The Question of Section 230 By Chris Knight
This one is from the US, but it is fascinating, arising from big Tech using section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to block links to the Post’s story on the Hunter Biden emails. Here is the material to bring you up to speed on it, then I comment.
“Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley when he announced plans to “clarify the meaning” of a law that protects tech giants from being held responsible for content posted by their users post.
Pai’s move follows explosive backlash to Twitter and Facebook for blocking links to The Post’s Wednesday exposé on Hunter Biden’s emails.
Republican lawmakers and President Trump on Wednesday cited the tech giants’ censorship of the article in calls for reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 landmark federal law that acts as a legal shield for online platforms from material posted by their users, allowing them to be treated more like publishers.
Supporters of reforming the law say tech giants should lose protections if they operate as a publisher rather than as a neutral platform.
“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters,” Pai tweeted at 2:30 p.m.
“The Commission’s General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230. Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning,” he added.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday night called it “unacceptable” that his site blocked users from sharing links to the story without providing a clear message as to why it was taking the action.
Twitter has variously said the story, which relied on emails obtained from a computer-repair person who found them on a laptop, violated its policies on hacking and on displaying private information like email addresses and phone numbers without a person’s permission.
Back in May, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to look at whether they can place new regulations on tech giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube.
“There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction,” Trump said at the time, claiming that Twitter makes “editorial decisions.”
“The Trump administration announced on Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission will be issuing a clarification regarding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has given special immunities to Big Tech firms which exempt from liability for content published on their platforms.
“Members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set forth in Section 230 of the Communications Act. There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law. The U.S. Department of Commerce has petitioned the Commission to ‘clarify ambiguities in section 230.’ And earlier this week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that courts have relied upon ‘policy and purpose arguments to grant sweeping protections to Internet platforms’ that appear to go far beyond the actual text of the provision,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in a statement.
“As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does Section 230 currently mean? Many advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Section 230. The Commission’s General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230. Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning,” he added.
Pai noted that his clarification of Section 230 is in concordance with his limited government ethos. Section 230 is a bureaucratic regulation set up by big government to allow powerful corporations to shirk liabilities and form monopolies by design.
“Throughout my tenure at the Federal Communications Commission, I have favored regulatory parity, transparency, and free expression. Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters,” Pai wrote.
“Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is applied too broadly to social media companies in a recent letter. The law, which was passed at the beginning of the dot-com era, allows internet companies to avoid liability for content that has been posted by users on their platform. According to Thomas, “many courts have construed the law broadly to confer sweeping immunity on some of the largest companies in the world.”
According to a report by Axios, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that Section 230 of the CDA should be narrowed. Section 230 grants broad legal protections to social media companies with regard to content posted by users.
In a statement issued in response to a petition for writ of certiorari, Justice Thomas argued that Section 230 declares that social media platforms are not “publishers,” which means that they cannot be held liable for content posted by their users. Some industry analysts have suggested that platforms should be responsible for certain content on their platform, and for the censorship of content from their platforms, an act that makes them a publisher instead of a platform.
Enacted at the dawn of the dot-com era, §230 contains two subsections that protect computer service providers from some civil and criminal claims. The first is definitional. It states, “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.” §230(c)(1). This provision ensures that a company (like an e-mail provider) can host and transmit third party content without subjecting itself to the liability that sometimes attaches to the publisher or speaker of unlawful content.
Justice Thomas went on to argue that many courts around the nation have construed the law too broadly, offering liability protection to some of the most powerful companies in the world.
“When Congress enacted the statute, most of today’s major Internet platforms did not exist. And in the 24 years since, we have never interpreted this provision,” Justice Thomas wrote. “But many courts have construed the law broadly to confer sweeping immunity on some of the largest companies in the world.”
Breitbart News reported in June that the Department of Justice was preparing a proposal that would repeal Section 230 of the CDA. A reversal would likely have a major impact on popular social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.”
Censoring a mainstream article about the dirt that Hunter Biden was involved in has only drawn attention to what he was up to. So, what exactly did Hunter do, besides the drugs? How about treason, for starters:
“Sources have told Fox News that ‘the big guy’ is a reference to the former vice president.
By Sam Dorman, Mike Emanuel | Fox News October 17, 2020;
New Hunter Biden emails detail alleged dealings with China
One of the people on an explosive email thread allegedly involving Hunter Biden has corroborated the veracity of the messages, which appear to outline a payout for former Vice President Joe Biden as part of a deal with a Chinese energy firm.
One email, dated May 13, 2017, and obtained by Fox News, includes a discussion of “remuneration packages” for six people in a business deal with a Chinese energy firm. The email appeared to identify Hunter Biden as “Chair / Vice Chair depending on agreement with CEFC,” in an apparent reference to now-bankrupt CEFC China Energy Co.
The email includes a note that “Hunter has some office expectations he will elaborate.” A proposed equity split references “20” for “H” and “10 held by H for the big guy?” with no further details. Fox News spoke to one of the people who was copied on the email, who confirmed its authenticity.
Sources told Fox News that “the big guy” is a reference to the former vice president. The New York Post initially published the emails and other controversial messages that Fox News has also obtained.
The Bidens’ relationship with Ukraine came under special attention last year as House Democrats pursued an impeachment inquiry surrounding President Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. In it, Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the former vice president, who was suspected of abusing his authority to pressure the government into firing its top prosecutor.
Another email from May of 2014 shows Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to Burisma’s board, allegedly shows him asking for the younger Biden’s advice on how to stop “politically motivated actions.”
“We urgently need your advice on how you could use your influence to convey a message / signal, etc. to stop what we consider to be politically motivated actions,” it reads. And less than a year later, a purported email from Pozharskyi shows him thanking Hunter Biden for an invitation to meet his father.
Biden’s campaign has denied wrongdoing and claimed that the former vice president’s schedule showed no meeting taking place, though Politico later clarified that the campaign wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the former vice president had an informal interaction with Pozharskyi. The campaign also said it has released the former vice president’s tax documents and returns, which do not reflect any involvement with Chinese investments.
Politico later clarified that the campaign wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the former vice president had an informal interaction with Pozharskyi.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates also said: “Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as ‘not legitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing. Trump administration officials have attested to these facts under oath.”
Joe Biden does not escape this either:
“Unless you've been hiding under a rock all day, you'll know that Twitter and Facebook have been escalating their censorship of a shocking New York Post story showing emails (to and from Hunter Biden) that clearly contradict Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed business with his son.
The authenticity of the contents of the emails was not denied by the Biden campaign and furthermore, the possibility of an off-the-books meeting between the VP and the Ukrainian executive was not denied:
Several GOP lawmakers got officially 'involved', including Rep Jim Jordan, who issued his own letter to Facebook demanding an explanation for why it decided to censor the Hunter Biden story.
Facebook reiterated its warning that that the U.S.’s foreign adversaries, including Russia, might seek to trick journalists into amplifying hacked or inaccurate content they want to spread ahead of an election.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, issued this warning again Wednesday on Twitter, “given this morning’s news cycle.” He did not directly say whether this was why Facebook took action on the New York Post content.
Then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey offered his comment, rapidly backpedaling on the actions his firm had taken.”
“Newly obtained emails from a Hunter Biden business partner lay out in detail how the Vice President’s son and his colleagues used their access to the Obama-Biden administration to arrange private meetings for potential foreign clients and investors at the highest levels in the White House. These never-before-revealed emails outline how a delegation of Chinese investors and Communist Party officials managed to secure a private, off-the-books meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden.
In a 2011 email, Hunter Biden’s business associates also discussed developing relations with what one called “China Inc.” as part of a “new push on soft diplomacy for the Chinese.” These emails are completely unconnected to the Hunter Biden emails being released by the New York Post.
These and more explosive never-before-revealed emails were provided to Schweizer by Bevan Cooney, a one-time Hunter Biden and Devon Archer business associate. Cooney is currently in prison serving a sentence for his involvement in a 2016 bond fraud investment scheme.
In 2019, Cooney reached out to Schweizer after becoming familiar with the revelations in his 2018 book Secret Empires. Cooney explained that he believes he was the “fall guy” for the fraud scheme and that Archer and Hunter Biden had avoided responsibility.
Archer, who was also convicted in the case, saw a federal judge vacate his conviction. But an appellate court overturned the lower court judge’s ruling, reinstating Archer’s conviction in the case. Archer, Hunter Biden’s longtime business partner, awaits sentencing.
Cooney, their associate who is currently serving a prison sentence on his conviction in the matter, later reestablished contact with Schweizer through investigative journalist Matthew Tyrmand. From prison, Cooney provided Schweizer with written authorization, his email account name, and password to his Gmail account to retrieve these emails. He authorized, in writing, the publication of these emails— notable because it is the first time a close associate has publicly confirmed Hunter’s trading on his father’s influence.
The emails offer a unique window into just how the Biden universe conducted business during the Obama-Biden Administration. These associates sought to trade on Hunter Biden’s relationship with, and access to, his father and the Obama-Biden White House in order to generate business.
For instance, on November 5, 2011, one of Archer’s business contacts forwarded him an email teasing an opportunity to gain “potentially outstanding new clients” by helping to arrange White House meetings for a group of Chinese executives and government officials. The group was the China Entrepreneur Club (CEC) and the delegation included Chinese billionaires, Chinese Communist Party loyalists, and at least one “respected diplomat” from Beijing. Despite its benign name, CEC has been called “a second foreign ministry” for the People’s Republic of China—a communist government that closely controls most businesses in its country. CEC was established in 2006 by a group of businessmen and Chinese government diplomats.”
Trump is right that the Biden’s should be behind bars, but if, and that is likely given the high level of corruption, old Joe becomes president for a few days before Harris takes over, you can be sure his only act will be to pardon his son. Never have we seen such a display of utter corruption at the highest level, but be sure, that this has gone on for a long time. What will it take to end it, or is this just fallen human nature in action?