Call for amending Section 230 for social media transparency

Amid growing bilateral agreements that have increased control of social media platforms and the need for content control policies, the road ahead remains murky. Should Section 230 of the Communication Decent Act be repealed or strengthened? Should companies be dissolved using a no-confidence motion? Will the government set speech rules for the web? Should users make their own decisions? Or should there be any rules at all?

There is no shortage of solutions to the challenge of social media censorship. The problem is that without a good understanding of how social platforms invisibly shape the universal arena of democracy, we do not know which of these possible solutions could have the greatest impact. In short, in order to fix social media, we first need to better understand its ills: Section 230 needs to be amended to legislate the transparency of social platforms.

A new RealClearFoundation report, “Transparency on Social Media Censorship is the First Step”, outlines the public data sets that we need for transparency and better understand the challenges we face.

A physician cannot diagnose a specific disease for such a patient, from which the disease cannot be diagnosed. Frances Hausen, a whistleblower at Facebook, warned last week that “as long as Facebook works in the shadows, its [work] From public scrutiny, it is unreasonable. “The problem with the Hausen note is that we lack basic information to understand how social platforms work and how we can best control their impact on society.

How do we get here?

Since the founding of the United States, the nation has once called Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan a “strange” problem of what kind of speech should be allowed and what should be prohibited. Initial efforts controlled the speakers themselves, shifting them to doormen over time, giving citizens the freedom to express their views under the First Amendment but limiting the distribution of unwanted opinions to the public. The rules of censorship, reflecting local morality, have paved the way for centralized national norms, which social platforms have become global norms today. Allowing state agencies to define acceptable speech failed to prevent conflict, as they sought to silence speech from afar, when centralizing power meant defining a single rule for an entire nation. The arbitrator of this statement became a hybrid model in the post-office era from government officials to private companies in the motion picture and in the early broadcasting era in the early radio era. Leaving it in private hands, publishers censored things and public personalities that they dislike. Left in the hands of the government, policy dissent and criticism were silenced. Left on the court, the sens minus was elusive and the rules were ever-changing.

The end result was to create Section 230.

A country that used every conceivable way to define acceptable discourse from local to federal, public, private, voluntarily binding, from court to capitalism, and allowed Silicon Valley private companies to take over and decide what America should be. Done. Inspired by the idea that mathematics and the accuracy of computer code could solve two centuries of democracy, Congress has given private Internet companies full power to control digital discourse worldwide.

The problem is that Section 230 has failed to meet this requirement in exchange for absolute immunity. It simply believed that these companies would always prioritize the best interests of the nation over their own profits. The states were explicitly barred from violating the 230’s protections, and the government was given no oversight role, even depriving the American public of influence. See Rules that govern digital public squares. Most importantly, Article 230 did not require even the most basic transparency around how companies protected their security.

Social media companies nowadays regularly restrict posts and suspend, ban or release users without any explanation or citing vague or unrelated policies. Search the web for the phrase “suspended without explanation” with the name of any major social platform, and endless pages with no description of the user experience. Even the mainstream media is not exempt because the New York Post’s Hunter Biden has strengthened Twitter’s varied interpretation of banning laptop stories. Yet the only glimpse of the detailed rules defining what is “acceptable” is that instead of companies publishing their own voluntary disclosures, internal company documents are leaked to the media.

Moreover, the spread of Article 230 now extends beyond the web to the physical world, as Facebook arbitrates which is allowed to promote protest rallies; Uber and Lift have banned their tweet users; Airbnb has banned users for their group affiliation; Amazon has refused to publish books with which it disagrees; Microsoft even develops acceptable usage policies for desktop software. Even foreign-owned tic-tac-toe banned Donald Trump, as did his U.S. counterparts, reflecting the growing international reach of Silicon Valley rules.

Where do we stay from here?

To fix social media one must first understand how these unimaginably powerful black boxes really work internally. Section 230 needs to be amended so that in return for the liability they incur, Internet platforms need to create real-world rules, algorithms, design decisions and management guidelines that determine who we are on a daily basis for policymakers, researchers, the press and the public. Access to social media in the daily lives of Americans is too big to leave on the courage of whistle blowers about our loss and irrational impact. A new Article 230 “Transparency Amendment” will require that social platforms make a range of key datasets publicly available, thus enabling routine disclosure and informing policy makers in information-based debates rather than leaking opportunities as they seek to regulate a regulatory path.

Transparency alone cannot resolve differences of opinion about our diverse and divided nations, beliefs, knowledge and rhetoric that will guide our democratic debate about our shared future. All it can do is transform today’s closed and seemingly curious system into a public process – similar to our legal and electoral system – that can be scrutinized and publicly disputed.

Today’s RealClearFoundation report, “Transparency is the first step towards social media censorship,“This gives a glimpse of what a transparent future might look like, while the full-length research report behind it,” says the future of social media, digital censorship and democracy.,A detailed account of America’s 2nd century journey into a world where a handful of unelected billionaires have perfect control over digital speech, with the power to censor citizens and government alike, arbitrate “acceptable speech” for the entire planet, determine “truth” and even silence the presidency.

Kalev Litru, a RealClear Media Fellow, is a Senior Fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber ​​and Homeland Security. His past roles include being a resident of Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

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