Trump To Fight Fake Social Media Censorship With Actual Social Media Censorship
For the past few years, Conservatives have been really trying to do this whole "We're being censored on social media!" thing. Some of that is because conservatives are just more likely to do and say the kind of things that get one banned or suspended from various platforms, and some of it is because they don't know how social media algorithms work and assume that if not a lot of people engage with their content, that someone must be "censoring" them. It is all very, very stupid.
What is even stupider (yes, stupider), is what we know so far about Donald Trump's forthcoming executive order, "Protecting Americans from Online Censorship."
A draft of the order was obtained last night by CNN, and while it is subject to change, the gist of what they want to do is pretty freaking terrifying.
The executive order is expected to target Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. What Section 230 does is protect websites and social media platforms from being responsible as a publisher for what people say on them. This means that if someone were to come into our comments and do a whole bunch of libel, that we could not be held legally responsible for that. Wonkette publishes me, but they do not publish you, our lovely commenters. At least not from a legal perspective. Section 230 is also what allows us to moderate the comments we do not have and kick out the trolls and what have you, as long as we are acting "in good faith."
What this new legislation will do is put the FTC and the FCC in charge of policing social media in order to make sure that social media sites whose user base is at least 1/8th of the U.S. population are not unfairly targeting conservatives or "shadowbanning" them.
By comparison, according to the summary, the White House draft order asks the FCC to restrict the government's view of the good-faith provision. Under the draft proposal, the FCC will be asked to find that social media sites do not qualify for the good-faith immunity if they remove or suppress content without notifying the user who posted the material, or if the decision is proven to be evidence of anticompetitive, unfair or deceptive practices.
It is highly likely that the executive order will also mess with the part of Section 230 that protects platforms from being held liable as publishers, a thing many on the Right have been begging for over the last year or so. Ironically, this will result in actual censorship, not the imaginary kind conservatives think exists. It means that if some "patriot" decides to go on Twitter and talk about how Hillary Clinton is doing Satanism to children and harvesting them to get high off of adrenochrome or whatever, Twitter could be held liable for that. While Hillary Clinton may not sue an individual weirdo for posting that kind of shit, and probably wouldn't sue Twitter over it either, Twitter would still have to protect their own selves and kick that person off the platform. Because they would be liable.
The grand irony though, is that if social media companies can't ban hatemongers and trolls, no one is going to want to be on those sites. They will turn into cesspools like Gab and whatever it is that Laura Loomer is on now. The government can't force us to use those sites, and they can't ban us from using another platform that would be smaller and thus exempt from the executive order. What will end up happening is that sites that limit their user base to under 40.9 million will emerge. Twitter's U.S. user base is 55.2 million, so it would certainly be possible. But because those sites would have to be more exclusive, there would be even more "censorship" on them.
This is why conservatives really suck at the whole "freeze peach" thing. They don't know what they're doing, they don't understand which laws protect speech and which ones hurt it, because all they really care about is owning the libs. And, as we know, they have no problem cutting their own noses off to spite our faces.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse