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Trump signs executive order targeting protections for social media companies (axios.com)
500 points by cdolan 39 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 941 comments



The biggest takeaway, looking past the headline:

“This week a federal appeals court, ruling in a case brought by conservative activists against social media companies, affirmed that private websites are not public spaces and social media companies don't have First Amendment obligations.

Any truly strong limits to Section 230 would almost certainly require action by Congress.”


I don't think that section 230 is about First Amendment. I thought it was about whether a company can be shielded from law suit on the content published on the company's website. That is, how to classify a company as a platform or as a publisher.


First amendment is the issue as we're contemplating who should be liable for the consequences of bad speech. If FB is liable than FB is incentivized to censor risky people; if I'm liable then I might watch what I say on Yelp or Wikipedia.

Right now we have a situation where the platform owner can collect the fruits of popularity, while the platform users experience basically no-liability gossip, such as empirical claims about businesses.

Anyone who is hated broadly by the internet, whether just or unjust, would like FB to be liable no matter what is right or wrong, because holding hundreds of tiny individuals accountable for tiny wrongs over the web is a losing battle.


People have successfully pursued defamation cases for posts to Facebook and other social media platforms.

Section 230 shields Facebook from liability for these posts, not the users. And Facebook generally responds to subpoenas from a court for IP address data that can be used to identify a the user behind a libelous post...


So what if I say that your restaurant serves old chicken and gives food poisoning? What if too many users each take a tiny stab, repeating the false empirical claim they heard?


The restaurant can sue you for libel.

The restaurant can sue all of the other users for libel, and if it's a coordinated effort or the apparent facts behind each libelous act are sufficiently similar, they can get them joined into a class action imposing joint and several liability imposed on the named defendants (i.e. the few they are able to reasonably identify), meaning that it is now the named defendants' responsibility to find the other users if they want to avoid paying the full damages out of their own pockets.

Believe it or not, all of these hypothetical that techies keep bringing up on HN in this thread as if they were magical logical bullets have long been addressed by courts and/or legislators.


> Believe it or not, all of these hypothetical that techies keep bringing up on HN in this thread as if they were magical logical bullets have long been addressed by courts and/or legislators.

Are you sure you're not engaging in some magical thinking when you imagine Yelp users enjoined as a defendant class? When is the last high profile case where something like this happened?


> while the platform users experience basically no-liability gossip, such as empirical claims about businesses.

Not true. You can be sued for Libel on Twitter and Facebook [1].

https://slate.com/technology/2012/11/libel-on-twitter-you-ca...


I think the parent comment recognizes that but is saying there is "basically" no-liability because it is so impractical to sue a random internet commenters one by one.

For sure, if you are Elon Musk and you claim on your twitter account that a world renowned diver is a pedophile, you might suffer real consequences.

But if someone posts on my restaurant's yelp page a totally fabricated negative review, what are my options? Even let's say I have video or other evidence that disproves their assertion (unlikely), I will need to quantity the harm that this particular internet comment did to my business, which is in most cases nearly impossible. And all for what? A median wage worker isn't going to be able to cover my lawyers fee's (assuming I can prove malicious intent) before going into bankruptcy.

What businesses really want is to be able to sue Yelp itself for libel. They want to say: "Yelp, you didn't quality control your comments, these reviews are being fabricated. After my 5 star rating dropped to 1, my business’s income plummeted, now pay up."

I don't think it would be a good idea if our laws worked like that, but as the parent points out, the current situation is that the platforms are more or less immune to libel, and suing random internet commenters for libel makes no sense.


Its an interesting thought experiment to assess in what ways Twitter is a "private website".

It really is a public web space that is operated by a private company, but I can't help but feel that the nuances and similarities of what Twitter really is and what responsibility they truly hold in society is above the courts comprehension.


>It really is a public web space that is operated by a private company

No, it isn't, any more than a store is a public space because it has windows the public can see into. You have to sign up for a Twitter account and accept their terms of service to post on the site. It's a private platform run by a private company for its own private business interests.


> No, it isn't, any more than a store is a public space because it has windows the public can see into.

It is absolutely the case in the USA that private properties which are open to the public are regulated as "places of public accommodation" under, notably, the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. That includes privately-owned hotels, schools, restaurants, retail, and more.

You're correct that this is directly analogous to a privately-owned website that is primarily geared toward accommodating the general public (like Twitter), but it makes the opposite point of what you intended.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_accommodations_in_the_U...


I think that’s a simplistic view. No one is arguing Twitter is comparable to a store with a display window. The reality is that Tweets are broadcasted to billions of people. It’s a new reality. It’s a newspaper where anyone and everyone is authoring anything, including presidents, and with the roll of a die, the message is amplified to a multiple of the expected audience.

Twitter may technically be a private platform run by a private company, but the issue not one of semantics, it’s about ethics and morals and how we compose a society with mighty power imbalances, fortified by new tech.


>it’s about ethics and morals and how we compose a society with mighty power imbalances, fortified by new tech.

But that's not what this is really about.

This is about the President being angry that Twitter fact checked him and using executive power to create a chilling effect against any platform doing so in the future. It's about fears of a nonexistent conspiracy controlling the media becoming the basis for authoritarian laws meant to stamp out that menace - a phenomenon which never goes well, historically. It's about Americans hating "the left" so much that they'll support an obvious violation of the First Amendment as long as it silences their ideological enemies.


> This is about the President being angry that Twitter fact checked him and using executive power to create a chilling effect against any platform doing so in the future.

That is the impetus in this case, but that doesn't mean it doesn't border on questions we've been slowly grappling with for some time now, nor does it mean we have to ignore that question.

> the basis for authoritarian laws meant to stamp out that menace

I'm not sure it's authoritarian to remove their liability protections, is it? In a sense, I think it's an interesting question, if you're willing to editorialize content on behalf of your users why should you get safe-harbor protection? You clearly are willing to put the man power and technology into it, shouldn't you then be liable for content posted on your site?

> It's about Americans hating "the left" so much that they'll support an obvious violation of the First Amendment as long as it silences their ideological enemies.

What's the obvious First Amendment violation here? If you act as a conduit for certain types of speech, you're liable for that speech. We're just bringing "content neutral providers" into the same realm that everyone else already was.


>I'm not sure it's authoritarian to remove their liability protections, is it?

If the intent is to punish critics and suppress the speech of party opponents, then yes. Any authoritarian can justify their actions in abstract and general terms, but context matters.

>nor does it mean we have to ignore that question.

We don't have to ignore it, but we also don't have to accept an autocrat's temper tantrum by fiat as an answer.

>What's the obvious First Amendment violation here?

The purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent the government from infringing freedom of speech - the President is attempting to use government power to infringe freedom of speech, to do exactly what the First Amendment was created to prevent.

Granted, the First Amendment only explicitly applies to Congress, but I feel like if states can be accused of violating it (as they often were regarding quarantine and shelter-at-home orders) then the President can as well.


> If the intent is to punish critics and suppress the speech of party opponents, then yes. Any authoritarian can justify their actions in abstract and general terms, but context matters.

This is literally what Twitter has been doing. Trump's order puts an end to it.

> We don't have to ignore it, but we also don't have to accept an autocrat's temper tantrum by fiat as an answer.

Exactly why Twitter needs to be stripped of their 230 protections.

> The purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent the government from infringing freedom of speech - the President is attempting to use government power to infringe freedom of speech, to do exactly what the First Amendment was created to prevent.

This is the government upholding free speech. Twitter's policies and their selective enforcement of such run directly contrary to the underlying tenets of free speech. This holds Twitter accountable for their "un-American" practices.

Although it may be hard to see through the vitriolic debates currently raging, this will be a net win for the internet. This will encourage decentralisation in so far as there is now a soft power cap on these big tech companies.


> This is literally what Twitter has been doing. Trump's order puts an end to it.

Debatable, on both points. There have been studies[1] that show that accounts are banned, but it's not necessarily because they are conservative accounts or conservative content. In a civil or criminal case, causation must be established. In this case, the president is making it very much more expensive for certain companies to defend themselves.

This EO is more likely to hurt YouTube than Twitter because it has the ability to get the Federal Government to no longer approve grants to Google subsidiaries and for government agencies to stop advertising with them.

> to be stripped of their 203 protections.

You mean The Communications Decency Act, Section 230?

> Twitter's policies and their selective enforcement of such run directly contrary to the underlying tenets of free speech.

That's interesting. Government law enforcers and prosecutors have the ability to use prosecutorial discretion. Are you saying that the government should be able to select who they prosecute, but that private organizations should not be allowed discretion to enforce their own contracts?

If ISPs (where content in a pipe is pretty close to comparable to Common Carrier standards) can't be held up to the standards of Net Neutrality, how can social media companies (where content is much more subjective to interpret as violations of their contract)?

> this will be a net win for the internet

That remains to be seen. I can see it being another tool where the executive branch gets to unilaterally change the definition of which internet companies get protections, not leveling the playing field.

> This will encourage decentralisation in so far as there is now a soft power cap on these big tech companies.

More likely there will be some obvious "unintended consequences" similar to what happened after Trump signed the FOSTA bill in 2018[2] (hint: multiple dating sites, including Craigslist sections, closed up shop). It will very likely increase the cost of being a user-generated content host to the point that only a very select few companies would do it and they will all require arbitration clauses in the ToS to avoid extremely expensive litigation of the CDA230 rules. I expect a handful of forums and lots of news comments sections to close due to this "free speech" Executive Order.

[1] https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/platform-bias.php

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/23/596460672...


> the President is attempting to use government power to infringe freedom of speech,

thats an interestating take, considering trump is trying to stop the selective editorialization of individuals covered by the first amendment.

are we really taking twitters side of this because we hate trump so much?


So by your understanding of the First Amendment, if you had a blog with a comment section, I could come by and post spam, or troll and harass other users and you have no right to stop me?

Are you required to let me organize a protest in your front yard? Do property rights not matter anymore?


>thats an interestating take, considering trump is trying to stop the selective editorialization of individuals covered by the first amendment.

Again, the first amendment protects those individuals from being censored by the government. Twitter is not bound by the first amendment. They're allowed to editorialize content. They're allowed to curate, moderate, deplatform and ban people.

However, Twitter is also protected by the first amendment, and Trump's executive order is an attempt to erode those protections.

>are we really taking twitters side of this because we hate trump so much?

No. I believe in the right of platforms to censor content as an extension of their own freedom of speech and association, because that still leaves the internet itself free. If one objects to Twitter's behavior, one can always find a new platform or create one. However, when the government attempts to assert censorship over the entire network, that reduces freedom for everyone.


The executive order is not touching the protections of the first amendment. The courts are still to protect them for that as always.

The order regards the additional protections of section 230 which even protect twitter for content that is not protected by the first amendment. Trump is essentially trying to say if Twitter takes sides by fact-checking some tweets, then they are also responsible for all the other "facts" they allow to be posted on their platform without fact-checking. And by the way the courts are still perfectly capable of deciding in favor of twitter regarding blame for all those other posts too. Twitter just won't be shielded by a special law from such decisions.


Anyone who replies to you is guilty of selective editorialization of an individual covered by the first amendment. Except me. I'm not expressing an opinion. It seems unwise in an age like this.


Trump is the head of the government. In his role, he is attempting to control private enterprise (and failing). It is laughable that you think him a victim given that he has the full force of the federal government at his beck and call. The fact that he has cried like a child about this is embarrassing, petulant, and disgusting.


The talk is about rolling back special privileges that platforms get. Privileges that you and I don't have. If you publish something illegal then you bear the consequences. If a user on Twitter does it then Twitter doesn't bear the consequences, but the user does instead. Doesn't this mean it's the user that's expressing speech rather than Twitter?


> Privileges that you and I don't have.

You absolutely do. The same protection that applies to Twitter applies to a personal blog that allows comments, or any site that allows users to post.


> If you publish something illegal then you bear the consequences.

So let's look at today. You have a tweet from a conservative group that "concludes" that the only way forward for America is violent action, up to and including murder of political opponents. "The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat".

To me, it seems that there is a plausible argument to be made that this group is inciting violence.

And then Trump re-tweeted it, with the additional commentary, "Thanks, Cowboys of America!".

If we want to compare "consequences of speech and platforms", then on one hand we have hand-wringing about "Twitter _annotated_ a tweet with links to resources about the substance of that tweet", versus "group hints at violent oppression of political opponents, and is given the thumbs up by political leader".

I was going to say "I know which one I find more problematic", but lest someone attempt a slippery slope retort, I'll be more clear: I find only one of these actions at all problematic (and it's not annotation of tweets).


If you act as a conduit for certain types of speech, you're liable for that speech.

There's some merit to that position, but things like adding a fact check (which you might or might not agree with) do not incur any sort of civil or criminal liability. You make good points, but we should also engage with the reality that the president and his supporters are demanding a quality of representation/protection for their political views that they don't have any particular entitlement to, and for which no mechanism currently exists in law; it seems (going by the general tenor of their arguments over the last few years) like they want to bring back the 'Fairness Doctrine' that obtained for broadcast media up to the Reagan era to create some protected space for their viewpoint.


I didn't know the Fairness Doctrine was a mechanism to prevent the juxtaposition of opposing views.


> to prevent the juxtaposition of opposing views

The way I interpreted it, your parent comment was arguing the opposite of the way you framed it.

It's a long run-on sentence, but the `;` is meant to be interpreted as "start a new sentence that is related to the previous one"


I don't know what it was arguing. It seemed to be implying that the Fairness Doctrine created a protected space. Didn't it do the opposite?


> You clearly are willing to put the man power and technology into it, shouldn't you then be liable for content posted on your site?

Power and technology can't curate content to the level where you are safe from lawsuits. What you're saying is that if they are willing to do a bit of moderation they should do total moderation.


Again, this has been drafted since at least last summer and has little to do with the recent twitter news.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/28/politics/trump-twitter-social.... > consistent with a draft order whose text CNN first reported last summer


If it has little to do with the recent twitter news, why is it signed today instead of last week?


They were probably waiting for one of the social media platforms to screw up somehow.


1. That link is broken.

2. What was drafted last summer was legislation. Legislation that would likely not stand up to political or legal resistance. This is an executive order to make an end-run around all that "bureaucracy".

> has little to do with the recent twitter news.

This fails the plausibility test. This came hot on the heels of this incident, Trump _said_ it was related to this incident, and that he'd be doing this as result, and the last several years are packed with a multitude of examples of exactly that: Trump knee-jerking an angry response (words, actions, both) to those who he deems to have slighted him.


Can’t edit so here is the fixed link

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/28/politics/trump-twitter-social...

And no it wasn’t legislation it was a draft of an executive order from last summer as mentioned in this article.


Newspapers have restricted what they publish for centuries.

They don't allow libellous, defamatory, salacious or inappropriate comments for example.

So it sounds 'new tech' hasn't really changed anything.


Newspapers do that because they are liable for what they publish. Twitter is not liable for what it publishes. Why should it not be liable? The answer is because they are just providing a platform and others are publishing. But the moment they use their platform to modify and censor what people publish, then they should probably be liable, right?


I don't see why they should be.

If someone uploads their library of child porn encoded to base64 split across tons of tweets, do you want Twitter to have a choice between removing that content and continuing to operate?

We have 3 options here:

1. No moderation allowed whatsoever on a site without a court order. That obviously leads to a terrible, toxic community with lots of reprehensible content that the average person wouldn't want to participate in.

2. A good faith effort at moderation. This allows the most reprehensible, highest-impact content to be removed and allows users to participate in the moderation process.

3. No content can be published without moderation, on any site anywhere. Want to post a Facebook status? Have fun paying $20 for the privilege of waiting 48 hours for a human to review it.

All of this is irrelevant though, because this executive order is not targeted at censorship. It's targeted at a private individual who voluntarily, for free, passed on a message from one person to many other people and decided to tell them "this seems fishy, you might want to read up on it."


Twitter is actually required by law to remove child porn, not being forced to keep it up, that would be insane. This isn't a call for no moderation, it is a call for a neutral platform when companies are on the verge of monopolies. They are definitely monopolize your followers, switching platforms is not even a choice. You can work you're entire life building a channel and audience on social media site and they can take it away in a heartbeat and you don't even get a chance to let your followers know what happened, e-mail them even, let them know where they can find you going forward. That's not the worst part, the worst part is they can and do do it without any reason whatsoever, it could be just because someone at the company dislikes what you said. Again this is not about moderation, this is about companies that were built off of being a neutral platform that cannot be sued for liability, like a phone company but are now using their monopoly over your follower's information to hold over you and control what you say. If anything what really needs to be in legislation is rights to notify followers where else they can find you if you are banned or censored.


There exist many more options and law is notorious for having grey zones where the complexity of context, and intent and outcomes.

In the specific example of child porn, would removing it be protected speech and a copyrightable work? To my knowledge, no, it is not.

However telling someone "this seems fishy, you might want to read up on it.", attached to someone else copyrighted work, is to me speech. It is also a copyrightable work if its original enough. It could also be a defined as a derivative work if it includes major copyrightable elements of the original, which in this context is likely.

The difference between removing child porn and creating derivative work is one that I don't think courts will have a problem to distinguish between. Both may end up being described as moderation, but the outcome, intent and context is very different.


Why have a Supreme Court or even normal Judges if Laws are only allowed to be this binary? Why not option 4 you are allowed to censor if you give reason and the reason is in your TOS. But you are for example not allowed to Edit (Fact Check), Censor or manipulate Votes of your political opponents, or loose your libel protections.


Why should they "probably be liable"?

Twitter isn't liable for illegal content posted by their users, as long as they take it down in time and make good faith efforts to keep it from being posted in the first place. If they weren't free from liability then a service like Twitter would need heavy human moderation and be extremely expensive to operate - perhaps it wouldn't exist at all.

That's the only reason this non-liability exists. It has nothing to do with moderation or censorship. Twitter, as any other web property, have the right to curate their platform and make it pleasant for their other users. It's their personal property.


but newspapers aren't required to express support for particular political candidates or viewpoints. That can get into trouble for publishing libel, ie maliciously presenting false statements as fact, but the criteria for what constitutes libel are very narrow. A newspaper can certainly publish an opinion like 'Politician X is a fool whose proposal should be ignored.'


> But the moment they use their platform to modify and censor what people publish, then they should probably be liable, right?

They've always done some editing and removal of certain content.

In this particular case, was anything modified or censored though? It seems more like Trump had his say, and Twitter had theirs. Is Trump saying that Twitter can't also express themselves on their platform?


> But the moment they use their platform to modify and censor what people publish, then they should probably be liable, right?

There are degrees to moderation, but not to liability. This black or white approach doesn't seem appropriate. They should be liable in a degree proportional to the moderation they introduce.


Newspapers hire and pay people to write for them and exercise editorial control on everything that's published.

That's very different from, say, a public restroom where people write on the walls. The owner of the restroom is not responsible for what people write on their walls.


> Newspapers hire and pay people to write for them

Newspapers also have zero obligation to convey the words of the President, and by frequently contextualise them.


And newspapers get sued if their paid editors publish defamatory content.


And that's totally fair, because the hired the person, vouched for them, submitted them to editorial scrutiny an, still, decided to publish defamatory content.


It would be, if the owner began editorializing the content, because the point at which they get involved, they lose neutrality, and therefore Section 230 immunity protection.


> Newspapers have restricted what they publish for centuries.

Absolutely. And they don't say "we're just a platform transporting information", they restrict what they publish.

> They don't allow libellous, defamatory, salacious or inappropriate comments for example.

They do. And they get sued for it, and they can lose, see Gawker. Precisely because they are not like Twitter.


The reality is that Tweets are broadcasted to billions of people.

No, they're not. You have to visit the Twitter website or otherwise pull the data from some source to get tweets.

it’s about ethics and morals and how we compose a society with mighty power imbalances, fortified by new tech.

It's technically trivial to create your own Twitter. There are indeed plenty of competitors to Twitter. Twitter has no moral or ethical obligation to carry lies. Indeed, the opposite is true: because of their market position, they should be ethically and morally obligated to prevent lies from being spread through their platform because they have the greatest reach.


>No, they're not. You have to visit the Twitter website or otherwise pull the data from some source to get tweets.

Would you make this same argument when it comes to privacy? Technically it's your computer sending your data to Google/Facebook, therefore you are giving them permission to use your data, because you're so generously providing it to them. Technically this is true and any real privacy solution would have to address this point, but it's clearly not what is done in legislation.


I don't understand your point.

When you send your data to Google or Facebook by explicitly providing that data, you are giving them permission to use that data for purposes of providing the service for which the data is granted. This is true everywhere, even in the EU.

If you're asking whether that upload would grant Googlebook broader rights to use your data, then the answer is yes in the US because there are no laws currently restricting such use, but no in Europe because EU law says permission must be explicitly granted for other uses.


I think you're overestimating the number of users. Hardly anyone I know uses Twitter. It may be a big thing for you but it's largely irrelevant for others. It's an opt-in service


You have to pay the old telephone company and it's a lot more private communication than Twitter. Yet they had common carrier statis, which is how we should want ISPs regulated. Where twitter and friends fit simply hasn't been defined yet.


The argument falls apart at the ISP level - why does the UN consider internet a human right, but not, specifically, access to Twitter? It may seem like there's no distinction at all but it is there and it is important.


Much better examples than Twitter.

If I have the right to every website then how about password-protected ones. Do I then have the right to demand that Apple give me access to everyone's iCloud website ?


Because you need a phone to phone someone, call an ambulance or the police. You need an ISP to get to the internet.

You don't need Twitter.


That's actually kind of funny right there. Politically, internet access is being championed as a fundamental human right (I.e. being classified as a need).

Yet we still have people trying to define what activity on the Net constitutes the necessity that access is supposed to fulfill.

I understand where you're coming from though. I just wanted to point out the amusing dichotomy that stood out in my head.


Right to access the internet is much more important for allowing someone to interact with the government through their various websites and to access sources of information that allow people learn and to fully exercise their rights.

As much as Twitter is important, it's not nearly as important.


If you have followers on a twitter you have already built then it is just as important, especially if you have 20 million followers you stand to lose if twitter just decides they don't like you. For many it is your job, your livelihood, and your outlet to the world. For people and companies it may be the only way to reach out for collaboration with someone who you do not have a phone number yet and a twitter follower count is often used as a indicator that you are who you say you are, a filter of sorts. Since you can't go and meet every stranger in person elsewhere it is a requirement to have. Some people may not use twitter or only follow and never tweet but a lot of people use it as a necessity for communication, their personal well being, and businesses. Like it or not Twitter is worth billions for a reason and that reason is it provides a necessity for many that they cannot get elsewhere. The sheer size of Twitter already self-perpetuates their monopoly over that method of communication. It doesn't matter that you can go to Facebook if Twitter bans you. Take another industry for example such as TV. Disney bought Fox but was forced to sell Fox Sports because otherwise Disney would have had close to a monopoly on sports content as it already owned ESPN. Note it was not TV, it was only sports, a sub section of TV where they were deemed to have too much control. The internet monopolies just haven't had to face a determination of what is and isn't a subsection of social media but to be sure they are monopolies of public discourse.


Forget Twitter, and substitute “gmail deliverability”? Without that, you cannot run a business.


Do you need Twitter to interact with your bank? To pay your taxes? To buy groceries? Is it the only way you have to reach your family?


When my Twitter account was suspended recently after 12 years, I also lost access to my DM history, including usernames which I had not memorized.

For some of my friends, Twitter was the only contact information I had for them. I have now totally lost the ability to communicate with those friends in the midst of a global emergency, even if I make a new account (which itself would be subject to immediate termination at any time), because I don’t know their usernames.

A few of the closest ones fortunately noticed my absence without prompting, went to my profile, saw it suspended, went to my website (I presume it helped that my username, @sneakdotberlin, describes my website address), and emailed me. As for the busier or less attentive friends? No word yet. :(

You can’t export your data or do “data takeout” from a suspended account, sadly, and you can’t view your DM history either inbound or outbound.

EDIT: Also, I do need Twitter (and a high follower count) to meaningfully interact with my bank or my airline’s (or Google’s) customer service department. The 1-800-i’m-a-schnook line doesn’t seem to get things done.


> You can’t export your data or do “data takeout” from a suspended account, sadly, and you can’t view your DM history either inbound or outbound.

This is a big problem.


That example seems like something you can fix yourself by keeping offline backups of content that you need (general gd practice for all digital content).

More impactful would be access to any accounts which you only have access to with Twitter/Facebook/Google/etc federated login (like OAuth). It's very significant if you can't access your email/cloud/DNS accounts if you make a gray area ToS-violating comment/video on YouTube.


This is not only a big problem, but it seems to be in flagrant breach of GDPR regulations:

https://stiobhart.net/2020-03-18-twittergdpr/


The GDPR simply doesn’t apply to most internet users or most internet companies.


>> Forget Twitter, and substitute “gmail deliverability”? Without that, you cannot run a business.

I was going to say it's not really about access but censorship. Using gmail as an example is nice because I do appreciate their spam filtering which spammers might consider a form of censorship (lack of deliverability). And yet I'm against platforms like twitter censoring things. The spam situation quickly leads into another set of arguments with me about traceability.


I imagine this is because you haven’t been bitten by missing critical emails due to gmail’s overzealous spam filtering.

This has happened to me multiple times. Most people would likely never notice the opportunities they missed as a result of such.

I’m talking about real live false positives, on important messages from real live human beings.

Additionally, gmail spam folders even well run, nonspam, properly configured and secured mailservers AFAICT simply for not being part of the wider deliverability cartel.


That arguably changes when the President starts to use it as a primary means of communication with the citizenry.


They didn't remove his message. They merely pointed out it was misinforming the public.

Speaking of which, shouldn't we make it a crime to lie or substantially mislead the public while holding public office?


Yeah, I don't disagree with their actions in this case -- if anything, they didn't phrase it strongly enough. ("Get the facts about voting by mail," as opposed to "Caution: this Tweet is unadulterated horseshit.")

But I also think that the more Twitter is used to disintermediate political communication, the more it starts to look like a vital public utility. It's tough to say where the line will or should be drawn. I don't envy Jack Dorsey's position, that's for sure.

As far as making a law that prohibits politicians from lying to the public, I don't see a way to write a law like that without making the situation even worse.


> "Caution: this Tweet is unadulterated horseshit."

Except it's not. Trump is right here; most of the confirmed voter fraud is on mail-in and absentee ballots, despite being less used than in-person in the past decades. Switching everyone to mail-in will cause a sharp uptick in voter fraud.


I hear this from friends who are Limbaugh fans, but I'd like to see some other source. Many people on the Left seem to think this whole "voter fraud" concern is a fig leaf for denying minorities their voting rights. When I've listened and asked follow-up questions, the Left's narrative seems more plausible.


PDF of individual confirmed cases: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/docs/p...

Spot-checking and using search for counts, most are manipulation of mail-in or absentee ballots (many being a bunch of ballots by a single person), with the next highest looking like individual people voting who didn't realize they were ineligible.


These don't seem like vast criminal conspiracies. Also, if they can successfully prosecute little cases like these....what's the problem?

"Carlos Lopez and his wife, Luz Lopez, registered to vote and voted on three separate occasions (2004, 2006, and 2007) in Hartford, where they own a furniture store, while actually living in Farmington." (Fittingly, this story is included twice: once with each spouse first).

"In 2009, Lillian Cummings Stevenson agreed to a consent order after the State Elections Enforcement Commission found her guilty of illegally signing and submitting two absentee ballot request forms on behalf of her sons, who were living in Europe. She was given a $200 fine."

"James Bryant, Jr. admitted to improperly assisting voters in completing their absentee ballots in the 2005 Americus mayoral election...."


OK, now where's the .PDF of individual confirmed cases of in-person vote fraud versus vote-by-mail fraud? We can't compare fractions by their numerators, you know.

The document itself admits that it is "only a sampling," which, in the absence of further methodological detail, should raise their hairs on the back of your neck.

Nobody ever said that vote-by-mail is fraud proof, only that it's good enough. Which it indisputably is, at least as implemented here in Washington state.


> only that it's good enough

Well.. How about another case I just learned of today? 'Cause it kinda doesn't seem like we're even at "good enough":

> “Invalidate the election. Let’s do it again,” said Rev. Kenneth Clayton said amid reports more that 20 percent of all ballots were disqualified, some in connection with voter fraud allegations.

[..]

> In addition to apparent problems with the vote count in Paterson, NBC New York has shown video of ballots left out in building lobbies, of one voter handling many ballots, and reported on postal workers reporting finding hundreds of ballots at a time stuffed in mailboxes in Paterson – and even in a neighboring town, Haledon.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/politics/nj-naacp-leader-cal...


'Data' isn't the plural of 'anecdote.' What are the actual statistics? Do we even have access to statistics that haven't been cherry-picked by the Heritage Foundation, the DNC, or another interested party?

One good aspect of the vote-by-mail system we use here in WA is that the voter retains a code they can use to verify that their ballot has been counted. There is an auditable paper trail at every step that's accessible to all parties - the voter, the election officials, and the candidate. That's more than you get with many in-person voting systems, especially those involving closed-source machines made by companies with questionable ethics and engineering practices.

Yes, I'm sure it's possible to build a vote-by-mail system that is more prone to corruption than in-person voting. But the point is, it's not necessary.


My understanding is that he supported the concerns about fraud with a specific lie (maybe more than one) about how the state authorities are sending out ballots to everyone, whereas they are only sending them to registered voters.

This could, and presumably is intended to, mislead people on both sides of the political spectrum.

Assuming for the sake of argument that someone could be trying to promote a fundamental truth using lies, it doesn't make it sane to trust or acquiesce as a result of lies.

Maybe in our brave new world, disbelieving in something because it is supported with lies is an example of an ad hominem fallacy?


> Except it's not. Trump is right here; most of the confirmed voter fraud is on mail-in and absentee ballots,

Thomas Bayes is screaming in his grave, something about cancer diagnoses...

Actually I don't know if that's even true. And almost all the significant cases of any kind of election fraud aren't about ballots at all. It's stuff like voting in the wrong jurisdiction, or count fraud, or registration fraud.

Please cite me where you got the info that most election crime is from remote voting. That info doesn't exist.

What does exist is the facts in the WaPo article that twitter linked, which show that effectively zero mail-in ballot fraud is happening.


> They didn't remove his message. They merely pointed out it was misinforming the public.

Why should a private company have this power? I don't think that people who run a successful website automatically are qualified to fact check the president and insert blurbs directly in his messages. That needs to be regulated some way.


Your tone is as if they were editing his message. I don't believe they were doing that in a way that would create any confusion as to what he wrote, were they?


It doesn't matter, they didn't post a message like everyone else instead they made an official statement using their own privileged way. It is fine to do it on this message, I don't see the harm, but if this continues and people gets used to that blurb then Twitter will definitely start misusing it sooner or later. I don't think that companies should have this kind of power to influence public discourse, I might not agree with Trump but I really think that we need to limit the power big tech companies have.


Twitter already limits and controls virtually every other user, so is that a problem, and if so, why is this the trigger?


If you are using my product to harm others, I should have the right to try to minimize the damage you cause.


This tool is not regulated, they could use it to cause harm. It doesn't matter if it was used for good this one time.

And no, them being a private company doesn't matter. Currently they have a lot of power thanks to them having a lot of important users, and now that they are starting to use that power we need to quickly come up with regulations for it.


The difference is that stores and malls invite the public in for a limited non-protected purpose - shopping or other commercial activity.

Twitter invites the public in to exercise free speech, which in a public space would be protected. This invites an analysis that Twitter may be a quasi-public space that offers some 1st Amd. protections.


Twitter is not a monopoly therefore every web site would be considered a public web space.

And so if I run a knitting forum I am not allowed to restrict people who want to turn it into a pornography one. And how would it work for spam. This could end up in a situation where a large spammer could force websites to not remove spam.

It sounds unworkable and over the top just to protect some people who aren't even having their rights impeded.


Twitter is not equivalent to some obscure knitting forum. It is huge. So huge that it gets quoted in nearly every mainstream media article. Twitter matters to political discourse, knitting doesn't.


The owners of printing presses have even more power, but the government does not mandate open access to those machines for dispensing speech. Unfettered access to twitter is not akin to free speech.


Twitter is essentially a big public square the results of which end up getting printed by mainstream press. Publishers are also under more legal restrictions than Twitter is.


No, publishers can be as biased as they want, unlike the new requirements here.


Twitter can also go the publisher route and be biased as much as they want.


Newspapers are publishers, and are subject to rules and regulations for being publishers.

Twitter would not be mandate to open up access to everyone. Instead, the proposed legal changes would merely treat them as publishers, if they act like publishers, and therefore twitter would not have liability protections anymore.


So as soon as they make any kind of restriction on the use of their platform they become publishers? That's quite a stretch. That would have the same effect: it would require them to provide unfettered access for anyone, for any purpose.


> That would have the same effect

If they don't like the section 230 laws, that already exist, then they should go lobby Congress to change it or something.

But right now, if you act as a publisher, then you lose certain protections. That's how that law works.


Twitter matters to political discourse, knitting doesn't.

Doesn't matter. Twitter is a privately owned platform not a public one.

SCOTUS has already said that simply being open to the public does not make a business a public platform, see Pruneyard v Robins, applying this reasoning to privately-owned malls.

And yes, that makes all the difference, since SCOTUS has repeatedly held that publicly owned spaces like public parks and main streets are subject to first amendment requirements.


Except it's not nearly as simple as you make out here.

In Packingham v. North Carolina (2017) SCOTUS described social media websites as similar to a public square and ruled that the state couldn't block access to them in an overly broad manner.

Being open to the public does change how a business is regulated (see the ADA and Civil Rights Act among others) even if it doesn't make it a "public platform" specifically. However, a reasonable case can be made that Twitter has _intentionally_ positioned themselves as a public platform and so the case you cite could be argued not to apply.

Alternatively, Twitter could be argued to be editorializing. If that were the case, presumably they wouldn't really be a public platform but rather a publisher. But if that's the case, shouldn't they be held liable for all the nonsense that people post there?

The situation isn't clear at all even though many people on both sides of the debate frequently claim that it is.


That's not at all what Packingham says. That ruling was about a sex offender's right to access a website on which he could engage in first amendment activities without government restriction. It was not about whether a social media website was a public platform or whether the websites had to allow the appellant access. Moreover, many of the activities identified in the ruling also apply to private malls...which the courts have already ruled several times are not public forums for first amendment purposes (Lloyd and Pruneyard).

Being open to the public does change how a business is regulated (see the ADA and Civil Rights Act among others) even if it doesn't make it a "public platform" specifically

This is true. A statute of Congress can place restrictions on businesses. Last I checked, the President is not a member of Congress, and cannot unilaterally override congressional laws.

Moreover, SCOTUS cases have ruled that privately owned facilities are not subject to the "limited purpose" test. It doesn't matter that they've held themselves open to the public, it matters that they're privately owned. (See Lloyd and Pruneyard, explicitly addressing this point.)


You keep citing cases regarding private malls. I previously pointed out that a reasonable argument can be made as to why that precedent should not apply. I don't claim to know what the outcome of such an argument would be in court, only that it is a reasonable one to make under the circumstances (and thus the situation is fairly complicated).

> Last I checked, the President is not a member of Congress, and cannot unilaterally override congressional laws.

I never claimed this? I said only that the current situation was not as simple as you made out. (I would also note that the president appears to be targeting Section 230 protections which is quite a different beast.)

> That's not at all what Packingham says.

Except... it is. In their ruling the court _directly_ compares social media to other venues for public gathering. I'm not claiming that they explicitly rule it to be one way or the other (they don't), but they do repeatedly make direct comparisons that would appear to lean that way.


Except... it is. In their ruling the court _directly_ compares social media to other venues for public gathering. I'm not claiming that they explicitly rule it to be one way or the other (they don't), but they do repeatedly make direct comparisons that would appear to lean that way.

Except the text of the case itself literally does not do that. You need to read the actual text and not just the summary. Importantly, every time in the case they reference a "social media" website and a form of expression that could occur in a public forum, it is with respect to how the appellant would use that website--to freely express himself under his own first Amendment rights, and they contrast that with the government's attempt to restrict that expression. And as I pointed out, these activities were expressly addressed in the mall cases I cited, in which the courts said it didn't matter that such activities could occur in a mall, what mattered was that the malls were privately owned facilities. (And that is why I keep bringing the cases up--because malls are the closest analog to Twitter. They let people come in and at the time of these cases had millions of customers/visitors annually--on a relative basis, they were more a part of American life back then than Twitter is now.)

I would also note that the president appears to be targeting Section 230 protections which is quite a different beast.

The Section 230 protected are provided by congressional law, so it's not a different beast. The President does not have the power to target section 230 protections. The executive agencies could arguably make rules to change those protections, if they adhere to the administrative rulemaking process and their rules do not contradict the express text or purpose of the law.

I previously pointed out that a reasonable argument can be made as to why that precedent should not apply.

No, you didn't. The ADA (1990) and Civil Rights Act (1964), are older unrelated laws governing different issues. The CDA was passed in 1996, and so jurisprudence and the law itself already incorporated existing understandings of both of those laws...as well as the SCOTUS cases addressing the exact points you raised in your comment (i.e., the mall cases you keep dismissing). The CDA was written in a world where private facilities were not public forums as a result of multiple SCOTUS decisions saying they weren't. And the law reflects that.


A number of serious misunderstandings seem to have developed in our back and forth here and I'm not sure it's worth writing a wall of text to clarify them. Perhaps I didn't previously word things as clearly as would have been ideal.

> > I previously pointed out ...

> No, you didn't. The ADA ...

That isn't what I was referring to. I initially noted that Twitter has very clearly and intentionally positioned themselves as what I can only think to describe as a public platform. Private malls simply do not do that. They are also so many orders of magnitude larger than any private mall that I fail to see a relevant comparison there. It is my understanding that factors such as intentions and size of influence are important in cases like this. I make no claim as to how that argument would go in court, only that it seems like a reasonable one to put forward.

> You need to read the actual text and not just the summary.

I was very careful to clarify that the court did not explicitly rule on that. When the majority opinion goes out of its way to bring such an issue up and makes direct comparisons, I think it is reasonable to assume that they would be open to entertaining such a line of argument. If they thought it was ridiculous then why did they bring it up and go on about it to such an extent?


I initially noted that Twitter has very clearly and intentionally positioned themselves as what I can only think to describe as a public platform. Private malls simply do not do that.

You need to actually read the private mall cases, since the malls actually held themselves out to be replacements for the public square, i.e., to replace Main St and the public park where people used to freely meet and discuss stuff. There is a reason these cases are so important to First Amendment jurisprudence.

The point of the private mall cases is that it doesn't matter if they hold themselves out to be replacements for the traditional public forum, because they're not actually a public forum--they're still just privately owned venues that can withdraw their openness to public expression at any time as a matter of their own first amendment rights.

Twitter is just the new private mall. It may hold itself up to be a public platform, but as a private entity, it can revoke that presentation at any time as a matter of its own first amendment rights.

It is my understanding that factors such as intentions and size of influence are important in cases like this

You would be wrong. This has never been relevant to first amendment cases. Moreover, at the time of the private mall cases, the malls had significantly more customers on an absolute and proportional basis (out of the US population at the time) than Twitter does today in the US.

When the majority opinion goes out of its way to bring such an issue up and makes direct comparisons, I think it is reasonable to assume that they would be open to entertaining such a line of argument.

The ruling does not "go out of its way" to compare social media platforms to public forums. In mentions "public forum" only once, offhand, as one of the ways that social media could be used by the appellant whose civil rights were being violated when the government tried to bar him from using social media. And even then, under the lineage of the private mall cases, it's irrelevant because private websites are still private websites with their own first amendment rights to control the speech that appears on their websites.


There is a large gap between the Twitter user base and the number of visitors in a mall. Are you saying that quantity doesn't matter, we should uphold the principle on its own? I think the more people use a platform, the more society needs to regulate it to its benefit.


Yes. On a relative basis for decades malls were a larger part of American life than Twitter is or ever was. The fraction of people that actually use Twitter is extremely small once you leave SV and Hollywood.


> It is huge.

Currently. Might not be long after this change to Section 230 enforcement.

> Twitter matters to political discourse, knitting doesn't.

I don't follow this logic. There are substitutes for Twitter, even banned users can view publicly posted content on Twitter, and the CDA Section 230 has nothing to do with "political discourse" -- it describes all content.

I'm also fascinated that you used the word "political" and not "policy". All things "political" could vanish tomorrow and the world would be better off. Not being able to discuss policy issues/ideas would be tragic.


> It sounds unworkable and over the top

It easy to make it workable, just claim that general-purpose platforms beyond a certain use size become public forums where freedom of speech must be protected.


[delete]

If an online forum wants to curate speech it should be treated as a publisher. Or, perhaps develop some legal regime that recognizes that smaller forums can be restrict to certain topics, but not viewpoints if they want to retain their immunity against defamation.

edit: deleted some nonsense that I got wrong


Why do you think Twitter is a public space. Your use of twitter is governed by agreeing to its T&C’s. You agree to them when signing up and violating them will result in bans.


You're just repeating what the current state of affairs is. Doesn't mean it has to stay that way.


It would be surprising, but not irrational if courts construe Twitter as a quasi-public forum. Or, on the other hand, if Twitter continues to exercise viewpoint discrimination, it would be reasonable for them to be construed as a publisher and accept the liability that comes along with it.


Then perhaps let us debate that in a reasoned and considered manner, rather than an executive order that Trump himself describe as a lashing out at Twitter.


The executive order signed today is far too detailed and far too nuanced to support the idea that its cause for existence is Trump being upset at Twitter a few days ago. This has been being prepared for a long time.


You underestimate the productivity of some underlings and lawyers pulling an all-nighter.

It's also not Day 1 of "Trump being upset at Twitter for much the same reasons", so no doubt there's been a plan. But ascribing the timing of this EO to "just a coincidence" stretches credulity, to me.


I'd agree that the Twitter Kerfluffle is what surfaced it, but keep in mind that this has been on the radar since at least last year[1] (actually earlier[2]).

The timing of this release is hardly coincidental, but it's been on the minds of the politicians for long enough that this reads to me more like an opportune time to push something forward that's been brewing for a while, rather than an off-the-cuff reaction.

[1]: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/us/donald-trump-twitter-f...

[2]: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/26/us/politics/twitter-shado...


It's a public space because it's become the dominant platform for political debate.


It's further complicated by the people who sued Trump for blocking them. They won, he had to unblock them.

Considering they could log out (or open a private tab) and view the content, obviously it wasn't access to the information that was fundamental but the act of the President taking a step to reduce someone's access.

With that in mind, does the host have the authority to take the same action? Why or why not?

This is not a 1st Amendment issue - after all Trump blocking someone doesn't limit their ability to tweet him or at all - but it's a really weird spot of free speech vs private property vs public forum vs public access vs.. ?


As a government official, you cannot take action to try to impede someone's access to your official statements. That is independent of the platform, and independent of how much work someone has to do to still access the information.


But a private company can take action to impede everyone’s access to an official’s statements if they “suppress” those statements... that would mean Twitter has to allow anything any public official, at least in the US, broadcasts via that medium...


You're getting downvoted to oblivion but I think that's a fundamental question in all of this.

Does a private company have the authority to impede access to Official Statements? If so, under what conditions? If no, is it "never"?


This fundamental question has already been addressed by the courts many times.

The answer is yes to your first question. A private company is not required to make available "Official Statements" (whatever that means) using its own resources. The government (in the US at least) must pay for publication and dissemination of "Official Statements."


Fantastic, despite looking, I hadn't found a decision along those lines. Can you give me a case to read? Just the name, I'm happy to do the research myself. Thanks in advance!

And to be clear, I've read the DOJ position asserting that "Trump's tweets are official government statements" (linked in this thread) but wasn't aware of court rulings.


There's probably no decision because it's black and white. For example, many media outlets stopped carrying full Trump press conferences live.

https://www.indiewire.com/2020/04/cnn-msnbc-not-airing-trump...


Please don't imply gamblor956 is just making things up. That's inappropriate. I'm looking forward to reading one of the many cases. It's always good to understand a) what the law says and b) how it's interpreted. They're rarely 1:1.


West Virginia v. Barnett. Rumsfield v Forum.

There are more.

The answers you want are the first search result in Google and Bing for first amendment and compelled speech and are covered by the Wikipedia page on the First Amendment.


I've actually read the Rumsfeld case before but I don't see how it addresses my question from above:

Does a private company have the authority to impede access to Official Statements? If so, under what conditions? If no, is it "never"?

As noted, I suspect this is not a 1st Amendment issue as the "speech" is present regardless and you have organizations, not necessarily people.


The Rumsfield case is literally on point: the government cannot force a private party to present government speech. I don't know how much more on point than they can be.

Twitter is not a legally recognized method of presenting Official Statements, as a matter of law (which sets forth the prescribed methods for making Official Statements). They have no responsibilities to present Official Statements, which means they can "impede" access to those statements on their platform all they like, in whatever manner that takes, from simply deleting such posts to providing fact checks to outright editorializing against the official statements.

As noted, I suspect this is not a 1st Amendment issue as the "speech" is present regardless and you have organizations, not necessarily people.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. This is definitely a First Amendment issue...even the White House acknowledges that this is a First Amendment issue. This order is entirely about trying to violate Twitter's First Amendment rights as a private non-governmental organization.


> Twitter is not a legally recognized method of presenting Official Statements

The Trump DOJ disagrees. Further, the ruling that he had to unblock people on Twitter established exactly that. He had to unblock people because he's making statements about government policy.

Therefore, them muting/hiding/blocking him is impeding access to official government statements.

Further, once they mute/hide/block some of his tweets, they're presenting some but not all.

They would probably be safer to allow all or none. This middle ground is editorial control over government statements which is a bizarre middle ground.. imagine a major announcement or policy change not being reported? Or actively being quashed?


> But a private company can take action to impede everyone’s access to an official’s statements if they “suppress” those statements...

Yes, that is their right to control how their website works.

> that would mean Twitter has to allow anything any public official, at least in the US, broadcasts via that medium...

No, they are not part of the US government, and they are not required to host official US government statements.


Twitter isn't suppressing Trump's tweets. They're still publishing them...along with a notice that the statements in those tweets are lies, with links to sources documenting the falsity of those statements and the true state of reality (i.e., that mail-in voting is not unconstitutional).


But when Trump tweets, are those official statements? (IANAL, and I don't know. I can see why they might be considered to be so, and I can see why they wouldn't.)


A lot of folks[0] are saying yes, they are official statements. But I'm not a lawyer either.

[0]: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=are+tru...


I can't vouch for the source (so do your own research if you're so inclined), but Trump's own Justice Department says they are:

https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/government_says_trum...


It's arguably a public accommodation, but public accommodations are still private spaces.


Do you have the right to stand in your community's biggest mall screaming racist things or does the property owner/operator have the right to remove you from the premise?


To play devil's advocate, you can't do that in a public park either. You can be arrested for disturbing the peace or some such. So I'm not sure it's necessarily about private vs public.


You actually can do this in on public property; see for example the Westboro Baptist Church, which funded itself in part by winning lawsuits against government entities that tried to stop them.


But the rules for many public spaces and all private spaces are fundamentally different because they get to define who can use the property and in what capacity, or face trespassing charges.

I don't see banning a user from social media sites very different from exercising trespassing laws. Should Republicans be sheltered from trespass laws just because the owner of the property might not be a Republican?

Perhaps the best way for social media websites to avoid being is to more clearly define what content violates their ToS. I suspect most people don't read the ToS and certainly don't know how every company chooses to enforce their ToS with enough detail, and that's almost certainly the confusion when social media users complain about persecution.


I'm not aware of it being illegal to stand on a soapbox and say racist things in a public park. If you're screaming at the top of your lungs, sure, maybe?


Well, yeah, I suppose it depends how loud you're screaming. I was imagining someone shouting as loud as possible, which you'd definitely get stopped for in many places.


Aren't you just talking about the volume then? You could be screaming the most wholesome things about unicorns and rainbows and still be loud enough to be a public nuisance, and loud enough that authorities will have the right to ask you to pipe down.

In America, no matter how big of a community mall, management can always remove you for good reasons (using racial slurs, even at normal volume), silly reasons (they didn't like the color of your hat), or no reason at all, as long as it's not for a prohibited reason (because of your race). Whereas authorities cannot remove you from a public square for no reason or silly reasons, only for good reasons specifically identified by law (like public nuisance).


> Whereas authorities cannot remove you from a public square for no reason or silly reasons, only for good reasons specifically identified by law (like public nuisance).

It depends if you are reported and what for. American authorities have prosecutorial discretion, so they can choose to overlook the "wholesome things shouter", but may choose to charge the "racist shouter" with a vaguely defined law like "disturbing the peace". There are enough laws like "disturbing the peace", "trespassing", and "obscenity" which are largely subjective.


And this is where the courts are also going to need to do some work to decide what exactly is "disturbing the peace". What if someone says that wearing a red hat is "disturbing the peace"? What if someone says wearing an "I'm with her" shirt is disturbing the peace? Who decides when simply displaying a political view is disturbing the peace?

The left can attempt to immediately equate everything to the right of Obama with Hitler.

The right can attempt to immediately equate everything to the left of Reagan with Stalin and Mao.

Who is going to sort this out? Both sides might think they're being perfectly reasonable about their characterization of the other side. And if a judge on one side agrees with them, the alternative viewpoint becomes criminal hate speech. This is very dangerous.


If Twitter wants to become a publisher they can edit or curate their content to their heart's content.

Web publishers do not need any special protection from well established jurisprudence governing other publishers. It made some sense in the early days when it was unclear how things would turn out, now those protections should be rolled backed or adjusted.


Some malls have "free speech areas" (possibly mandated by local ordinance) and occasionally some groups and individuals do exactly that.


Pruneyard v. Robins says the private owner of the mall can kick you out. But note that state laws may provide state-level free speech rights separately from the First Amendment (and several states have such laws).

In contrast, a public space like a public park is subject to free speech requirements, which is why the Westboro church can scream vile racist things from a playground.


The Pruneyard decision [1] though did conclude that the sidewalks (even privately owned walkways) outside a business were quasi-public spaces analogous to public squares.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/447/74

About your specific question, I would say "standing INSIDE the mall screaming" (screaming anything) would be more similar to posting large amounts of text on someone else's personal Twitter feed.

Whereas simply having your own personal Twitter and saying things that someone doesn't like would be more like standing on the walkway outside a business.

Also, I read the draft of Trump's order posted on HN last night, and it doesn't say that lewd or obscene content can't be removed. If you start using the N word or posting pornography, I think that's still legitimate for companies to remove.

The problem is that the idea of "hate speech" is being weaponized. If someone simply wears a MAGA hat, that's being called "threatening" or "racist". If someone expresses economically protectionist views, they're called "racist" even though protectionism was used centuries ago to protect European countries from other European countries and has nothing to do with "race".

The right could similarly weaponize the idea of "hate speech" by saying that any time anyone mentions any kind of social program spending, that's "threatening" because that's akin to "communism, which has killed hundreds of millions of people".

Now, plenty of conservatives do say they're concerned about the slippery slope, but they don't immediately equate "we should give housing to the homeless" with "put the rich in the gulags", the way the vocal far left equates "maybe we should reduce taxes a bit" with "they're racists who want poor minority people to starve to death".


https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-1/q...

edit: deleted - the link did not support my claim.


Note that under Pruneyard and Lloyd the limited purpose invitation standard and focus does not apply to private spaces. Thus it matters whether the land is private or public, not the purpose for which the public is invited to enter. The "limited purpose" test examines public or quasi public facilities (i.e., joint public-private parnerships), like airports, to determine whether they would be considered public forums for free speech purposes. (See Hari Krishna vs Lee)

Additionally, public sidewalks in front of stores are considered public areas because of the public easement to use the sidewalk. A private sidewalk is not a public area for free speech purposes (see Lloyd).

[edit: fixed Logan to Lloyd]


You are right - I misread the article.


If you were a president visiting that mall, you would be allowed to do a lot of things that ordinary people would be kicked for.


And we need to consider this. By Twitter's ToS, he should have lost his account a long time ago.


Sure but the mall would certainly be within its rights to put up a sign saying "the president might not be telling the truth today."


But it didn't. Same was with Twitter. Trump constantly was breaking their TOS a lot of people lost their access for much much less.


The President can only play in the mall fountain or whatever if the mall management says he can. If they want to boot him they can. The president is not a king.


You know well that it's not how it works in real life. Everyone would be afraid of repercussions to their business, kind of like the article we are currently discussing.


it's not how it works if you don't want to get harassed and attacked on twitter (and not on twitter), but you won't actually go to jail over it.


One way of looking at it is that the internet is the public space, and twitter is a very large private building in that space. Trump can start his own blog any time he wants, hosted on his own site, and be in the unrestricted public space.


Should breitbart.com be forced to allow liberals comments?


I mean, they do allow them, they just get drowned out.


If you're intellectually honest and advocate for a system that controls people, turn over the keys to your enemies for a dry run.


> affirmed that private websites are not public spaces and social media companies don't have First Amendment obligations

FWIW this is only thematically related, the order concerns the distinction between immune or non-immune activities under Section 230.

If you publish something defamatory on your blog, and you operate it, you may be liable. Section 230 is there to say that if a website merely retransmits your publication, it is not liable for it, so if you publish that same defamatory statement on Facebook, Facebook is not then liable.

However, the argument with the executive order is that if you exercise a level of deliberate control over the content beyond some threshold, or you augment expression (like Twitter did the other day, adding links to contrary opinion pieces next to the President's opinion), you effectively become a publisher of that content.

It's not a completely ridiculous idea either. Consider how diverse the expressions published to Twitter are; at some point it's not that different to choose not to publish some expression, than to express the complement of that expression yourself.


It's kind of a ridiculous idea.

Before S230 that was the case: Executing any editorial control risked you being concluded to be the publisher.

Online providers said this is bullshit, we want be able to remove garbage -- lies, obscene material, defamation, etc. If moderating makes us publishers over everything on our site and legally liable, we can't do that. Make us immune so we can clean up the worst of things, and you can still always go after the actual sources.

So I think it only makes sense to the extent that the world before S230 also made sense. But that's a world where sites like twitter probably couldn't have come into being.

Without S230 the law is bizarre because it treated running a public venue as equivalently of being a publisher for everything that happened in it. It would be like if I ran a shopping mall and some member of the public came in and started calling you a paedophile that you could sue the mall simply because at other times I removed other people who were urinating on the walls.


On the other hand, there must be a limit on the amount of "moderation" you're allowed to perform before becoming a publisher. If you start labelling content as misleading (but don't remove it) or even if you privilege certain content instead of another (for example, you privilege social media posts advertising a product because it increases your revenue) then you could be considered a publisher.

Let's put in another way: publishers used to produce content (as in select, solicit, remunerate) to further their interests (financial, but sometimes also political, or cultural). Now the big social networks don't need to produce the content, but they can tap into such an enormous amount of it that they can limit themselves to shaping it. Promote certain posts, reduce the visibility of others. The overall effect is the same. You could probably make Facebook or Twitter in a great cultural publications just by tweaking the algorithm that determines the visibility of the posts.


> On the other hand, there must be a limit on the amount of "moderation" you're allowed to perform before becoming a publisher.

That isn't clear to me at all. The publisher is essentially the author from a liability perspective.

I do agree (see my other post in this thread) that there are serious concerns about the moderation power of the operators of these massive online public forums. But that doesn't make treating them as the author from a liability perspective the right tool for dealing with that.

Particularly because in most specific cases where their moderation power might be misused there is no question of liability. Imagine a site where everyone was always honest and nice, but the operator ruthlessly censored all posts by Georgists and S230 didn't exist. Okay, they'd be liable for their users posts-- but so what? There is nothing there for anyone to sue over. The Georgists would still be totally silenced.


> That isn't clear to me at all. The publisher is essentially the author from a liability perspective.

In a newspaper that selectively chooses to print some letters from readers, would the author be the publisher or the newspaper? That's an example of extreme moderation ("out of the 1000 letters we received this week, we will print this one") while Twitter is likely closer to the other extreme ("out of these 1000 Tweets, we'll hide/delete this one").


IMO it's when you start curating and suggesting in complex ways rather than simple "most popular having (user-provided) tag X" ways. Throw in other stuff like monetizability but denying that to some creators, and IMO Youtube is way over the line and the rest aren't far behind, because they can't resist using their position to manipulate what the user sees—there's too much money in it.


One potential outcome here -- social media platforms start _more actively_ banning users to prevent potential liability issues, thus fracturing the market. Highly doubt it will work out that way, but it would be nice (well, maybe...).


Hopefully it will lead to what happened on reddit: the worst go off to a competitor which then fails to gain mainstream attention (e.g. Voat, Gab, etc). While they’ll be in an echo-chamber (which isn’t a good thing at all), at least they won’t ruin other communities.


Doesn’t that just lead to an echo chamber on the site they left also? When Trump supporters were banned from the political subreddits, they formed /r/The_Donald. And it’s an anti-Trump-criticism, anti-anything-left-leaning echo chamber. But that left /r/politics to become a left leaning echo chamber itself. Now, one can’t have a civil discussion about anything because /r/politics will ban anything saying Trump did anything remotely good, and /r/The_Donald will ban anything remotely critical of Trump.


This is a false equivalence - r/politics is not the left leaving equivalent of r/The_Donald. Trump supporters weren't broadly banned from political subreddits, just the ones that broke the rules did, like everyone else. r/politics is a left leaning echo chamber, yes, but you won't get banned for being pro Trump (just downvoted). On the other hand, you will get banned from r/The_Donald or r/conservative for being anti-Trump.


The problem there is that these sites have become echo-chambers, where they breed extremism. These kinds of ideologies (E.G. Nazism) need to be exposed to the light, like a bacteria, in order to be shamed and debunked.


How does that work out though in practice?

If I go to a bar and there's some guy screaming about his Nazi ideology and the owners don't kick him out, I'm going to just move on.

If some social media platform is full of trolls and hatred and such... people are just going to go away. It becomes a 'race to the bottom'.


This is a nice theory but are there any instances of Nazis being converted to normies because someone told them they were wrong on the internet?

Instead what seems to happen is that normies get pulled into Nazi content because the recommendation algorithms on these sites see heated discussions as engagement and try to feed it.


The only study I'm aware of on that is on Youtube's recommendation algorithm, which found the opposite is true - it tends to steer people away from radicalization.


> the worst go off to a competitor which then fails to gain mainstream attention (e.g. Voat, Gab, etc).

Or, HN :)


That would be a spectacular outcome, especially for anyone who likes ActivityPub and blogs, and wants to see them get a fresh shot of juice.

I'm just glad the prevailing call isn't to delete Section 230 altogether, which I think would cause a bit of pandemonium (though maybe that would be a social good as well, and maybe Section 230 was the mistake that made the social media monster).


That would be a spectacular outcome, especially for anyone who likes ActivityPub and blogs, and wants to see them get a fresh shot of juice.

Wouldn't this harm any of these activities, aside from situations where people are directly hosting their own content, because anyone hosting could be held liable for what gets posted?


That's the rub. The fantasy seems great initially for the prospect of breaking up the far too large (in my opinion) social media behemoths but maybe also ruins things for all the potential little guys as well.


Don't all these social media sites augment content with targeted ads?


Is this similar to how the phone company operates? As long as they just transmit your voice to the other party they can't be prosecuted for anything you say. But, as soon as they start listening in and commenting on your words they have to listen to everyone's conversations and comment on all the words. Obviously phone companies don't want to be responsible for everyone's words so they don't comment on anyone's words.

The parallel would be Twitter commenting on a tweet. As long as they just pass the tweet on to other people, without commenting on it, then they aren't responsible for it's content. But as soon as they say "hey, this might be false information" about a specific tweet then they are responsible for the content of all tweets.


Be aware that the DC Circuit leans left, by a lot -- so it's an unsurprising result.

The Supreme Court may eventually take one of these cases and come to a different conclusion.


Since when is protecting the private property rights of corporations a "left" issue? This is a constitutional issue, and the fact that any court ruling that GOP voters disagree with is now a "left" issue tells you everything you need to know about how far civil discourse in this country has fallen.


Because everything is tribalism now.

You can call the right hypocrites for doing a 180 on corporate property rights and demanding a 21st century fairness doctrine.. but didn't the left do a 180 as well?


Part of them did. Because tribalism. But i think you should differentiate between socialists and liberals, the "left" is broader than the "right" right now. I don't think any liberal wants to nationalize a company like twitter.

Some may want to break true monopolies maybe, but twitter?

Anyway i was convinced by a conservative that big media companies should be partially nationalized (for gov oversight), still i don't think twitter is a big enough natural monopoly to warrant that.


I should have used 'liberals' instead of 'the left'. I fell victim to symmetry.


Have you looked at the circus going on with the General Flynn's case Judge?


It has been framed that way by Trump, and it's not exactly subtle. People have also been intimidated into thinking that pointing out Trump's propaganda makes them seem biased.


Loomer's suit was never going to go anywhere regardless. It was completely baseless.


I'm not sure this is the case anymore. McConnell and Trump have been rapidly filling the courts with young, right leaning justices. See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/02/28/thanks-tru...


The weird thing is that, a year ago, if you asked me where "private companies should be able to make their own decisions about what content they publish" falls on the spectrum, I would have considered it to be right of center.

I guess it comes down to whether these justices are ideologically "right-leaning", or just Republican partisans.


From my observations left leaning means apply liberal criteria to decisions. Right leaning means adhere to the Constitution and law of the United States of America.


And how did you get to that conclusion? I mean the "right" has been failing to adhere to the Constitution since like forever. The Constitution does not allow restrictions on abortion, but it was affirmed by Supreme Court by Republican majority. The Constitution does not allow warrantless spying on American citizens, but it was affirmed by Supreme Court under a Republican majority. The Constitution does not say that I am free to pollute your lands with my toxic coal smoke spewing smoke stacks without paying for the damage caused, yet our Supreme Court under a Republican majority has decided it does.

From my perspective, left-meaning means having a close association with reality and pragmatism, and right-leaning means do and say anything to make the rich richer.


Both right and left adhere to the constitution and law. The difference is that each side interprets the constitution and the law differently.


So in this case what does the Constitution say?

And where does the Constitution say that a corporation spending money is speech?


You can twist the Constitution in both directions.

You could say that the value of free speech is so important to society that it is codified on the Constitution. These companies that become big enough platforms should respect that value.

You could also say that the Constitution provides free speech protections to everyone. These companies should benefit from those same protections, thus the government shouldn't be able to interfere what these companies publish.


I defy anyone to write a rule with any kind of specificity for the first case.

User count? Great, while the user count is < N the platform is moderated and popular. As soon as the user count exceeds N it's instantly a cesspool of spam and porn. Then what, it bleeds users and drifts back into the first category again? They're going to write subjective distinctions on the content of the speech into the law to differentiate between spam, porn, porn-spam, and political speech?

It doesn't work! If it could work, please, anyone who reads this comment: Many of us are programmers here, propose a rule that doesn't fall apart.

The second interpretation is at least consistent, even if it does protect corporations.

If Twitter is the devil just leave Twitter, no one has to use it. Gab exists. We have no legal right to access the people who are on Twitter.


>If it could work, please, anyone who reads this comment: Many of us are programmers here, propose a rule that doesn't fall apart.

Legislation has an easy out here: "you'll know it when you see it." Courts would decide and they already need to decide on these distinctions.

>If Twitter is the devil just leave Twitter, no one has to use it. Gab exists. We have no legal right to access the people who are on Twitter.

There's also no reason why the government has to give special protections to Twitter and other sites like it.


How on earth adding a small disclaimer at the bottom of trump lies to prevent misinformation on the electoral process is against free speech?


That is odd as it means there is no left and right debate. A society choose. Law is what the society agreed. And you said the us society you in, unlike Eu say, are right leaning.

Whilst it might be, but is the left in us is already right (like Obama use Romey Insuranve not single payer). Or are we in mix economy some are left some are right. Or left right actually many different things like large and small Gov,liberty, ownership, ...

Or is there something like open source which is beyond left and right but community, not gov vs market etc.


Hello, 5-month-old account. Please take the time to substantiate your assertions. For example, I assert that you're observations are ridiculous and here is some empirical evidence on which I base my assertion:

"There were only three areas in which Rehnquist showed any interest in enforcing the constitutional guarantee of free expression: in cases involving advertising, religious expression and campaign finance regulation. Rehnquist was 2.6 times more likely to invalidate laws restricting commercial advertising than laws restricting political or artistic expression. He voted to invalidate campaign finance legislation 67 percent of the time, and he voted to invalidate restrictions on religious expression 100 percent of the time. Indeed, in non-unanimous decisions, Rehnquist was 14.7 times more likely to vote to invalidate a law restricting commercial advertising, campaign expenditures, or religious expression than one involving any other aspect of 'the freedom of speech, or of the press.'"[1]

[1] https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-09-06-050906...


There is already a ruling by the Supreme Court where social media sites are referred as the modern public square.

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1194_08l1.pdf


Phrasing in dicta isn't the same as a legal holding, though. It's a legitimate point, but not a dispositive one.


Not, it doesn't.

The case was about a government trying to restrict a sex offender from accessing web sites where he could engage in first amendment activities like commenting. The court ruled that they could not, absent a sufficient showing that the restrictions on the appellant's internet usage were necessary to prevent the sex offender from re-offending.

In fact the express language of the ruling states that social media sites are a means for accessing the public square, not that these sites are the public square. Moreover, these dicta statements (i.e., non-binding commentary) are a direct reference to the first amendment mall cases, which similarly involved activities that could occur in a public square. The mall cases held that private malls could ban speech because they were private facilities, thus they were not public squares even though the public could (and frequently did) engage in traditional public square activities in the mall.

TLDR: the private-public distinction matters for First Amendment law. The First Amendment only applies to public properties and public agencies, not private properties or persons.


Repealing section 230 would make twitter liable for publishing trump’s libelous murder accusations and incitement to violence. They’d be forced to ban him.


You mean enforcing section 230, but you are correct.


I’m curious how that would turn out? What would happen if Trump was banned? While I’m against censorship, banning someone for not following your “code of conduct” is well within your rights.


The best example is what happened when Alex Jones found himself deplatformed -- although I think the simplest answer there is "too little too late".


I'd guess Trump would move to a new platform, and take his social media circus with him. Twitter presumably wants to keep that traffic.


It seems risky to take on the platform that got one elected.

Perhaps this will end the same way codifying the word “Marriage” in the Defense of Marriage Act did. Nothing like Federalizing a word.


I don't know why everyone here is upset by this. Isn't this what we wanted? An actual policy debate, decided by the three branches of government - the executive, congress, the Courts - about what kinds of regulations these super powerful social media companies should have to submit to.

Don't fool yourselves, if Facebook or Twitter wanted to swing an election they absolutely have the power to do that. Isn't that a problem that government is supposed to solve? I'm sorry, and I don't like the guy in charge right now either, but regulation really is the only answer here. Maybe calm down for a minute and let this make its way through the Circuit Courts, refined, watered down, etc etc.

All of that aside, I want my distributed and independent internet back. Maybe we should just be teaching our kids the command line from now on because that might be the only way that we can communicate over this protocol in a civil way.


I think some people are upset because he’s not going the proper route. He’s doing an end run around Congress using Executive Orders in an attempt to get what he wants now. Because he knows that something like this would be held up in Congress by the Democrats.

Others are upset because, as the Constitution is written, he cannot force a private website to carry his speech (the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected “compelled speech”). Although, yes, we should wait for the courts to (hopefully) strike it down.

There’s also the fact that repealing Section 230 would be absolutely detrimental to the internet. Sure, decentralize it all, but, as it stands now, that’s not what the majority of the public want; They want centralization because it makes things easier. Facebook, Twitter, Google/YouTube, etc. are the size they are today because they’re centralized; it makes finding what you want easier.


I'd be interested to see what a Court would say if Twitter decided to straight-up delete his account as a response.


If they make Twitter liable for content this way, Twitter will have to delete his account ;)


> repealing Section 230

I don't see how this is repealing anything. It seems like the order is saying that if a company wants Section 230 protection, they have to be very strict about not editorializing anything, and if they do even a little bit, they have to go all the way.


Which, in essence, is repealing it. It’s saying, if you do anything, it’s editorialization. That was how it was before Section 230.


They are allowed to police things that are against their TOS. They just aren't allowed to be biased.


> Aren't allowed to be biased.

Where does this come from?


>He’s doing an end run around Congress using Executive Orders in an attempt to get what he wants now.

And you can thank the previous guy in charge for setting this precedent, that you can do whatever you want via Executive Order. I have little sympathy here.

>as the Constitution is written, he cannot force a private website to carry his speech

Not quite sure this is actually the question at hand. It's about choice of moderation is it not? In any case ... thankfully we have a Court system that is designed to handle these types of questions.

>There’s also the fact that repealing Section 230 would be absolutely detrimental to the internet.

Not following you. Maybe the social media and tech companies have to hire a lot more layers instead of bloating their HR departments. Probably a good development imo, since HR people like to pretend they work in tech but what they really do is bureaucracy.


> And you can thank the previous guy in charge for setting this precedent, that you can do whatever you want via Executive Order. I have little sympathy here.

If you truly think that Obama invented the Executive Order or was the first to use them frequently, you are laughably misinformed. Use of Executive Order has been common for at least 150 years.


I don't. I wasn't clear. EO abuses have been ongoing for at least 150 years, like you said. I'm merely pointing out that we're now only worried about it because Trump is bad and thus now EOs are bad.


This isn't true. Both Bush and Obama were criticized for them (probably other Presidents as well, I just wasn't following politics before then). But that's not what your original statement said:

> And you can thank the previous guy in charge for setting this precedent, that you can do whatever you want via Executive Order.

That statement is just pure bias, not fact.


> And you can thank the previous guy in charge for setting this precedent, that you can do whatever you want via Executive Order. I have little sympathy here.

What is this argument? Why is it always “look at what Obama did! Therefore it’s ok!” when Trump does something bad?


I'm making an argument that Executive Order abuse is bad, but for whatever reason we're only worried about it now. When the guy in charge isn't the usual kind of ... uh ... President. If you want me to say it George W. Bush's EO abuses were also bad.


What? No. Executive order is an order to the executive branch from it's boss the President. It's not going around Congress at all- it's separate from Congress. It's not changing law. All Presidents do this and are allowed to.

You can't do whatever you want via executive order. This is Trump telling the FCC, one of his departments, how to operate, which he can do, as much as I disagree with it.


The powers of the executive branch are not unlimited and not every order is Constitutionally valid. Especially ones restricting freedom of speech by private individuals.


You're right, I'm merely defending the executive order and outlining it's not a magic wand that lets the President do everything they want.


What of the President's freedom of speech? In one possible (IMO likely) context that it will be viewed in by courts or at least the FCC, Twitter edited this President's speech to contradict himself.


In the US, Congress must explicitly delegate rulemaking powers to an executive agency. Absent such delegation, they cannot issue rules that would change the execution or implementation of the relevant statute. (Rules in this context are federal agency interpretations defining or implementing statutes passed by Congress.)

It appears that Congress did not delegate to the FCC the power to make rules under/implementing the CDA, so regardless of Trump's order, the FCC can do precisely diddly squat about changing the rules of the CDA.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/legal-experts...


The headline looks a little repulsive to start but I agree with you that this would be beneficial to start holding companies accountable for the content on their platforms.

That said, I'm not quite sure why Trump would call for it. Doesn't seem like something that would help him.


This isn’t about repealing section 230, it’s about enforcing it. Twitter is exercising editorial control over users’ posts. That makes them a publisher. I don’t like Trump either but I think he has a point here.


The issue is that it's impossible to run a viable user generated site without some moderation. The difference between 4chan & 8chan is some level of moderation (in addition to removing illegal content).

Although less extreme, conspiracy theories and fake news are bad PR for social media platforms & thus impact their bottom line. Additionally, many platforms currently are under pressure from investors and ad-networks to maintain certain standards.


The amount of moderation was explained in the law, and it certainly could be argued that Twitter is overstepping the bounds.


Section 230 does not say “any form of moderation or editorialization makes them liable.” In fact, this what §230(c)(1) says:

> 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.

Enforcing section 230 would actually mean that Twitter is not liable for what Trump posts. Which is already the case. If Trump were to advocate violence, Twitter would not be liable.


Yes, I read the Wikipedia article as well. Read the section on application and limits:

In analyzing the availability of the immunity offered by Section 230, courts generally apply a three-prong test. A defendant must satisfy each of the three prongs to gain the benefit of the immunity:[9]

1. The defendant must be a "provider or user" of an "interactive computer service."

2. The cause of action asserted by the plaintiff must treat the defendant as the "publisher or speaker" of the harmful information at issue.

3. The information must be "provided by another information content provider," i.e., the defendant must not be the "information content provider" of the harmful information at issue.

By adding "fact checks" to Trump's tweets, they are acting as his editor. This makes them the provider of the information, just as a newspaper editor is the provider despite not necessarily being the original author.

Imagine if dang, the moderator here on HN, decided to edit people's posts with addenda or disclaimers about the factual content of the writing. That'd make him an editor too, rather than a moderator, and then should in fairness be subject to all of the liabilities that publishers face.


> Imagine if dang, the moderator here on HN, decided to edit people's posts with addenda or disclaimers about the factual content of the writing. That'd make him an editor too, rather than a moderator, and then should in fairness be subject to all of the liabilities that publishers face.

Sure, that’d be editing, but what Twitter did was not editing. It’s akin to a reply tweet that was pinned to the top. They did not edit Trump’s tweet at all.


It's not akin to a reply tweet. It was attached directly to his message. It's like if you sent out political campaign literature in the mail and the post office attached a "fact check" sticker to it. That is very obvious editorializing.

If Twitter wants to give their opinions, they should do it through their own official accounts. Inserting content into other people's tweets is not participating on a level playing field. It's subordinating all of the users to Twitter's editorial control.


Twitter's opinions posted next to others still belong to Twitter though. Of course they're liable for the things they say directly.

Section 230 is specifically about removing liability for content they aren't directly responsible for. If you don't want Twitter to have control over their what you post on their platform the only reasonable solution is post elsewhere.


I don't understand this point. This is not thoughtful legislation being debated. This is one guy writing some executive order out of spite, which will soon be reversed by the.courts


I don't disagree that policy is required, but expecting policy to correct problems is asking too much. Policy is there to provide guidelines, not create an exhaustive list of what is ok and what is not.

If we do not police ourselves, the government will do it for us. When law enforcement is expected to deal with everything, they become militarized. I'm not sure what this means for the internet.


Could share what regulation you’re talking about? I’m sorry I don’t follow your position when it comes to regulating social media and what regulations are needed. If we use the oil industry as an example I think it’s clear that environmental regulations are needed to preserve ecological environments. What is the end goal to regulating tech giants?


Upholding the bedrock of democracy. The EO spells out the reasoning: https://kateklonick.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/DRAFT-EO-...


The concept of regulation in this space may make sense, but that doesn't mean just any regulation will do, and the fact that it's come in the form of government retaliation to Twitter publishing a fact check of a public official is scary.


The problem with Twitter and Facebook is that the lines are getting blurry with regards to public vs private. Like it or not, a couple tech platforms are the de facto new town squares. Not saying I have any answers, just saying it's definitely not a clear issue anymore.


Seems like having the president attack Twitter for their speech (adding extra speech that suggests that some shared information is disputed) is the actual violation of Free Speech. The First Amendment says that the federal government can't stifle free speech, which seems like what is happening here.


That's exactly it. Twitter disseminated the president's words as he wrote them to everyone that wanted to see it. They also said it was wrong.

Fundamentally the whole exercise is an attempt to conflate Twitters (first amendment!) right to speak its own opinions with somehow "restricting" the rights of their subscribers. And that's insane. Just look at how many people in this very thread are buying into the frame by discussing what big companies should be allowed to censor, when of course nothing of the sort occurred at all.


It would be different (and fine) if Twitter replied to his tweets with their rejoinders, posting on a level playing field with everyone else. They didn't do that. They abused their position as controllers of the site to insert their opinion into his posts.

Twitter stepped beyond the bounds of being a neutral platform with moderation. They took up the mantle of editor and began editing people's posts. This should disqualify their safe harbour protections under the Communications Decency Act. This has nothing to do with the first amendment.


Um... can you cite the explanation of why the safe harbor provisions of the CDA are conditioned on being a neutral platform? That's not how I understand the law.

You're stretching. Twitter did a fact check on the president and he can't handle it, so he's trying to harm the company using the levers of government. And that is ALL that is happening.

The legalese that you're misunderstanding is just cover. And the proof is that no one wants Twitter to be liable for the speech of its posters, because if they were then Trump (who literally just days ago falsely accused a guy of murder on that very platform) would be thrown off instantly.


No. What we don’t want is for Twitter to have their cake and eat it too. That is, to enjoy all of the privileges of being a publisher (editing posts and saying whatever they want) while upholding none of the responsibilities that eg. newspapers and magazines have to uphold.

If Twitter wants to be a communications service (a la Comcast) protected by safe harbour then they need to act like one. That means if they really can’t stand what Trump tweets then they should ban him, just as Comcast would stop carrying a cable channel it no longer wanted to carry.

These social media companies are incredibly powerful and they need to be reined in. It’s as simple as that. This executive order will soon wind up before the courts and that’s where it should be decided.


> Twitter [...] editing posts and saying whatever they want

Dude. They fact-checked a tweet.


This is frequently brought up. Does Twitter want safe harbour? I don't think they need it and I haven't noticed them invoking it. Is that incorrect?


Sure they "want" safe harbor protections because it's better not to be sued. But no, they don't "need" it as a platform really. Lacking that, they'd just start banning folks more aggressively to protect themselves.

Which, of course, is exactly what the president's supporters don't want, given his reliance on the platform. I mean, Trump literally (literally!) baselessly accused Joe Scarborough of murder last week. What do we think is going to happen if Twitter genuinely thinks they might be liable for the president's libel?

The cynical goal, obviously, is just to "hurt" twitter in the abstract, by making them look like a risky investment, drive off advertisers, etc... And that's why this is so distressing: here we have the president of the united states using the executive branch to attack a company simply because he's angry with him and not out of any kind of principle at all.


Twitter is indeed censoring on ideological grounds, just not the president in that one particular instance. To say that Twitter isn’t restricting legal publishing of their users simply isn’t true.

I was quite surprised to find this EO rather cogent and fair and reasonable, and while I was poised to vehemently oppose it, having read it, I find myself in support of it. The arguments it makes are legitimate.


Twitter's first amendment rights would not be violated, if they were to be treated as a publisher.

This is not about forcing Twitter to do anything. It is instead about having them being treated as a publisher, if they act like one.


I don't know why people are downvoting this. If the president's "attack" counts as censorship then newspapers, writers, and all the rest of us posting here are subject to that same level of censorship.


Personally I think that Twitter inserting their own articles is overstepping their own role. Nobody goes there to view what Twitter writes, nobody goes there to care about Twitter opinions. Them doing this forfeits their status as a public square, now they are publishing their own editorialized content, and not as Tweets but as privileged inserts in others Tweets.


Where is a company limited to only one role? Can Facebook not publish a blog and be a platform?


No, not like this. This is like Google or Apple prioritizing their own pages and items in their searches.


Which they are legally allowed to do


Bedhead's point still stands in isolation from this week's bullshit, though.

Trump will be on to some other highly divisive circus act next week. The question of whether Twitter is a public square will persist.


The laws of America already provide a way to resolve that though. If one company is becoming too powerful and unfairly damaging competition because of it, anti-trust exists.

Arguably twitter isn’t even that powerful except that the president uses it as an official communications platform. Before this current administration, Twitter was circling the drain. It was an afterthought in modern social media. The president pretty much singlehandedly made twitter as important as they are today. If the president doesn’t like twitters TOS he could switch to Facebook and have an even greater reach than he does today. So it’s hard to argue that twitter is actually the problem, but if they are, the easy answer is stop using their platform and switch to a competitor.


Like it or not, a couple tech platforms are the de facto new town squares.

I'd agree, but de facto is not de jure. And if we're going to make them into public spaces legally, it's certainly not going to happen through an executive order. It would require an act of Congress, similar to the restrictions and obligations placed on broadcasters.


Except that SCOTUS has already at least flirted with the idea (see Packingham v. North Carolina, 2017). Also the executive order in question doesn't have anything to do with public spaces but rather Section 230 protections; the argument is that fact checking is a form of editorializing.


I think it is pretty clear that fact checking is a form of editorializing. It seems that Section 230 was being applied even if the intermediary was editorializing the content.


See also this HN discussion about a case[1], where a judge ruled that Trump can't block people on Twitter.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17135945

[1] Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, 17-cv-5205, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York


It seems significant that Twitter wasn't a party to that case. People seem to be enthusiastically conflating it with some sort of ruling on what Twitter can or must do. I'm not sure if you are, but even bringing it up worries me.


Both Packingham and Knight involve government action to deny others access to social media. They don't involve any obligations of social media sites themselves to provide access.


By the same token though, as per the tweets assertion (I have not read the EO personally) it looks like a good chunk of the teeth of this bill is "preventing the government from advertising on a platform that doesn't X", not "creating legal consequences for a company that doesn't X", which is... Not at all the same.


They are in part the same, as the Supreme Court has ruled.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Minimum_Drinking_Ag...

As HN is fond of saying, judges are smart enough to see through attempts to hack the law.


And yet taking a person across state lines to kill them in a different jurisdiction is federal crime thanks to the interstate commerce clause.


"town squares" are not law.

Private property is sometimes public space, especially in Twitter's home of California. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruneyard_Shopping_Center_v....


I agree that at least ultimately Congress and/or the courts need to consider the larger issue. Trump isn't demanding a retraction of a single comment, because the fact check itself isn't the problem. It's a symptom. It's just a "straw that broke the camel's back". People who insist on analyzing the straw rather than the whole load are not discussing the real issue.

The real issue is the extent to which Big Tech platforms can tilt a playing field that a billion people play on. Whether tilting the field to favor their own products, as the EU courts ruled, or their own political preferences or whatever else they want, heaven help you if you are playing against their favored team and have to play on their field. Death by a thousand bad ref calls.

Big Tech is big because of the network effects on the internet, meaning that for many things you want to do, there are lots of choices in theory but just one in practice. They own the whole league. You play on their tilted field or you "can always go start your own" league and play alone. (Google started their own FaceBook. Microsoft started their own phone OS. Now you go start your own Twitter.)

Congress and the courts need to look at these massive network-effects platforms that are claiming the rights of players and non-players and the responsibilities of neither.


>>Like it or not, a couple tech platforms are the de facto new town squares.

>I'd agree, but de facto is not de jure.

In 2018 there was a decision of a district court[1], subsequently reaffirmed by the Courts of Appeal, that the President's twitter account is a "designated public forum". This was widely reported due to it's "Trump cannot block other users" aspect, but might have interesting bearing here.

--

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_First_Amendment_Institu...


It's disturbing to me that people have picked this up and are running with it as saying something about Twitter and its rights or responsibilities. It appears to me that was simply about the rights and responsibilities of public officials whatever (private) means they use to communicate.

From the previous thread:

"Just because Twitter allows people to block stuff, doesn't mean Trump gets to block stuff.

In a "normal" government, they'd pick a vendor with software that would let them make official policy statements in a way that complied with the laws around people having the right to reach out to their government officials.

Just 'cause twitter's software lets him do something doesn't make actually doing that thing legal, moral, or ethical.

This judgement makes perfect sense and is completely reasonable when you remember that technology is a mere tool designed to serve humans. Just cause you can do something in a tool doesn't make it right."


This is a valid argument, but it seems like the proper government response would be to use the tools that were designed to address issues like this such as antitrust law. We shouldn't be bestowing governmental responsibilities on these companies just because we let them become monopolies.


The legislation (Communications Decency Act of 1996) under discussion flows from EFFECTIVE lobbying by telecom monopolies seeking a liability shield [0].

Monopoly power and market manipulation is a second order issue.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act


I legitimately don't understand your point here. You seem to be implying that this specific legislation is a form of regulatory capture. Meanwhile nothing in the Wikipedia article you linked seems to support that. It even notes that groups like the ACLU are strongly in support of Sec 230. I don't think the ACLU normally does the bidding of big telecom.

Either way, if the root cause is telecom monopolies, let's actually try to fix monopolies rather creating a new category of private company that becomes a public good through its monopoly.


My point is that an anti-trust lens isn't adequate if legislation keeps getting passed that rolls back regulation [0] and promotes formation of trusts.

The CDA and §230 was part of the broader Telecommunications Act of 1996. Look at the outcome, which sure seems like "regulatory capture" to me:

> Before the 1996 Act was passed, the largest four [Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers] owned less than half of all the lines in the country while, five years later, the largest four local telephone companies owned about 85% of all the lines in the country.

It's also possible that the ACLU's interests will conveniently align with a subset of interests for third parties when the third party's liability is reduced.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996...


But the current discussion is specifically about this one small aspect of that overall bill. Whether the overall bill is regulatory capture or not is irrelevant to the discussion of the merits of this specific section.


I appreciate your nuance.

I'm skeptical about claims that the overall bill (i.e. de-regulation) and §230 (i.e. liability shields) weren't intertwined.

My lay understanding is that §230 came about because (i) telecom providers and ISPs were getting sued for trafficking third-party content; and (ii) they started running to pro-business legislators for protection.[0]

Again, my initial reaction was to the claim that the anti-trust controls would be effective in order to police things. That seems like a last resort; and requires first UNWINDING a lot of other legislation that appears to shield the formation of trusts.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communicati...


Thats true it’s becoming unclear, but only sociologically.

Legally, it doesn’t matter if people think of Twitter as a public space. No amount of perception turns twitter into a governmental organization or subjects it to laws that only pertain to the government.

This case is even further from the first amendment because Twitter didn’t prevent any speech. It just exercised its own right to free speech alongside the president’s free speech.

Nobody has the right to uncontested or un-responded-to speech.


Furthermore (IANAL) there's a long history of conflict around the boundaries of private vs. public. "Private" clubs (as with companies) are subject to civil rights and other equal protection legislation (sometimes) for example in a way that your outdoor BBQ isn't.


Someone that spends too much time at the bar might mistake that for the town square, as might someone who spends too much time on Twitter.

The more foolish aspect of this is that the President doesn’t have a direct means of striking back against what Twitter actually did (post a Get the Facts link), so he’s trying to punish them by reinterpreting Section 230. This EO definitely has some teeth, but there are provisions in it that I can’t wait to see in court.


Is he reinterpreting 230? I've seen both sides of the spectrum say that social media companies have been interpreting 230 too broadly


Yes.[1] Section 230 is not a new law, but this order is directing his Administration how they are to interpret certain provisions of it going forward with some actions they are to take. It’s important to remember that an Executive Order is not law by decree, it is an official government communication directing the government how to act under the law, as is the President’s prerogative. No matter how you come down on the issue of how social media companies interpret Section 230, a new EO is effectively a new interpretation either narrowing, expanding or changing the scope under which enforcement action is to be taken by the government.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-or...


He's continuing a push from Republicans to reframe section 230 immunity as only applying to "neutral" platforms [1]. The problem is this then gives the government a big stick to control them on relatively subjective grounds.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communicati...


Now I'm curious what the historical precedent is for this. What happens (first-amendment-wise) when a company town has a literal private-property town square? Could the company control speech in "its" town square?

For that matter: what about malls? Or university campuses? Or public transit infrastructure provided by private government contractors? What are your free-speech rights when in one of these (privately-owned, public use) places?

I feel like a very extreme edge-case situation could be constructed to test the law here: incorporate a town; and then, as your first act as mayor, sell the whole of the town's incorporated territory to a private corporation. Have the corporation declare that anyone engaging in democratic actions on "its property" (e.g. holding a municipal election) is trespassing. Are you now the town's autocratic mayor-for-life, however-many people may move in?


This (almost) exact scenario played out in Marsh v. Alabama (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_v._Alabama). If the town is, for all intents and purposes, acting like a traditional town, and with the public having access to it, first amendment rights hold.

Also, worth reading up on Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Community_Access_Cor...)


I remember reading that there's some precedent for those kinds of workarounds, and courts have ruled that, when you start looking like a government, then the First Amendment applies, and it came up when the Domino's Pizza owners tried to do exactly that, but I don't know where to look to substantiate that, though someone else might.


In the University of California system they set up "free speech zones" for protestors and activists. They're often complete surrounded by chain link fencing with one entrance/exit.


That's a way to avoid having to test the law, certainly. What happens if you don't do that, though—if you have a public-use area, and none of it is a "free-speech zone"?


> What happens (first-amendment-wise) when a company town has a literal private-property town square? Could the company control speech in "its" town square?

Thankfully, we don’t need to imagine what happens: the Disney Corporation has a modern company town (Celebration, FL)[0]; they control a pair of HOAs (one each for residential and non-residential owners). Lexin Capital manages the literal town square, and while I can’t find anything on the topic, I would imagine standard private property rights would apply to the land they own.

[0]: https://celebration.fl.us/celebration-community-governance/


The first amendment only protects from limits placed by the government, not if it’s a public or private setting.


[flagged]


That's odd, I don't recall arguing for nationalization of Twitter, nor do I recall planting a "conservative" flag. People see what they want to see I guess...


[flagged]


The comment was talking about there being a blurred line in how these companies exist in our world today. Not arguing for cake based discrimination. If Twitter and co are in novel ethical territory, it's worth questioning if we need new a new paradigm.


I would inverse your last statement: conservatives are in favor of deregulation when it benefits them. and regulate stuff also when it benefits them.


I would replace "conservatives" with "people in general" and remind everyone that this is why protecting personal freedoms, even ones you don't like, is of the utmost importance.


[flagged]


Adding fact checking is not censorship. You have the right to say whatever you like, and everyone else has the right to have opinions about it.


What about shadow banning, deleting content and expelling users for otherwise legal speech?


> The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment constrains governmental actors and protects private actors. To draw the line between governmental and private, this Court applies what is known as the state-action doctrine. Under that doctrine, as relevant here, a private entity may be considered a state actor when it exercises a function “traditionally exclusively reserved to the State.” Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U. S. 345, 352 (1974). [0]

[0] https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1702_h315.pdf


Are you sure you are dealing with the same issue?

Twitter didn't restrict Trump's tweet. It added their own speech (and not masqueraded as Trump).

Follow me here:

Citizen United says that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals, thus allowing them to exercise their "speech" by dumping tons of dark money into politics.

Twitter exercised free speech by publishing something on their own platform.

The government is now trying to limit Twitter's right to free speech as has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

This is a Trump tantrum.


This is not a Trump tantrum. The issues are real. As we speak, courts across the country are using Zoom for hearings.

Would there be any legal impediment to Zoom automatically inserting a caption on YOUR video feed that says "jwalgenbach is a liar"?

If you were to complain, would we be justified in saying "it's just another jwaldenbach tantrum..."

Would it be right to simply say, "if jwaldenbach doesn't like Zoom's polices, he doesn't have to use it"?

What is Western Union added a 'fact check' to your telegrams? What if Google inserts a 'fact check' in your emails?

These issues are not trivial, and viewing them through a partisan lens is naive and immature.


> Would it be right to simply say, "if jwaldenbach doesn't like Zoom's polices, he doesn't have to use it"?

Yes.

> What is Western Union added a 'fact check' to your telegrams?

Don't use Western Union

> What if Google inserts a 'fact check' in your emails?

Don't use Google?

You don't have to use Zoom, you don't have to use Western Union, if you don't like their policies don't use their products.

Trump uses Twitter because he likes it but it's twitters own site! If they want to put 'Trump is a big orange fat dumb loser' under every one of his tweets they can, if they want they can turn it into the 'we love dogs!' site tomorrow, just replace the whole website with pictures of dogs they can. It would kill the company, but they can do it if they want.

I have no idea where this idea that Trump is being forced to use twitter and they're manipulating his free speech on someone elses website is coming from.


Your answers were expected, but I mentioned Zoom for a specific reason...

Currently, many judicial hearings are being conducted using Zoom. You can literally be ORDERED to appear for a hearing using Zoom.

In this situation, what would you make of Zoom inserting that tag line? Does it change your analysis?

If yes, why? It's still a private company. Does the fact that the government is requiring you to use is restrict what the private company may or may not do?

There are two sides to the "if you don't like it, don't use it" argument. You are focusing only on one side; namely, if the consumer doesn't like it, he need not use it.

The Zoom example might open your eyes to the other side; namely, if a private company chooses to offer a service to the government, it needs to abide by certain restrictions... and, if it doesn't like it, it need not provide that service.

In the Zoom example, if Zoom insists on putting the tag on your video during hearings, a reasonable response would be to turn to Zoom -- and not you -- and say, "If you aren't willing to curtail your 1st Am. rights a bit, Zoom, then don't provide the service to the Court... the choice is yours."

If Twitter is hosting government officials and agencies -- in their official capacity -- there are certain restrictions it muse abide by; namely, not modifying, editorializing, or shadow-banning their posts. If Twitter doesn't like this restriction, it can choose not to host that government official or agency.


Your logic is flawed and entirely unconvincing.

> In this situation, what would you make of Zoom inserting that tag line? Does it change your analysis?

It would be counter to the contractual agreements and policies that Zoom has set up. Twitter has no such obligations.

> The Zoom example might open your eyes to the other side; namely, if a private company chooses to offer a service to the government, it needs to abide by certain restrictions... and, if it doesn't like it, it need not provide that service.

The company is responsible for operating according to the terms that both it and its users agree to, and the law. That is it.

> If Twitter is hosting government officials and agencies -- in their official capacity -- there are certain restrictions it muse abide by; namely, not modifying, editorializing, or shadow-banning their posts. If Twitter doesn't like this restriction, it can choose not to host that government official or agency.

Twitter's only mistake is not reprimanding the racist hate-mongers like Trump for the policies it supposedly has. Any regular user or lesser public figure would have (and has) been banned if they tweeted the things he does.

If Twitter has agreements with these users, stating that they are immune from all of Twitter's posted rules, then sure your argument has footing. Otherwise, you don't get to hijack a platform with your own rules and because you happen to work for the government and open a free account there.


Do you even know what “free speech” means?


Free speech as an idea doesn't just apply to the government, it is just that we only enforce free speech on the government. The ideal of free speech and its merits applies just as well to private actors and we should try to live up to it whenever we can. If you think that companies should be able to use their power and influence to suppress the speech of individuals then I would say that you are more authoritarian than liberal.


I'm so baffled by this because there are plenty of places where speech is suppressed and its fine. A highschool teacher can fail a student for shouting answers in an exam. A person can kick someone out of their house for saying horrible things. A cafe can ask someone to leave for saying slurs. A professor can ask a student to leave a lecture hall for talking...

The right to speech is curtailed all the time in private... We even teach it to our kids, such as raising one's hand, or waiting their turn.


You are misunderstanding free speech, it isn't a literal statement. Free speech is about being allowed to express ideas, not disrupting classrooms or harassing others. If you are allowed to express your idea after waiting for your turn, then your speech wasn't suppressed even if people told you to be quiet for a while.


"The ideal of free speech and its merits applies just as well to private actors and we should try to live up to it whenever we can."

What exactly does this mean if it doesn't apply to actively telling people when and where they can speak?


It is fine to police disruptions, but you shouldn't police ideas. If all conservatives are told to wait for their turns while it is fine for liberals to just blurt things out then it isn't free speech. However if everyone is forced to wait and a conservative gets banned for talking out of turn then it is still free speech, he got banned for disrupting and not for his message.

It is hard/impossible to create laws around it since it is hard to formally define, but often it is obvious when it is infringed in practice just that we can't litigate it.


This seems like a strawman - no one is getting banned from social media for having polite disagreements on foreign policy or income tax rates.


You haven’t been to imgur have you? Some sites have a point system and if your “social score” is too low you most definitely can get banned. There’s generally more left leaning people than right leaning people on some platforms, and when someone disagrees with someone else but otherwise can’t refute their statements they hit downvote. Enough of this and you get a ban.


You took my comment too literally - of course there are people who've been banned somewhere online for having opinions another human disagreed with. My point was that no large social media platform has a policy of banning people for civilized political disagreements.


Ok so what do we do about the first part of banning people for having a different opinion when they were otherwise civilized? A social media site having a policy that directly states “if you disagree with my statements i’ll ban you” is clearly not an issue nor is even worth discussing. I can’t really see how this is taking your comment too literally.


Some site are like that, plus talking about the voting system is against the rules, and even if you get plenty of upvotes, you can still be throttled or banned by a moderator.


Or maybe we think that giving the government the power to tell private companies which speech they must allow is more authoritarian than letting the companies decide for themselves. Whenever there are tricky balancing questions like this, I always err on the side of the party that doesn't have a monopoly on violence.


Extending free speech laws to cover companies which acts as public forums is not the same as the government telling companies what they are allowed to say and do. If you think that free speech laws are fine for governments then you should also think it is fine for certain companies which grew too powerful and influential.


How do you think those laws will be enforced, if not the government telling companies "you must allow this defamatory and/or untrue content on your servers"? Facebook and Twitter can't censor me, because I am not a customer of either company, and neither has a law enforcement wing. The government, on the other hand, has unlimited firepower and I have no choice whether to "do business" with it. So yes, I will absolutely apply different standards to each.


Why is it up to the company to decide what is defamatory or untrue? If you read the rebuttal twitter posted on his tweet you’ll see it boils down to “no evidence”. This doesn’t mean his claims are not true, it means there’s no evidence they are. These are very different concepts. So now twitter is running around saying it’s untrue when legally it hasn’t been proven untrue. They should instead take a hands off approach and let people think, read and decide for themselves.


I personally feel much freer to think for myself if government officials can't force private companies to carry their personal content. Of course it's highly unlikely that Twitter fact-checking the president will make any difference - everyone who's been paying attention made up their minds about the guy years ago - but if Trump is really so triggered by it, he is of course free to post his thoughts elsewhere. It's awfully telling that he immediately decided to involve federal regulators, although I suspect this will be just as effective as the fact-checking.


Trumps EO today did not and will not force companies to carry government content. Instead it removes protections for them if the limit access to things not specifically protected in the Communications Decency Act.

The rest of it you’re welcome to your opinions and interpretation of events. There is, however, quite a bit of people that agree with him.


This is just disingenuous. The message here is unambiguously "carry our content unedited or you become legally liable for everything posted on your site." Don't pretend that the decision of whose content is "protected" isn't going to be 100% subjective and partisan depending on who appointed the federal regulators. Or do you really think Trump's FCC or FTC (or whichever agency he imagines will enforce his new EO) is going to leap to the defense of, say, an Ilhan Omar tweet?


This is absolutely not disingenuous, this is reading the EO exactly as written without putting a bias on it. It very clearly states that removing things not specifically protected in the Act do not grant you the protections provided by the act. What’s disingenuous is trying to put a personal bias on this and trying to convince others this is true.


Context is bias now? Are we supposed to pretend this document appeared out of thin air, and can only be interpreted in an ultra-literal fashion, regardless of the goals it represents and the way it will be interpreted in the real world?


Well the original law is from 1996. And read the document before making any other comments because it’s clear you haven’t yet read it. It reasserts what is allowed under an existing law from 1996


This is what is allowed under Section 230: "any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected." The EO isn't reasserting anything, it's fundamentally changing the conditions.

The fact that Trump even admitted on camera that he'd shut Twitter down entirely if he could find a legal route for it kind of gives away the game.


This text is in the original law so how is this changing anything?

His choice of words is usually unfortunate, but the problem he’s pointing out does exist.

How does it look when the Twitter execs are known to lean left, post publicly their hatred for the president then take actions within their control to force their point on others?


Nothing is being forced on anyone. If Trump is unhappy with their fact-checking, he can take his business elsewhere. Or start his own microblog service, since he supposedly has so much money.

It just blows my mind that I used to have nearly identical arguments with left-wingers.


I don’t agree with this mentality of taking it elsewhere. Essentially what you’re saying here is we should segregate social media based on political viewpoints. This, I feel, is a very dangerous precedent to set. Regardless of what side you’re on do you want to live in an echo chamber?

As for forcing, agree to disagree then. Putting the link on a tweet and then linking to essentially an opinion piece is the definition of fake news. Ignoring the link meaning potentially missing an actual valid point. Ignorance is also dangerous. Why can’t they just take Facebooks stance and stay out of it entirely?


> Putting the link on a tweet and then linking to essentially an opinion piece is the definition of fake news.

What is wrong with you? That's not even close to the definition.


So then what would you call an opinion piece being touted as truth? And please no personal insult or insulations that “something is wrong” with me, you people still arguing a clearly valid point have destroyed my HN reputation with all the downvotes as it is.


What if, instead of trying to bully Twitter to not post fact checking links for Trump's tweet, we instead ask them to do so fairly for both sides of the political spectrum? I'm pretty sure there are lots of factually false left-wing statements that could make use of the fact checking feature.

That is the only issue here that I could see as being partisan, it's not about adding fact checking links, it's about doing so regardless of the political affiliation of the poster. I wish there was a lot more fact checking added to most statements on Twitter.


What are you talking about? Trump is the one going after Twitter's right to free speech with this executive order. Liberals (and probably, hopefully, and if so, rightly, some conservatives) are the ones arguing for free speech right now.


No, this EO is so the Pres can say whatever, on Social and not have his "free speech" checked.

Both parties still have free speech w/o this EO.

Pres can say whatever (free speech) and Twitter can attach a flag (free-speech).

A challenge to your speech is not restricting your speech.


Exactly. Politics is the mind killer. Would they have the same opinion if Twitter was a right-leaning Trump-mouthpiece that was disproportionately quelling left-leaning voices? Take a step back and recognise you can agree with Trump's action and not necessarily admire the man.


We don't have to speak in hypotheticals here. There are plenty of examples: voat, gab, TD, etc. What laws are/were being pushed by liberal politicians to use the force of law to shut them up?

Please do link to government documents or quotes from elected officials.


It’s not a question of laws used, more psychological factors. Some people seeing those statements made by twitter may believe them blindly. We need people reading into important topics like this and forming opinions without being bated. Part of the problem you’ll also see in this thread. The downvotes here set the tone for the comment the viewer is about to read. Why is it’s view changed at all? Nothing this commenter said was offensive yet on some sites their comment would be hidden entirely.


What statement was made by Twitter that could be followed blindly? All I saw was "Get the facts about mail in ballots".

You can only infer a bias on that based on your own preconceived notion about Twitter's biases. A completely ignorant and unbiased individual may just as likely think "Twitter wants to show me why Trump is right" as they are to think "Twitter wants to show me why Trump is wrong".

If you really want to have people

> reading into important topics like this and forming opinions without being bated (sic)

then you should be all for this kind of neutrally positioned link to more information. I'm certainly open to entertaining alternatives, though.


The existence of the link in the first place. You have to be pretty far removed from reality to not know Twitter execs have a left lean to their bias. So the a completely unbiased person will notice that only some tweets show this link and could build a bias based on other psychological factors, such as wanting acceptance from a seemingly majority of peers.

I am for neutrality. I’m also a realist. IFF they could pull this off universally, in that all tweets are subject to these same fact checks, then I’m all for it. Removing personal biases of the person doing the fact checks will be a challenge but we can achieve this through multiple fact checkers with specific biases. Like the bulls and bears statements you find with stocks. But we cannot achieve this, we lack both the peoplepower and technology given Twitters scale. Short of it being universally applied to all accounts it can’t meet the definition of neutral. Therefor, don’t do it at all. Instead someone else using Twitter can reply to his tweets with the fact check. This keeps Twitters hands and potential biases entirely out of a very complicated topic.


> You have to be pretty far removed from reality to not know Twitter execs have a left lean to their bias.

Is that why they only remove nazis if you set your location to germany? That's bias to the... left?


I mean are you really trying to argue the Twitter execs are right leaning?


I don't know about what they do in their personal lives, but the actions I've seen applied to the site itself don't seem to be left leaning.


Well, they have posted many times on their position on Trump, which is a left leaning position. Then, rather quickly they throw this fact check on one of his tweets. Regardless of what their actual intents were the actions to me look a bit shady. Especially since the fact check comes down to “no evidence”, which is completely different then proven false.


If tech companies instead shut down people clamoring for unions and worker rights then you'd see the left rushing to introduce measures like the one signed by Donald Trump right now. So this is really a bipartisan issue and not just a right wing one, we should all work together to regulate the power of big tech. They might be mostly well-intentioned today, but it is best we regulate them before they have a chance to turn bad.


What about those of us who do not identify as "left" or "right" and would prefer that both gangs leave the Internet alone?


Tech companies are way too powerful to be left alone. With great power comes great regulations, as they say.


That's an entirely subjective opinion - and one that should ideally be left up to voters and/or their elected representatives, not to any single individual (like our president, or unelected bureaucrats in the FTC/FCC/etc.). And I continue to maintain that it's insanity to be terrified of Twitter's power when the government can order any one of us killed or locked up indefinitely and there are zero consequences when they screw up.


> down people clamoring for unions and worker rights

If those people are lying egregiously to do it then, sure, shut them down too.


Start by repealing the Citizens United ruling. If corporations can't have free speech, then this isn't an issue.


Does Gab silence liberal views? Bans, shadow-bans liberal accounts? Puts "fact checking" marks on their posts? If they do, then liberal politicians are more than welcome to take action.


230 seems to only be considered too broadly interpreted when it's helping their side out ️. Definite double standards here like no other


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