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US News United States: Twitter, Google and Facebook defend their immunity before the Senate

15:25  28 october  2020
15:25  28 october  2020 Source:   20minutes.fr

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The bosses of Twitter , Facebook and Google agree to the less on one point: the law on network immunity, which many elected officials want to reform, does not protect only platforms, but also users, including politicians and organizations who use it at leisure. On the eve of their hearing in the US Senate on Wednesday, they defended Section 230 of the “Communications Decency Act,” which prevents legal action related to content posted by third parties. This law is considered the cornerstone of freedom of expression online .

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But for the senators who summoned the bosses, it is above all a way for the platforms not to take their responsibilities. This Section 230 "encourages expression" and "allows platforms to moderate content," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said in the speech he is due to read to the Commerce Committee. Without the law, platforms would censor more content so as not to take the risk of being held accountable, and face prosecution for removing incitement to hatred or violence, he argues.

Freedom of speech issue

"I don't think anyone in this room or the American people want less freedom of speech or more online harassment," notes Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, in his speech. This central argument takes place in a context of tensions a few days before the elections of November 3: the networks are widely criticized, especially on the left, for not sufficiently moderating the exchanges on their services and for allowing too much racist content to pass, violent or insulting.

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On the right, many American conservatives accuse them, without tangible proof, of favoring the Democratic camp. In June, the government and elected officials mobilized to translate Donald Trump's anger against Silicon Valley into a reform of Section 230. Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who chairs the Trade Committee, proposed a law that would cut corners the immunity of platforms, forcing them to prove "the reasonableness and objective" of their decision when they remove content. "Every tweet marked 'fake' Trump cries like a baby," said Hany Farid, platform specialist at UC Berkeley. “While the networks are dominated by conservative voices! »

A change that would favor the big players in the market?

Section 230 effectively protects the host status of networks, as opposed to media publishers. Facebook and Twitter claim to be in favor of more transparency on their moderation process. Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly indicated that he is in favor of content regulations. It goes so far as to support an update to Section 230, "to make sure it works as expected." Jack Dorsey is not going that far, and is worried that reform will favor existing monopolies.

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"In certain circumstances, cookie-cutter regulations can strengthen companies with large market shares and which have the resources to apply the new rules on a large scale," he warns, noting that Twitter has more limited means than its rivals. The argument could fly, when Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon are accused of abuse of dominance. This is also the reasoning of many activists, because Section 230 also protects forums and blogs from repercussions for improper user behavior.

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This is interesting!