s political opinions were offensive; do not assume that they wouldn’t use the power of the government to suppress each other given the opportunity.
Note the word "another" in "another information content provider". The law plainly doesn't protect them for content they are responsible (even only in part) for creating, and by paying for some content and not other content, they're taking an active hand in choosing what content is created. In other words, they are, in part, responsible for the creation of that content.
> where is that line?
That's a question to be answered by democracy, not in a corporate board room.
And private control of the means of communication has never been unrestricted. Surely you're familiar with the regulations that once governed the television networks.
There is case law to the contrary. AOL was granted 230 immunity when the issue at hand was about what a contractor of theirs said.
> That’s a question to be answered by democracy, not in a corporate board room
Or we could encourage a proliferation of choices on the internet, rather than handing whichever party is in power the right to suppress the speech of the other.
I'm talking about preventing Google from exercising that power, not giving that power to the government. No one is proposing to repeal the first amendment.
I'm very much in favor of a proliferation of choices on the internet, but we don't really have that at the moment, and we need regulations that cover the situation we actually find ourselves in, not the ideal situation.
And even if you strip Google’s immunity from civil damages away, you are handing power over all internet speech over to the courts and anyone with enough time and money to use them. From a citizens perspective there is very little difference between censorship via the first or third branch of the government; both represent the erosion of the first amendment.
But since you brought up the limited number of choices, I would like to mention that we find ourselves in that situation again today in the smartphone and online video markets, although for different reasons. And that's relevant because regulation is only necessary when the free market fails to provide the choices and freedoms we expect.
: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230 (Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material)
What's the constitutional argument against the current legislation of the CDA?
I don't think people realize how ridiculous they sound when they reach this far just to get Google to do whatever the user wants with Google's service. It's a very millennial/zoomer/i-only-know-life-since-Google-has-existed point of view. It implies that people don't think they can fairly live a human existence without using Google (which is the truly disturbing thing about all this).
I mean, jesus. Nobody has forced you to use any of Google's services, you literally do not need to use any of their services at all. And there are alternate service providers. We didn't even go this far with Ma Bell, an actual monopoly.
If this is about "boo hoo I can't make money off of their platform", why not the same complaint about literally any other business? It's a much more reasonable thing to fight for, say, right to repair, than right-to-make-an-app-that-will-be-published-no-matter-what-by-Google.
At the moment, the best comparison I can come up with is food trucks. Say you own a giant empty lot. You offer it to food trucks to come and sell their food in your lot. It's a big success. You make money, the food trucks make money. Then one day, you want to kick out a food truck, for whatever reason. And they say, this is so unfair. We should form a government committee to manage this parking lot because the owner of the lot won't let me sell hotdogs here anymore. Even though they could just, you know, do what they do somewhere else, and still make basically the same living.
"Users" is a tricky word here.
When you have democracy, and you say "users are in charge", what you really mean is "whatever group of users can get a majority is in charge".
What it perhaps sounds like you're saying, which isn't true under democracy but is desirable, is "individual users are in charge", i.e. you are in charge of your own data and content.
Should Apple/Google be forced to carry pornographic apps? White supremacists apps? Apps that invade people’s privacy? Which government should hold this responsibility? Should we have an international committee deciding this?
It's so transparent; any time there's some crisis, whether it's terrorism or guns or drugs or a pandemic, there are always people calling for us to ignore the actual issues of our system and ram some "fix" through because this time, no seriously, this time it's life or death and we have to act.
I'm largely agreeing with you. My only point is that we shouldn't allow courts and corporations to become politicized.
Our bandwidth for holding government accountable is so limited as to be useless. Consider the federal gov't, since I think it's what you're mostly talking about anyway. We get to vote for
* 1x Presidential primary every 4 years, from a field of, let's say, 8 to be generous: 3 bits
* 1x President every 4 years, from a field of 4 at best: 2 bits
* 2x Senator primary every 6 years. Let's again say a field of 8: 3 bits
* 2x Senator every 6 years. Let's again say a field of 4: 2 bits
* 1x Representative primary every 2 years. Again, very generous field of 8: 3 bits
* 1x Representative every 2 years, field of 4: 2 bits
That gives us 5.4 bits/year of bandwidth to actually hold our elected officials accountable. Yes, we can write letters and stuff, but that doesn't really allow us to hold them accountable. 5.4 bits in a year is nowhere near enough to express our feelings on the myriad of topics that the government is fiddling with, so we have effectively zero control over those things.
Compare that with private sector. Even for entities like Google, we've got huge latitude to vote with our feet. We can use DuckDuckGo, etc. Our choices as consumers provides a comparatively enormous bandwidth.
Public protests/rallies/marches do bring about change in government/government policies. Many politicians do care about their public image, and are susceptible to manipulation based on public pressure.
>Compare that with private sector. Even for entities like Google, we've got huge latitude to vote with our feet. We can use DuckDuckGo, etc. Our choices as consumers provides a comparatively enormous bandwidth.
Okay, so agreeing with you for the sake of argument - they provide a bandwidth, in theory, but what is the pointif nobody actually uses it? It is "effectively" zero accountability. No mass exodus from Google/Apple/Microsoft/Facebook/Twitter/Whatsapp/TikTok/insert bad company/...
A) I must vote for the Democrat candidate because the Republicans are evil and they'll subjugate women and minorities.
B) I must vote for the Republicans because the Democrats are evil and they'll turn us into a bunch of commies.
There is no room in today's political debate for even mention of finer points of free speech philosophy, when all we can do is scare people into voting for the lesser evil.
Many politicians do care about their public image, and are susceptible to manipulation based on public pressure.
And this is no less true in the private sector.
Well, of course there are nuances to anything, but CEOs are not elected by the public. They don't have "opponent" CEOs trying to milk their scandals in public ads for getting a job. Its different. Anyway, this conversation has totally gone off topic ! We'll just have to agree to disagree on some things, although I suspect we have more points that we agree on than not.
Great, that's two options. Maybe there's half of another.
The government regulation that might be called for in situations like this is regulation that puts a few limits on corporate control of massive platforms, not regulation that just transfers that control to other entities. Make locking down platforms too tightly illegal: relax laws about reverse engineering, mandate side-loading. I don't think we need to take away Google or Apple's rights to say what they will and won't sell in their own digital storefronts, but I don't think those rights should necessarily extend to control over what users install on their own devices. The problem is when those are the only legal storefront (e.g., Apple's iOS App Store), or other storefronts are highly undiscoverable.
Google is a publicly listed company. Members of the public, either directly or indirectly partially own Google. Google has a duty towards its shareholders. Isn't that some accountability?
I know that not everyone owns Google stock. But I'm guessing hundreds of thousands of people do.
How “accountable” are judges with lifetime appointments?
Google is accountable. If they don’t give people what they want, people don’t give them money directly or indirectly.
In practice it's a little murkier than that, but the way you presented it makes it sound like the system is just stacked to the benefit of the smaller states over the larger, when that is not the case.
So let’s say this mythical law is passed where you give the government more power over private business. The actual execution of the law is going to be carried out by unelected regulatory agencies where your main recourse is unelected judges.
We have a general principle of due process and contract law that can be applied here in insisting that "massive corporations" play nice. Reigning in "massive corporations" doesn't require any new governmental powers.
I'm saying this as someone who leans libertarian but I don't think that is in conflict with the concepts of due process and reasonable contracts. The Devil is always in the details but it isn't an either/or choice.
At various times, HN users want the government to decide what gets sold in Apple and Google’s stores and decide what Amazon can and can’t sell. I’ve even seen that they want the government to intervene when it comes to how the game console makers operate. I guess if it were up to them Nintendo should be forced to sell “Debbie Does Dallas” next to “Animal Crossing” in their online store.
The problem is that right now the government will jail an individual and fine them many years worth of income but will not punish a corporation even a 1/100th of the penalty. Equalize that can be done by either granting or removing power from the government.
Do we stop putting people in prison if they have a child? Either we have to punish children by depriving them of a parent (potentially putting them into foster care) or we have to allow family status to be a factor in sentencing individuals (institutionalize discrimination on a protected class)?
Currently when we punish someone, little thought is given to secondary victims. I don't see why we would make an exclusion for corporations.
We already have a situation in which two companies effectively decide what can go on anyone's cellphone (sideloading is not and will not be a meaningful solution for any more than a fraction of a percent of users).
Pornography and hate speech have plenty of legal precedent. And if I'm honest, if it's legal in a given country, why shouldn't it be available?
You really think that judges with their own religious and political biases and with lifetime appointments “care about you”?
There are no clean actors here, but the difference between the judicial system and the big companies is that the judicial system has people who care about more than just profits.
The difference is that it is much easier to not be beholden to the private corporations you mentioned than the government. Private corporations don’t have the power of the state to take away my liberty, property or life.
> Private corporations don’t have the power  to take away my liberty, property or life.
No, they can only demand you come in for overtime, require you to move where they want you to, or force you to come in while sick, at the risk of taking away your job. A risk which is minor for some of us, but which is the equivalent of a threat of homelessness for others.
Edit: I guess the first two could use some labels as well, provided the labels aren't legible to parental controls or other nannyware.
My computer allows racist pornography and its the greatest invention in the history of mankind. As far as I can tell, iPhones have not lived up to that legacy.
Apple has less than 50% of the market in the US and 15% of the market worldwide. People chose to use Apple without any coercion from the government.
But back to this case, people can choose to sideload apps on Android. So what’s the problem?
I don't ask Apple for permission to visit a website on my iPhone. Why should I ask their permission to install applications? Would it be so awful if I were allowed to run my own software?
Choice is amazing. You had a choice to buy into Apple’s “walled garden” or buy an Android. You didn’t need the nanny state to make that choice for you.
The best solution would be an emergence of an Android fork and the corresponding platform, but this seems unlikely due to enormous (as in 100bn perhaps) startup capital required.
Do you propose any other constructive solutions?
Really we need a third group. Corporations aren't individual people, and the legal simplification of modeling corporations as people is problematic. Unfortunately this probably requires a constitutional amendment for the US to change.
Maybe this depends on the laws of a country. Also, IMHO either a company offers their services to everyone or to no one. There are, of course, exceptions that aren't really exceptions. Creative work in an "exception". For instance, French painter Monet was so popular that he could choose his customers.
I don't know what "s/o" means but assuming it means the operator of the platform, no, you are not at their mercy, they are at yours. Just go use another platform. If, in practical terms, there are no other platforms for the thing you want, then that's a different problem.
I feel like they're screaming at the top of their lungs asking you to not think of those things as public spaces. I am happy to try to oblige them.
I agree with you though, the inherent problem is that they are private spaces and should act like it. That means developing the ability to interoperate with other private spaces (some sort of federated protocol would be required), and not having monopolies on distribution (being able to acquire iOS apps from 3rd party channels, for instance).
By extension, if anyone is considering legislation to enforce freedom of expression on social networks, I'd propose a different track—break up the largest of the social networks (namely Facebook at this point) and force them to interoperate.
That seems a lot more practical than forcing private companies to hold up public standards of free speech.
If you want to spread an idea now, you won't walk to your local town a square and start talking on a makeshift podium. You'll post a tweet or a facebook post, or make a reddit thread.
Before section 230, there had been a couple of court cases. One held that a particular provider was not liable for anything posted on it, because it did not do any filtering or blocking at all. Another held that a different provider was liable for what users posted, because it did do some filtering and blocking.
Congress felt these outcomes were wrong, and section 230 was specifically meant to make providers not liable for user provided content, regardless of whether or not they did any filtering or blocking.
"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
Still. Even if they did take that turn. I don't think they would have stayed truly neutral.
Lot's of ways to penalize competition without banning them from your platform. A wolf is a bad shepherd.
There is no win-win scenario on policy enforcement when a company gets big enough.
If one wants to subject these corporations to regulations, than it seems one should propose regulations. Putting them under the direct purview of a government does not magically make them start working in the best interest of the people (of which nation?). Nor does it mean that they are automatically accountable; see for example the NSA if you want examples predating the current administration.
Feeling a big "NOPE" on that one.
Customers need to make it unacceptable for FAANG to act this way... Good luck on that tho.
Unfortunately, they have been very good at slowly raising the temperature so the frog (read:us) doesn't jump out of the pot.
Electric companies are mostly private. They are not allowed to cut off electricity to people/orgs that say things they don't like.
Governments should ban large platforms (>10M users) from editorial discretion.
Its sad that we are in a situation where a company can dictate what we can install on our computers/smartphones. I know we can sideload apps on android, but the majority of users doesn't care about this and just give away its freedom to really own the device in exchange for the easiest way to operate it. And every day we walk towards lesser control of our property and more dependency of those companies.
Another problem is that developers can, without notice, be locked out of their incomes for whatever reason without ways to properly appeal. Those who can, we should consider supporting the developer Xavier Guillemane on Patreon, at least until this situation gets resolved. The amount of work he put on the app, its probably his main source of income and I wouldn't like if he need to abandon the app development due to this. The lowest tier is just $1.
Can they though? Android does not make it difficult at all to install apps through stores other than their own Play Store. A quick internet search reveals that there are at least a dozen other options for users to download apps to Android phones.
I agree that a devices OS should allow alternative means to install apps, but Android has clearly done this.
The problem is, if the developer wants its software to reach the wide audience of the platform, its a obvious choice for him to use what the users perceive as the "official way" of installing software. Sure, you can offer both ways, but if your app is missing from the official store, the majority of users won't even know it exists.
IMHO we, as users and developers, have our share of the blame for problems like this one, and we should be vigilant so Android doesn't become like iOS.
If the developer is lucky enough to hit the front page of HN.
Letting internet outrage drive the support queue is oddly pragmatic.
If google’s automations are broken and they harm the world then they need to be responsible and fix them or replace them with people.
Agreed on the last part.
It could still be reversed if they feel public opinion swings the other way. That wouldn't mean it's automation gone wrong.
I doubt it'll stick.
Perhaps you haven't seen the article because it's behind an Apple News link. There's a screenshot of a message stating company policy as follows:
"Pursuant to Section 8.3 of the Developer Agreement and the Enforcement policy, apps referencing Covid-19, or related terms, in any form will only be approved for distribution on Google Play if they are published, commissioned or authorized by official government entities or public health organizations"
> Perhaps you haven't seen the article because it's behind an Apple News link. There's a screenshot of a message stating company policy as follows:
> "Pursuant to Section 8.3 of the Developer Agreement and the Enforcement policy, apps referencing Covid-19, or related terms, in any form will only be approved for distribution on Google Play if they are published, commissioned or authorized by official government entities or public health organizations"
How does their own browser not run afoul of this policy?
This entire thread is a discussion about Google's automatic tool flagging a podcast browser erroneously. If Google's response was to uphold the suspension then there would be an actual story, but they won't, and so it isn't.
But your question is of course very apt when it comes to the Google Search app or Google's own podcast app.
There used to be this idea (a good idea in my view) that building a search index is a neutral activity that does not come with any editorial responsibility for the content.
Google used to fight for that idea but unfortunately lawmakers (and I think the majority of the population) have very firmly taken the opposite view.
I think that's what's ultimately at the core of this defensive "when in doubt, ban it!" attitude that was built into automatic content filtering tools and hammered into the heads of reviewers.
There are still gaps - the most glaring one being Google Search - but I think Google has largely given up that struggle in favour of avoiding billions in fines
Unfortunately both of the above can have counter agenda (could have good intentions such as calming hoarding), even worse is that you can have kooks, active disinformation, lulz, etc. There is no good answer to this.
It's not like there wasn't any anti-scientific rubbish, hate speech and manipulation in book shops, newspapers and on TV. Entire countries used to be run by media barons (literally or effectively).
Regarding Covid specifically, I find it pretty ironic that free speech should be restricted to government officials by an oligopoly of US corporations while the head of the US government routinely spreads anti-scientific disinformation on that very subject (and on others).
But a full suspension, on a popular app, without rapid human review? That shouldn't happen.
Also, this wasn't up to the "install marked as dangerous" level. They just prevented new installs. In a situation like that, there's no need to act instantly.
Isn't the elimination of human judgement one reason we all hate bureaucracies?