Perversion: Smut less likely to be blocked than political speech online

Pratt on TexasAbout Facebook, Google and the rest, Michael Brendan Dougherty at nationalreview.com, has reminded us:

“Right now the debate has been about the difference between platforms and publishers. National Review Online is a publication. Our comments section, though moderated, is a platform. A publication is legally liable if it prints libels or other forms of unprotected speech (a small category in America). A platform is not; only the individual posting to the platform is.

“In the 1990s, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, in part to allow Internet services such as Promenade and Prodigy (RIP) to block pornography. The idea was that open Internet platforms where smut prevailed seemed to enjoy more protection in law than those entrepreneurial outfits that wanted to create family-friendly zones. The latter, because they edited and moderated content that users posted for obscenity, were at that time treated in the law as publishers and then were suddenly liable for whatever libels and slanders users posted on them. It was a more conservative America, and Congress thought the result of this was perverse.

“Most of the parts of that law that tried to directly combat the spread of pornography were struck down by the courts. But section 230 of the law, which allows proprietors of websites and forums to set standards — to edit and moderate their content without becoming a publisher of them — is now the legal remit under which social-media giants shadow-ban, block, and censor conservative speech…”

The perversion of the original law over time has taken us to a world where political and social speech is far more likely to be blocked, or access to such manipulated, by online so-called platforms than is pornography.

Perverse indeed.

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