One of the most frustrating lines we hear from people who criticize moderating Internet website content is the idea that, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites have no incentive to moderate. This is a myth that I see as the flip side of claims by injured conservatives who insist that section 230 requires "no bias" in moderation decisions. Non-incentive people (often lawyers) complain about under-moderation. For reasons I can't understand, they seem to think that the only motivation for doing something is that you are legally required to do so. We have tried several times to expose this term, and yet it keeps coming up. A few weeks ago, a former Hollywood lobbyist was thinking about it in a panel about Section 230.
I've been thinking a lot about this line in the past few days when a large number of large corporations pulled Facebook ads as part of a "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign put together by a number of nonprofits.
Over 200 companies have joined the campaign and posted their Facebook ads, including some big names like Unilever, Verizon, Hershey, The North Face, Clorox, Starbucks, Reebok, Pfizer, Microsoft, Levi & # 39; s, HP, Honda and Ford, Coca Cola and many, many more. The cynical attitude to this is that given the current economic conditions and a global pandemic, many were looking for advertising anyway, and participating in this campaign was a way to do it and a well-earned media boost at the same time.
However, many companies make statements demanding that Facebook change practices before returning ads. Here is an open letter from Levi:
As we approach the US election in November and double our own efforts to expand voter education and turnout, we ask Facebook to commit to making decisive changes. In particular, we would like to see significant progress in ending misinformation and hate speech reinforcement, and better addressing political advertisements and content that help suppress voters. Although we appreciate that Facebook announced some steps in this direction today, it just isn't enough.
For this reason, we take part in the # StopHateForProfitcampaign and interrupt all paid Facebook and Instagram advertisements worldwide and across all our brands in order to "take a break from hatred". We will stop advertising at least until the end of July. When we get involved again depends on Facebook's response.
I am not convinced that this campaign is necessarily a good idea, but at least it should put an end to people – especially prominent experts – who claim that there is "no incentive" for websites with their content moderation practices to do better work. There are always legal incentives, including user satisfaction – and advertiser satisfaction.
"But without 230 reforms, websites have no incentive to change!" They scream into the void as every large company pulls Facebook ads
Techdirt's other legal stories:
Watered down Senate EARN it at the last minute; Doesn't give civil liberties groups time to point out the many remaining issues
Brazil's proposed "fake news" law states that Internet users are guilty until proven innocent, and requires ISPs to keep a constant log
Parler Speedruns The learning curve for content moderation; Goes from "We allow everything" to "We are the good censors" in days