The only Internet trick that could save everything| Trending Viral hub

The impact on the public sphere has been, to say the least, substantial. By eliminating so much liability, Section 230 imposed a certain type of business plan on prominence, one based not on information uniquely available from a given service, but on the paid arbitrage of access and influence. Thus, we end up with the misleadingly named “advertising” business model, and an entire society mired in a 24/7 competition for attention. A polarized social media ecosystem. Recommendation algorithms that mediate content and optimize participation. We’ve learned that humans are more engaged, at least from an algorithm’s point of view, with quick emotions related to fight-or-flight responses and other high-risk interactions. By allowing the privatization of the public square, Section 230 has inadvertently made deliberation impossible among citizens who are supposed to be equal before the law. Perverse incentives promote moody speech, which effectively suppresses thoughtful speech.

And then there is the economic imbalance. Internet platforms that rely on Section 230 tend to collect personal data for their commercial purposes without adequate compensation. Even when data should be protected or prohibited by copyright or some other method, Section 230 often effectively imposes liability on the infringed party by requiring takedown notices. That change in the order of liability-related events is comparable to the difference between opt-in and opt-out in privacy. It may seem like a technicality, but it’s actually a huge difference that causes substantial damage. For example, workers in information-related industries, such as local news, have seen sharp declines in their economic success and prestige. Section 230 makes a world of data dignity functionally impossible.

To date, content moderation has too often been subject to seeking attention and engagement, regularly ignoring established corporate terms of service. Rules are often modified to maximize engagement through inflammation, which can mean harming personal and social well-being. The excuse is that this is not censorship, but is it really not? Arbitrary rules, doxing practices, and cancel culture have led to something that is difficult for sober, well-intentioned people to distinguish from censorship. At the same time, amplifying incendiary free speech for bad actors encourages rule by the masses. All of this takes place under the liability shield of Section 230, which effectively gives tech companies carte blanche for a short-sighted version of selfish behavior. Disdain for these companies (who found a way to be more than operators and yet not publishers) is the only thing everyone in America seems to agree on now.

Negotiate an acquaintance because the unknown is always terrifying, especially for those who have the most to lose. Since at least some of the network effects of Section 230 were anticipated from its inception, it should have had a sunset clause. It did not. Rather than focusing exclusively on the disruption that removing 26 words would cause, it is useful to consider the possible positive effects. When we imagine a world after 230, we discover something surprising: a world of hope and renewal worth inhabiting.

In a sense, it is already happening. Some companies are taking steps on their own, right now, toward a post-230 future. YouTube, for example, is diligently creating alternative revenue streams to advertising, and top creators have more options to make money. Taken together, these voluntary movements suggest a different self-concept, more akin to that of an editor. YouTube, it seems, is ready for the post-230 era. (On the other hand, a company like X, which leans heavily toward 230, has been destroying its value with astonishing speed.) Additionally, there have always been exceptions to Section 230. For example, if someone enters private information, there are laws to protect them in some cases. That means that dating websites, for example, have the option of charging fees rather than relying on a 230-style business model. The existence of these exceptions suggests that more examples would appear in a post-230 world.

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