According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, tech corporations like Facebook and Twitter are not liable for any illegal activity that is facilitated through their networks.
Specifically, Section 230 states:
“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.” That means tech companies like Facebook or YouTube aren’t responsible for what’s posted on their platforms. The liability falls squarely on the user.
But according to a recent article by CNET, this could all change with the passing of the EARN-IT Act
The EARN IT Act was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat of Connecticut), along with Sen. Josh Hawley (Republican of Missouri) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Democrat of California) on March 5.
The premise of the bill is that technology companies have to earn Section 230 protections rather than being granted immunity by default, as the Communications Decency Act has provided for over two decades.
Proponents of the Bill
–Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California
“Our bill would allow individuals to sue tech companies that don’t take proper steps to prevent online child exploitation, and it’s an important step to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
Joe Biden, New York Times, Dec. 16, 2019
“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one.”
“it should be revoked. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy. You guys still have editors. I’m sitting with them. Not a joke. There is no editorial impact at all on Facebook. None. None whatsoever. It’s irresponsible. It’s totally irresponsible. “
“He should be submitted to civil liability and his company to civil liability, just like you would be here at The New York Times. Whether he engaged in something and amounted to collusion that in fact caused harm that would in fact be equal to a criminal offense, that’s a different issue. That’s possible. That’s possible it could happen.”
…”Putin doesn’t want me to be president.”
“Law enforcement is increasingly facing challenges due to the phenomenon of “warrant-proof” encryption. Service providers, device manufacturers, and application developers are deploying products and services with encryption that can only be decrypted by the end user or customer. Because of warrant-proof encryption, the government often cannot obtain the electronic evidence and intelligence necessary to investigate and prosecute threats to public safety and national security, even with a warrant or court order. This provides a “lawless space” that criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors can exploit for their nefarious ends.” Read more
It is obvious that police should be allowed limited/supervised access to these networks so long as they have received a court approved warrant, just like with any other communication network. That is not debatable.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply creating an access key and giving it to selected law enforcement professionals, as it’s been shown that like all backdoors, they can be compromised.
“There is no such thing as a backdoor that can only be used by law enforcement.”
–Ted Harrington, executive partner at security company Independent Security Evaluators
“At this time, we’ve been unable to identify any way to create a backdoor that would work only for the good guys”
–Erik Neuenschwander, Manager of User Privacy at Apple
One Man, One Company
We’re talking about a guy who went straight from the special classes in high-school (we all remember those kids), to Harvard, to becoming the owner of the largest social media empire in the world (or one of them — don’t wanna upset the fact checkers and have this article labelled as, sort of “fake news“).
People like this tend to live in an eco-chamber, and as a result, they will often times harbor unrealistic ideals about the world that are completely separated from reality. This can make it hard for them to empathize with the plights of normal people — not even just average people, but normal people (those who aren’t endowed with IQ’s above 140 and stare at computer screens all day building and analyzing some of the most sophisticated computer algorithms and cutting edge AI software in the world).
George Soros wrote a very unusual piece for the New York Times back in January that nevertheless does an excellent good job addressing this problem (we can give him a break, he’s getting a little up there at this point).