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Fark NotNewsletter: How Trump's Twitter tantrum affects Fark
Posted by DisseminationMonkey at 2020-06-03 1:54:15 PM (74 comments) | Permalink
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1823 clicks; posted to Main » on 03 Jun 2020 at 9:24 PM (9 weeks ago) | | share:
A message from Drew Curtis:
A couple of things of note THIS WEEK. Firstly, I don't know if anyone's been wondering why Fark hasn't done a "we support black lives" display and/or UI update, so let me address that. To be clear, I do support the cause. However corporate messages of support for social causes have always seemed off to me. For example, I don't really want to know what Bed Bath and Beyond's opinion on the subject is, especially since corporate opinions are usually wrapped in an implicit "come shop with us after." I also don't have a good feel for what an appropriate display of support would look like, past Fark linking heavily to the events in question so everyone knows what's going on. Anyhow, tl;dr we're on board if anyone was wondering.
Secondly, relative to last week, a couple of folks flagged me in separate comments last week before the protests started asking me to weigh in on Trump's executive order for social media websites. I'd meant to respond but, as happens during heavy news cycles, time got away from me. However, someone else suggested I make it a topic for this week's newsletter. It turns out the topic is both interesting and weird, and the tl;dr is yes, Fark qualifies under the EO, but I don't think anything will come of it. Plus, if it were actually implemented, it would be worse for folks complaining about platform censorship.
Also, don't let the length of the discussion that follows imply that I think this is more important than the protests, I just happen to know a lot more about this subject than the other.
The Trump administration is attempting to use an executive order to smack down Twitter for putting advisories on some of Trump's tweets, correctly saying they encourage violence and/or are factually inaccurate. The EO targets Section 230, which is a part of U.S. law that social networks in particular are obsessed with. It's literally all they want to talk about when I visit in person, it comes up even in casual meetings over drinks.
Section 230 lives in the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996 and specifically states the following: "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." While the CDA was a big anti-porn thing in the mid-'90s that has mostly been ruled unconstitutional, Section 230 remains in effect.
This provision in the law came about mostly as a reaction to a 1993 lawsuit against Prodigy arguing they were liable for user-generated content because they took an editorial role. This shares similarities with the Good Samaritan theoretical legal quandary, which worries for example that people who might try to give CPR to someone choking would became liable for a person's death if they failed to save them. The theory goes that without legal protection, people would be less likely to help strangers in need. Therefore Good Samaritans were carved out from liability laws.
In Prodigy's case, the court ruled that since Prodigy usually tried to moderate harmful content but failed in a specific instance, they were liable for the damage caused. This seemed very similar to the Good Samaritan problem, where trying to do the right thing but failing in a specific instance triggers liability. Fast forward to 1996 when Congress is all bent out of shape over boobs on the internet. Telcos and ISPs argued that Section 230 was needed because without it, platforms wouldn't moderate anything for fear of liability (they also wanted blanket protection for themselves but that's the argument they made anyhow).
Section 230 basically says that content providers aren't liable for user-generated content as long as they at least attempt to keep things clean and safe. However there's no guidance on how much work they have to do to keep things clean, which could include doing very little. And therein lies the problem, because arguably most of the negative societal issues caused by social media company inaction are protected under Section 230. Part of the problem was the focus of the Communications Decency Act was pornography, not disinformation.
I should note that this, by the way, is my perspective, and while it's exactly opposite of what I've seen tech writers say about this law, I can assure you from personal experience that this is how social media companies actually perceive it. Section 230 allows them to take little or no action with impunity.
In short, Section 230 allows Twitter to do nothing about bad content. It also allows them to devote very little in the way of resources to monitoring content. In either event, there's no liability for Twitter. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, opinions differ.
Social media companies are terrified of losing section 230 protection because they think their behemoth platforms would be impossible to moderate. Perhaps they're right, I wouldn't know because Fark doesn't have 500 million monthly active uniques. However, given how little effort they've put into trying to reign in Nazis, racists, and disinformation, I think the jury is out on that one - we don't know because they haven't tried. I'd be willing to bet if Twitter threw a billion dollars into moderation, they'd make some kind of a dent at least. And although I'd like them to try harder, I would concede that 100% enforcement is almost definitely impossible. I'd settle for them trying much harder, however.
It's unclear what effect the administration thought its executive order would have. Clearly they were trying to punish Twitter for flagging presidential tweets. However, the EO they issued, if followed through, would actually end worse for the administration. Social media uses Section 230 to do less than they otherwise would be required to do. If Section 230 were altered or removed, social media would be forced to spend significantly more on resources for moderating content. And just looking at a small sample of Trump's tweets in a given day, if Section 230 protections didn't exist and Twitter could be held liable for content, he'd be moderated so hard he'd barely get a single tweet published. Same goes for a lot of the disinformation spreading accounts out there. And I'm not sure extra vigilance would be such a bad thing,
However, from a practical standpoint, the impact on social media lies in the details of what happens next. The EO instructs the FCC to take a look at Section 230 and issue more specific guidelines, implicitly asking for guidelines that would punish Twitter. I don't think this is likely to happen at all, mainly because FCC head Ajit Pai is fairly anti-regulation and likely isn't in any hurry to examine the issue. I would expect him to slow-walk the EO until after November, at the very least. Then whatever they come up with has to be approved by 3 out of 5 FCC commissioners, and it's not clear how that would play out either.
So now to the question at hand: How does the EO affect Fark? Well, currently it doesn't - it all depends on what the FCC does. If the FCC requires more stringent moderation - whether it affects Fark or not depends on to what degree. If the FCC requires a best efforts moderation strategy, we already do that. It's imperfect, but we try to do our best. If the FCC requires every comment to be reviewed internally before posting, that would absolutely negatively affect Fark along with the entire social media ecosystem. But I'm not sure it's the outcome the administration wants or intends.
So tl;dr we're good for now. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
On this week's Fark and Schnitt podcast: Brooke Binkowski from TruthorFiction.com is back to help us make sense of rumors of outside actors interfering in the nationwide protests. Who are they and what are they trying to do? Brooke has the answer, and it's both fascinating and nuanced as hell. Check it out.
Also later today at 7 p.m. Eastern, Dallan and I are back with the Fark Livestream News Summary. On today's episode, the news cycle went full bore apocalypse - mutant ticks, hurricanes, Yellowstone, and social distancing monkeys. Also a summary of the news you actually need to know. And cats with chickens on their heads. Join us at my Twitch channel And if you get a chance check out our movie night from last Friday, it's easily the funniest thing we've ever done.
We now return you to your usual Fark NotNewsletter
Some of the top-voted smartest and funniest comments from the past week
Farking Clown Shoes was surprised by what Alphax was listening to
felching pen told us what scientists were able to predict after measuring virus levels in municipal sewage
AdmirableSnackbar figured out why "Central Park Karen" got fired
Russ1642 knew what modern police training is missing
Badmoodman considered the prospect of University of Michigan not playing football this year
169th Cousin shared a sexy redhead photo
nyseattitude pointed out the ridiculousness of a fire safety rule where another Farker lives
Shostie was defensive about what One Million Moms claimed about Pixar movies
SanityIsAFullTimeJob taught Mugato a new word
moos revealed the truth about a guy who's hooking up with his mom's friend while he's staying at her house because it's close to his work
bdub77 had some ideas for police reform
Ishkur talked about how the ubiquitousness of cameras changed people's perception of the world
pkjun described the process of trying to have a police officer held accountable for abuse
fusillade762 explained why a bunch of guys review bombed a movie before it even came out
Xai discussed the first video that was released of the murder of George Floyd
LOLITROLU had an idea for Amy Cooper's next job
Hoban Washburne looked at the way Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck
jso2897 noted Derek Chauvin's demeanor as he killed George Floyd
Cheron pointed out something familiar about the "Central Park Karen" story
CSB Sunday Morning: That one time at summer camp
Smart: parasol shared great stories about running a summer camp
Funny: whatsupchuck got a hurt paw as a wee cub
CSB [Cool Story, Bro] Sunday Morning is a thread for Farkers to share true stories from their own lives based on a weekly topic. If you have a topic idea for a CSB Sunday Morning thread, please contact Farkback ahead of time, or just submit it on Saturday afternoon/evening. If you're posting an intro, you'll want to write it out first so you can copy and paste it in for the Boobies. Please note: While submitted CSB Sunday Morning threads have a high likelihood of being greenlit, there is no guarantee they will be.
Note: This section can only be accessed by TotalFarkers
Funny: JerseyTim showed up to appreciate myschief's new fence
Smart: Butterflew shared photos of little Baloo (there are lots of great photos in this thread)
Smart: The Headless Horseman's Headless Horse grew a patio
Smart: Eclectic shared an opinion on the protests happening in response to the killing of George Floyd
Smart: IvyLady pointed out the first sign that Gaston was indeed the bad guy
Smart: Badafuco updated us on the basics
Smart: brap went to a party
Tannhauser had a sad realization about MAGA
arrogantbastich had a mild reaction to having been beaten to a joke
cretinbob took a guess at why Donald Trump's posture is so strange
Devolving_Spud knew how to mess with "poll watchers" recruited by Republicans to challenge people's right to vote
FlyingFarmer challenged the rumor that Donald Trump murdered Carolyn Gombell in 2000
shadow01 thought that there's a flaw in the Republican poll watcher plan
markie_farkie argued that Twitter took the right approach in handling one of Trump's tweets
My Sober Alt compared opinions about 100,000 Americans dead from COVID-19
pkjun talked about how to help the economy recover
Lambskincoat noted the most important thing about Trump's attack on social media
Top Contest Entries
Some of the top-voted contest entries from last week, listed from highest number of votes down
RedZoneTuba knew what all Farkers should have on their faces
PSpsychopath showed that Trump is being resourceful when it comes to virus protection
Yammering_Splat_Vector found out where that missing tomato ended up
#2 created a mask made out of the finest jewelry
DisseminationMonkey designed some protection for when people get all up in your grill
hail2daking scooted over for some social un-distancing
Alligator wasn't impressed by all your coughing
Yammering_Splat_Vector dressed up this little duckface
Large Marge sent me could tell that these guys were way too hot
verchad made a little something for the athletic supporter in your life
hail2daking showed us what comes from forbidden love
Ldrtchbrd won Recreate a movie poster with a poster for a fun summer beach movie
We'll be taking a break from Fartist Friday this week, but it will return next week.
About Fartist Friday:
Fartist Friday is a weekly contest to help keep you entertained by giving you a way to show off your artistic skills - or lack thereof - during this time of social distancing. The winners of the Fartist Friday contests will be named in the following Fark NotNewsletter, where we'll also announce the theme for the next contest. Fartist Friday contests will be submitted Thursdays and will show up on Fark's main page on Fridays, and will close to both comments and voting at the end of the day (midnight Eastern) on Sundays. All times are approximate because we're all drunk. We're asking each person to limit their entries to three per contest. We might change things up depending on feedback. Please contact Farkback to let us know what you think, and feel free to submit your own Fartist Friday ideas.
Earguy won Farktography Contest No. 786: "Squares 4" with a stairway to somewhere
Farktography is Fark's weekly photography contest. If you would like to suggest a Farktography theme, please contact Elsinore.
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