September 19, 2020 8:01:49 PM
Kudos to Mississippi U. S. Senator Roger Wicker for sponsoring a bill to amend Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996.
I know most readers are scratching their heads wondering "what the heck is Section 230?" Sounds rather technical and minor.
What if I told you that all the rioting in our streets and the polarization of American culture is a direct result of Section 230?
What if I told you that the most powerful monopolies in the history of the world were a direct result of Section 230 - monopolies that threaten the foundations of our republic?
What if I told you that completely innocent citizens of this country can be slandered and libeled, their lives and careers destroyed, without any recourse, as a result of Section 230?
What if I told you that the "Fourth Estate" of our government, the media, has been destroyed and half the journalists in our country thrown out of work, creating an unprecedented level of government and private corruption, as a result of Section 230?
What if I were to tell you that the massive economic damage caused by COVID-19 panic was a direct result of Section 230?
What if I told you that the minds of our young children are being rearranged and altered in an unknown and dangerous way as a direct result of Section 230?
What if I told you terrorists can easily plan and coordinate deadly attacks on U.S. soil as a direct result of Section 230?
What if I told you that these horrible things I have just listed are just the tip of the iceberg of the damage done by Section 230?
I'm guessing you would probably want to know what exactly is Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996.
Section 230, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton, stipulates that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
This innocent sounding piece of legislation deemed "interactive computer services" as not "publishers." As a result, Facebook, Google and Twitter are exempt from 400 years of libel and slander common law designed to protect citizens.
Facebook, Google and Twitter can sell hundreds of billions in advertising around content for which they have zero responsibility. They can profit from pornography, extremism, slander and terrorism and nobody can hold them responsible.
Just last year, a group of terrorist victims sued Facebook for allowing terrorists to use its platform for communicating and planning terrorist attacks. In a 66-page ruling, Force v. Facebook, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that, based on Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996, Facebook didn't create the content, therefore it was not responsible.
This is how the Russians can use Facebook to manipulate our elections by posting mountains of fake news. Facebook can let it happen because it can't be sued. They can let it rip on their platform, with zero accountability.
It all started innocently enough in 1996. The Internet was just getting off the ground. Platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter were losing money.
Lobbyists for the platforms argued they could never succeed if they had to hire reporters and editors to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of all the items posted to their platforms. Editors are expensive.
In a perfect example of how governmental favoritism can wreak havoc, Congress, in its obliviousness, agreed to exempt the new media platforms from the same laws that every book, newspaper, magazine and television station had to abide by.
Never before in the history of publishing has a publisher been allowed to profit from its published content without being held legally responsible for the accuracy and legitimacy of that content.
Congress created a monster. So here we are with rioting in the streets.
With no accountability for accuracy, the platforms were free to pursue eyeballs for eyeballs sake. The ad dollars followed. Accuracy and objectivity became irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was the eyeballs and the money they produced.
Hundreds of billions in profits flowed, allowing the platforms to plow billions into tracking software, eventually destroying every iota of privacy Americans had enjoyed for hundreds of years.
The ability to track and spy on American citizens gave rise to targeted posts and websites customized for the unique biases and viewpoints of each individual, furthering engagement but skyrocketing divisiveness. Instead of objective, real news created by professional journalists designed to appeal to the majority, news became an echo chamber of amateur bloggers whipping up emotions.
Right wing sites fueled right wing extremism. Left wing sites fueled left wing extremism. Platforms became perfect vehicles for planning protests, demonstrations, then riots.
The Russians jumped in the game, seeing a perfect vehicle for undermining American society and thereby reducing American influence in the world. China followed. It became a free for all.
Objective news became a thing of the past. Truth became an illusion. Our young people were hypnotized by the programmers who used artificial intelligence and primal psychology to addict them to their smartphones.
Respected citizens were slandered, their careers destroyed, by false accusations from anonymous bloggers. Section 230 gave them no recourse.
Sen. Wicker says he wants to amend Section 230 because major platforms are being biased against conservatives in violation of Section 230. No doubt Wicker is justified in his complaint, but the ills caused by Section 230 are far, far greater than just that.
There is only one solution: Repeal Section 230 and make the platforms liable for their content like every other publisher.
But now the platforms have billions to bribe politicians, so that's not likely to happen. Welcome to the Brave New World.
Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
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