Candace Owens, Cardi B and Section 230

For anyone who wants Washington to allow the next generation of startups to benefit from the same rules that allowed the creation of the American social media giants, and also allow these giants to face the consequences of becoming the new ideological censors. from the United States, there may be a problem. good test case at hand.

Confused politicians want to remove a provision from federal law known as Section 230 because they mistakenly believe it has provided Silicon Valley giants with an all-purpose liability shield. But it does not protect them from the consequences of wrong decisions to become the new arbiters of America’s public discussions.

The law allows “interactive computer services” to make good faith efforts to block obscene, violent or otherwise objectionable material posted by users without being treated as publishers of everybody material generated by the user and, therefore, responsible for its content. The law does not protect these services when they stop being mere providers of communications platforms and assume the role of publishers.

Removing the law would transfer wealth from technology shareholders to trial attorneys. It would also prevent the creation of new rivals for the social media titans. A better solution is to require that judges interpret the law as written and allow plaintiffs to perform cashectomies at Silicon Valley firms if they post libelous content.

Best-selling author Candace Owens might want to explore the boundaries of Section 230 after this week’s online uproar with rapper Cardi B.

Alex Heigl notes in the New York Post:

A running Twitter feud between Cardi B and Candace Owens on Tuesday night ended with Owens claiming that he plans to sue Cardi for posting a digitally altered tweet suggesting that Owens’ husband had cheated on her with his brother.

Ms. Owens says the claim is false and that Ms. B is circulating a fake with Photoshop. If this is correct, then the rapper would be liable for defamation. Ms B says she will sue Ms Owens for claiming the tweet was Photoshopped. Perhaps eventually both of them will have their days in court and will be free to present defenses like everyone else.

If Cardi B’s tweet were Photoshopped, the fact that the popular Ms. Owens is a well-known public figure would likely not provide Ms. B any additional legal protection. Given that Cardi B’s tweets clearly appear to have been intended to humiliate Ms. Owens, if the statement posted on Twitter turns out to be fabricated, this example would appear to meet the high standard of “actual malice.”

If Ms. Owens has a good case, you may want to consider suing not only Cardi B but Twitter as well. An en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals previously found that a website can be both a service provider and a content provider, even if it only plays a role in creating or developing content. In other words, Twitter can be considered both a platform and a publisher under the law.

On the general topic of Candace Owens, Twitter seems to have made some tweaks. Ms. Owens reported last year that the site blocked her tweet, encouraging Michiganians to defy shutdown orders issued by the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

As for Cardi B, Twitter did not choose to simply block her content, which some users may find objectionable. Instead, your Twitter account carries a warning that it “may contain potentially sensitive content.” Some may see this as similar to a headline describing published material. Was it entirely Cardi B’s idea and initiative to tag your content in this way or does Twitter have a role in enforcing and maintaining the tag? Has Twitter ever monitored or vetted your content in any way?

Twitter maintains that it is not a publisher, but simply the distributor of information published by others.

A lawsuit could help clarify the responsibilities of communications service providers, speakers and editors on social media.


Extra credit for essays on the abolition of the filibuster?
Many universities have responded to Covid by drastically reducing the role of standardized tests in this year’s admissions process. This requires admissions officers to make more subjective judgments than usual. Given the political orientation of the average college admissions officer, we can only guess at the results. Melissa Korn and Douglas Belkin’s report from the Journal:

Ivy League schools and a number of other highly selective institutions waived the SAT and ACT requirements for the class of 2025, resulting in an unprecedented flood of applications and what may prove to be the most chaotic selection experiment in the world. American higher education since the end of World War II. ..

Interviews with college admissions officers and public and private high school counselors point to an epic behind-the-scenes effort to make tough decisions at the fastest speed.


In other news

Let the children learn
“Florida schools reopened without becoming super-spreaders of Covid-19,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17

Joe Biden, for example
“Covid-19 Vaccines Reach the Most Remote Americans,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17


Freeman is a co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”


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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)


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