So less than 24 hours after I posted here about how Twitter’s political activism was threatening all content creators, Twitter validated my fears. Twitter spent most of yesterday actively censoring a NYPost story about Hunter Biden. Twitter locked the NYPost’s account for a time, then later started locking any accounts that shared the story, or disabled retweeting on the story so it was more difficult to share.
By the end of the day, CEO Jack Dorsey issued a mea culpa:
— jack (@jack) October 14, 2020
The general excuse given by Twitter is that sharing the story violated Twitter’s policy against sharing hacked material. But there was no evidence that the story was sourced by hacked material, and Twitter had allowed similar stories about Pres Trump to be shared without policing that content.
Earlier this morning, content creators were being censored by Twitter for even WRITING about the story:
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) October 15, 2020
As a result, I won’t be sharing this story on Twitter. Think about that for a second; a content creator can’t feel comfortable sharing their own content on a social media platform because they fear the company will censor the link because it includes information they don’t agree with. Is this 2020 or 1984?
Bizarrely, these actions by Twitter seem to be all but begging politicians to regulate them. Carol Roth actually made this observation yesterday:
I believe that Twitter, FB and these other big tech companies are actively trying to bait regulation, knowing that regulation is anti-competitive and will ultimately serve to burden small businesses, keep new competitors out of the market and ultimately cement their own power.
— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) October 14, 2020
That take may be the correct one. Regardless, Twitter is clearly acting like it does not care if it upsets politicians or not.
Now, perhaps the most disturbing thing I saw yesterday as this event was unfolding, was how my timeline on Twitter responded. The people I follow are a good mix of conservatives, liberals and moderates or independents. I have a good idea of which way most of the people I follow lean politically. Almost all of the outrage I saw at Twitter’s actions yesterday came from my conservative friends. A few moderate friends chimed in, and my liberal friends had absolutely nothing to say about this story. Maybe they simply weren’t following it, or maybe they don’t understand that this isn’t a partisan issue. Everyone I follow on Twitter stands to be NEGATIVELY impacted by what Twitter did yesterday. It doesn’t matter if you were outraged or thrilled by what Twitter did. Twitter all but forced politicians to take actions on them, and when that happens, individual content creators like you and I, will likely get stung.
When I wrote about this issue on Tuesday, I mentioned CDA 230. That’s short for Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act of 1996. I also included this link that gives a wonderful summary of the protections that CDA 230 gives content creators. Here’s how this law protects individual content creators:
“This legal and policy framework has allowed for YouTube and Vimeo users to upload their own videos, Amazon and Yelp to offer countless user reviews, craigslist to host classified ads, and Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking to hundreds of millions of Internet users. Given the sheer size of user-generated websites (for example, Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users, and YouTube users upload 100 hours of video every minute), it would be infeasible for online intermediaries to prevent objectionable content from cropping up on their site. Rather than face potential liability for their users’ actions, most would likely not host any user content at all or would need to protect themselves by being actively engaged in censoring what we say, what we see, and what we do online. In short, CDA 230 is perhaps the most influential law to protect the kind of innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive since 1996.”
So if you remove the protections of CDA 230, you could suddenly see sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter that currently allow user-generated content, to either stop users from creating content, or severely change or alter what content they can create and share.
But that’s platforms, how does CDA 230 protect individual content creators such as bloggers?
“CDA 230 also offers its legal shield to bloggers who act as intermediaries by hosting comments on their blogs. Under the law, bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds. This legal protection can still hold even if a blogger is aware of the objectionable content or makes editorial judgments.”
So if CDA 230 is eliminated, you will also see many bloggers (especially ones that aren’t monetizing their blogs) being forced to either remove comment functionality, or severely restrict it. Many bloggers will likely see it as too much hassle and worry, and drop their blogs altogether. I think we all can recognize that the impact of eliminating CDA 230 protections would be catastrophic to the blogging community.
And unfortunately, BOTH Presidential candidates have signaled that they want to eliminate CDA 230. Biden has said it all along. Trump has said he wants to modify CDA 230 to give social media platforms less protections, but after Twitter pulled its stunt yesterday, he started tweeting that CDA 230 should be repealed:
CDA 230 contains vital protections for individual content creators. Mr. President please don’t punish the bloggers, streamers and content creators, many of which are just as upset at what Twitter did today as you are. Big tech is the offender, not the ‘little guy’. https://t.co/O1eni470Ux
— Mack Collier (@MackCollier) October 14, 2020
This has been so frustrating to me because I think my liberal friends see this as ‘Trump vs Twitter’, so they just assume what Twitter is doing is something they agree with. Without realizing that Trump and Biden now essentially hold the same position on CDA 230. This *should* be Everyone vs Twitter as it pertains to censorship. Every content creator should be unified in speaking out against what Twitter is doing, because they are pushing us toward a repeal of vital protections that bloggers have enjoyed since 1996.
If CDA 230 is repealed, blogging as we know it is probably over. Now is the time to educate yourself on what’s happening today, and how it could impact your ability to create content, tomorrow.