erik lundegaard


Wednesday March 06, 2024

Paxton, Moody and Section 230

Via Preet Bharara's Cafe Insider site, former U.S. attorney and current law professor Barb McQuade talks up the continuing difficulties of determining, for legal purposes, what exactly social media companies are. 

Are they town squares, where anyone can speak? Are they publishers, which can regulate content? Can states such as Texas and Florida, in the NetChoice v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, pass laws saying they can't regulate content because they are in fact town squares, and doing so would impinge upon free speech?

My decidedly non-J.D. thoughts: Social media platforms are both town square and publisher, and of course they can regulate user-created content, and Texas and Florida saying they can't is the violation of free speech, not the other way around. I'd go further and amend the immunity conferred to platforms by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which made them not liable for user-created content the way publishers are liable. I'd actually like to see the world where that immunity was never conferred in the first place. I get the feeling it would be a good sight better, or at least less disingenuous, than this one.

McQuade makes her own case for how to better regulate the Facebooks of the world, including:

  • Requiring social media companies to disclose their algorithms
  • Requiring disclosure of paid content: not only who is paying for ads, but the communities they are targeting

God, yes. This experiment is not working, kids. We were never ready for it.

Posted at 07:49 AM on Wednesday March 06, 2024 in category Law