Reforming CDA 230

There’s a serious debate on reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I am in the process of figuring out what I believe, and this is more a place to put resources and listen to people’s comments.

The EFF has written extensively on why it is so important and dismantling it will be catastrophic for the Internet. Danielle Citron disagrees. (There’s also this law journal article by Citron and Ben Wittes.) Sarah Jeong’s op-ed. Another op-ed. Another paper.

Here are good news articles.

Reading all of this, I am reminded of this decade-old quote by Dan Geer. He’s addressing Internet service providers:

Hello, Uncle Sam here.

You can charge whatever you like based on the contents of what you are carrying, but you are responsible for that content if it is illegal; inspecting brings with it a responsibility for what you learn.


You can enjoy common carrier protections at all times, but you can neither inspect nor act on the contents of what you are carrying and can only charge for carriage itself. Bits are bits.

Choose wisely. No refunds or exchanges at this window.

We can revise this choice for the social-media age:

Hi Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/everyone else:

You can build a communications based on inspecting user content and presenting it as you want, but that business model also conveys responsibility for that content.


You can be a communications service and enjoy the protections of CDA 230, in which case you cannot inspect or control the content you deliver.

Facebook would be an example of the former. WhatsApp would be an example of the latter.

I am honestly undecided about all of this. I want CDA230 to protect things like the commenting section of this blog. But I don’t think it should protect dating apps when they are used as a conduit for abuse. And I really don’t want society to pay the cost for all the externalities inherent in Facebook’s business model.

Posted on December 10, 2019 at 6:16 AM41 Comments


jbmartin6 December 10, 2019 7:13 AM

When it comes to things like enabling abuse, I would think it could easily fall under the same sort of reasonable person doctrine which covers property owners, car manufacturers, etc. And would need to be worked out over time in the courts. But there is a difference between “Twitter makes a forum where users can say anything less than 140 characters” and “this is a dating app whose explicit function is to arrange meetings between strangers for whatever purpose”

Alejandro December 10, 2019 7:53 AM

Why not a choice?

  1. Inspected (redacted, edited, removed, banned by corp)
  2. Un-inspected (view at your own risk)

Generally, I think the corporations should not have any lawful power to censor content unless approved by government laws and rules. Corporations cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of the people or the Constitution. Does anyone really want Mr. Zuckerberg or the Google Bot(trained by google executives) to have final authority on what we say or view on the internet?

I envision a federal regulatory agency that sets up rules and mediates conflicts about content along the lines of:
1. What is constitutional and lawful. Free speech rules. Privacy issues.
2. What is necessary for website housekeeping purposes. Length of comments/subject matter/etc.

So, I set up a page about trout fishing. According to federal regs I will allow all constitutional speech with exceptions according to regs or allowed by regulators.

Thus, I will not allow porn or vulgar language. (Which is otherwise Constitutional) But, content will not be edited to support my view rainbow trout are better than brown trout.

Also, I file housekeeping rules: Comments limited to 200 words, no .jpegs allowed, etc.

Any conflicts are processed by the agency, not the CEO.

I understand this is a bit rough. It’s a concept.

Snarki, child of Loki December 10, 2019 8:26 AM

I expect to see a new law, allowing ISPs to inspect content and vary charging based on the content, while having immunity from prosecution for illegal content.

About a hot microsecond after the CEO of Sprint/Verizon/AT&T is perp-walked for transmitting kiddy-pr0n , if not before.

After which, said CEOs can have terabytes of kiddy-pr0n on their computers with no worries! Yay?

Clive Robinson December 10, 2019 9:16 AM

@ All,

You can enjoy common carrier protections at all times, but you can neither inspect nor act on the contents of what you are carrying and can only charge for carriage.

The idea of “Common carrier protection” is actually one of the most important legislative notions in existance.

It is akin to “Innocent untill proven guilty”. Without it communications via independent means would not exist and society as we know it would revert to a time before writing was common.

It’s also as important as the doctrine of “plain sight” or more correctly “what you keep out of plain sight, is private” thus not usable for probable cause etc (something LEA’s are desperatly trying to destroy where digital objects are involved). In essence anything covered, in a draw or cupbord that is closed or in a safe that is likewise closed is beyond the inspection of law enforcment unless they have a warrant to search the named object.

The big problem with digital objects is trying to decide what is in or not in plain sight in the digital domain…

In computer science we sometimes talk of “a bag of bits” that is you have some notion of a containing algorithm that has bits inside it. So a file is bits stored in a manner that forms such a container or “bag”.

Which is when you get down to it a fundemental idea behind “data types”. That is a container of a given format in which information is stored –usually but not always– in bits.

The fundemental issue for the law is, “is the container opaque or transparant” or if you prefer is it a “black box or glass box”. In the most part as far as computer science is concerned objects are glass boxes treated as black boxes as a method of information issolation via memory protection mechanisms that for a surounding bag to hold the many bags of bits. As far as law enforcment is concerned “all bags are transparent” or atleast that is what they try to argue.

The exception to this “all is transparent” view is when the state of the bits in the bag of bits representing the information appears indistinguishable from random, unless another piece of information is available to apply a transform to convert the apparent random state into a meaningful state thus make the information available. We call this “keyed encryption” where the “key” is the other usually secret piece of information.

Whilst you or I might argue that the use of an encryption algorithm is the equivalent of a locked safe, law enforcment argue that either it is not or they have a copy of the key or a right to a copy of the key.

In fact the only way you can make your locked safe view point prevail is to have the key actually stored in a different jurisdiction to the encrypted data, thus “beyond” the nation state jurisdictional limit. The US and other countries now argue that their writ transcends the notion of jurisdictional limits, thus in their view no other nation can have sovereign status. Which is a very dangerous and highly iresponsable viewpoint.

But it’s not just alleged criminals who want to use jurisdictional protection and common carrier status, it’s also “private data rapers” that is the likes of Alphabet/Google, Twitter, Facebook and most other social media. They want the right to access any and all data of their users and even those just associated with a user, but not a service user. Because their business models are based on “data theft”. However they also don’t want the legal liability of being held privy to the user data (in effect being a co-conspiritor). Hence they want to claim “common carrier status” to keep them out of legal liability. Even though they claim “Publisher rights” to edit or not carry/publish “user data”.

In other words they want to not only have endless cake, they want to eat it all, but they don’t want the downside of fat/flab/heart disease that consuming the cake brings with it.

As should now be obvious these corporations do not wish to live in the real world, but a fantasy world of their own making.

Thus the corps should,

    Grow the heck up, damm fast

Thus take responsability for the down sides of the way they earn their profits (just as chemical companies should not pollute others property, the skies above them or the soils beneath their feet).

At the end of the day the choice is simple and clear, either the corps are “common carriers” or they are “publishers” they can not nor should not be some mixture of both.

Likewise Law enforcment should apply “in plain sight” universally or they should not apply it at all

As for politicians, maybe they should not let “nest feathering” effect their judgment and do their jobs honestly for the citizens who vote for them.

John Levine December 10, 2019 9:20 AM

Remember that the whole point of Sec 230 is so that providers do not have to make Geer’s ill-advised choice. It was in response to the Stratton Oakmont case where Prodigy did forum moderation but S.O. objected to a message the moderators allowed, sued, and won. Sec 230 means that you can moderate without making your legal exposure worse than if you do not.

FOSTA/SESTA tells us that you should assume any 230 reform proposal is fraudulent until proven otherwise. Its nominal target, Backpage, was taken down under existing law, and by all reports the sex workers and trafficked women it allegedly helped are worse off than before. I agree that 230 enables some bad stuff but I want to fix it with a scalpel. Any workable change will make people unhappy because it will be squishy, you’re responsible if you would reasonably have known that people would post dangerous material, and keep the key bit, that if you moderate in good faith, you’re not penalized if the moderation isn’t perfect.

I’ve been trying to think of an offline version of the totally unfiltered fora that some people seem to want. The only one that comes to mind is the wall of a public toilet stall. Am I missing something?

Ed Gould December 10, 2019 10:00 AM

I believe Dan Geer has it exactly right. But there’s some context missing both in the quote of his stark choice and in many comments. There are two issues being discussed, and the boundary between them is often hard to find when discussing the business models of many of the players in the field. Further, they are often conflated (sometimes deliberately by partisans) or not clearly delineated in arguments.

Those two issues are (1) the provision of content and (2) the transmission of data from one place to another.

What I understand Geer and the EFF to be saying is that corporations must choose to be in one business or the other. If they choose to be content providers (e.g., Facebook or Twitter) they are analogous to magazines or newspapers. They are responsible for not providing illegal (what is or should be illegal is a separate question) content. If they choose to be data transmitters, they must charge all comers the same rates independent of the content of the data, analogous to the regulated-monopoly phone companies of the past.

1&1~=Umm December 10, 2019 10:21 AM

For those not familiar with ‘Stratton Oakmont -v- Progidy’ and the now apparently true anonymous postings of Stratton Oakmont –a Long Island ‘Penny Share’ brokerage house with ‘pump and dump’– behaviours which got immortalized in the Martin Scorsese film ‘Wolf of Wall St’,

Which gave rise to Oragan Senator Ron Wydenn’s bill, enacted as title 47, section 230 of the United States Code. Which famously states,

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker” of any other person’s posts…

A legal parachute that the likes of Facebook, lie, cheat, steal and impune to keep.

Which also means you get to read the above.

Curious December 10, 2019 10:28 AM

My first reaction, without having any thought about this whatsoever, is that it is probably necessary/wise to at least understand the “act” in question, within the given legal system and how that again has been understood up to this point as a purely legal thing conceptually. As a European, I wouldn’t think of US law as being half as rational and good as people in US might think of it. For example, I have the impression that you have a presidential powers that can pardon criminals for serious crimes, which sounds really weird to me.

I can (very quickly) imagine three basic ways of understanding this kind of existence within a legal framework/history/system. Understood as any one of these, or perhaps all three. I suppose one could find more ways, I simply ended up with three options rather intuitively and didn’t find a fourth option readily interesting.

1) As something historical, of it being literally made necessary (for some given past reason more importantly).

2) Being speculative, but not really being necessary, like laws driven by political ambitions, presumably like the concept of “hate speech” within law, presumably being something that is meant to change society, as a tool, for use or abuse. I have yet to see a sensible explanation to involving “hate speech” as a concept in law. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

3) Being dependent or being something thought to being dependent on other things again. Something complex or literally made complicated. This in order to sort the rhetoric from historical or other commonsensical facts about how something like an “act” came about, or even exists.

This imo, in the back of my head, is required, in order to being able to sort the basic ideas for understanding somehting, from each other, so as to not intentionally, or, unwittingly ending up mixing the way one understand something as ideas whenever they are referred back to by some name alone, or if brought up and referenced as a concept as it is purported to simply be, or otherwise as it is explained in ways.

I haven’t slept on this, but I like to think this above would be important, or I can imaigne one would risk having debates shaped by rhetoric or some kind of bias or ignorance. Another outcome I imagine, might simply be calls for ‘change’ for change itself, as if wanting to hurry something or just well change things around.

Alejandro December 10, 2019 10:31 AM

The Modern Public Square

Decided June 19, 2017

From the Cloudflare blog, Alissa Starzak:

Justice Kennedy emphasized the importance of protecting access to the internet, noting the substantial benefits it provides:

“Social media allows users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind. . . .

By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Carolina with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge.

These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard. They allow a person with an Internet connection to ‘become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.’”

The internet is the new public square of the world. The corporations claim they own not only the soapbox, but the public square. That’s not right.

I see no other choice but for the Federal government to take charge on free speech and all other content. (..and hopefully privacy and security, too)

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained Spook December 10, 2019 10:58 AM


Not sure which word you ment instead of “ben”.

-n, since the ‘b’ isn’t capitalized. And +a in “ment”, Mr. 😉

Electron 007 December 10, 2019 12:29 PM

“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”

The language is vague and misleading. What does it mean to be “treated” in legal-speak?

The most common use of that word in legal context is to refer to forcible mental health treatment or involuntary servitude in a psychiatric ward, which is quite commonly imposed by the courts for speech (online or off) that is deemed threatening or dangerous to oneself or others or society.

Point being, there is a psychiatrist at law whenever courts talk about “treatment” or being “treated” in some fashion or not in another …

In no other context is punishment allowed to masquerade so successfully as “treatment” that is somehow supposed to be of some benefit or help to the defendant in mental health adjudication proceedings pursuant to online speech, publication or other communication that might be deemed unhealthful to the community by a district judge pounding his gavel with the full authority of law to prescribe “treatment” as if it were somehow supposed to be “therapeutic” to defendants and patients under the guise of some form of “medicine” as it were to chemically force one’s thinking more in line with the prevailing politics of the day.

Sofakinbd December 10, 2019 12:57 PM


Minor typo at the start of the post:
There’s a serous debate on reforming Section 230

“serous” you mean “serious”

Missing [i]

  • Sofa

bigmacbear December 10, 2019 2:11 PM

@Electron 007: in this context, the word “treated” does not refer to medicine, but is equivalent to “understood” or “dealt with”. Perhaps the more “lawyerly” term (I Am Not A Lawyer) would be “construed”.

Jay Libove December 10, 2019 3:14 PM

Bruce posed this specific concern:
“But I don’t think it should protect dating apps when they are used as a conduit for abuse. And I really don’t want society to pay the cost for all the externalities inherent in Facebook’s business model.”

To the degree that CDA 230 really can be legally used as a shield for doing nothing when a(n otherwise nonmoderated) platform is informed that it is being abused as a conduit for harassment or worse, John Levine’s scalpel is very much needed.

First, I’d like to hear from scholars who follow cases in which companies successfully defend their inaction on the grounds of CDA 230, to determine whether the problem really is with the way CDA 230 is currently written (these companies correctly won the case under the current law), or whether the problem is a lack of adequate jurisprudence in such cases (the companies won, but a more careful or informed reading by the judge should have handed a loss to the companies).

Similar to the penalties (or increased penalties) under European privacy law for willful disregard of a data protection regulator’s order to comply, the CDA (or some other overarching law which could apply) should impose step-up penalties for failure to respond adequately (“adequately” to be adjudicated, of course) in a (defined) timely fashion to notice of abusive content on an unmoderated platform.

FA December 10, 2019 3:32 PM

@John Levine

Remember that the whole point of Sec 230 is so that providers do not have to make Geer’s ill-advised choice.

What is so ill-advised about it ? To me it seems like the only way to ensure that both ‘publishing’ and ‘private communication’ can exist on the same infrastructure.

As to where to draw the line between the two, I’d say that anything that is either visible to all (e.g. a web site) or offers a public interface to ‘join’ amounts to publishing. And yes, that would make this blog a publisher. I see no problem with that.

Sok Puppette December 10, 2019 4:14 PM

May I suggest that your indecision may come from looking at an insoluble problem, and that it is therefore not a good idea to push yourself to pick a particular “solution” to support?

Start with your link. In detail, what specific, implementable actions should those dating platforms be taking? Now, can you formulate that as a clear, general rule that could apply sensibly to any service? Can you at least break services down into an exhaustive set of categories, and make rules for each one of them?

Will the result make it clear to everybody what they’re supposed to do? Will it be possible for a small service to understand it and do it? Will it be enforceable? Can you give everybody all the right incentives? Can you avoid giving them any perverse incentives, for example an incentive to stay a “common carrier” by totally ignoring all abuse? Can you avoid causing people to set up easily abused response systems (hello DMCA and hello many abuse and harassment complaint systems…)?

Can you avoid asking the impossible… or, in the alternative, if a service truly can’t follow your rule, can you comfortably say that that indicates the service shouldn’t exist at all? Can you avoid other unacceptable collateral damage? Do you even know what the collateral damage might be?

Because if you can’t, then you can’t write (or reform) any laws. And I don’t think you can.

Also, is any of this really going to be relevant in 10 years? Suppose you somehow manage to shut down all abuse on “platforms”. Does that mean that the abuse will just move to P2P systems? Will everything end up moving to P2P because “platforms” have been so crippled that they’re no use any more? Or will the problem go away even without any legal changes, just because people get sick of the abuse and leave?

Remember that there are limits to what any law can do for you, period, no matter how much you want or “need” it to be otherwise.

Another thought, for whatever it’s worth: “for a good time call” graffiti were a thing long before there was an Internet. I don’t think that stronger rules about cleaning bathroom walls would have helped much.

TRX December 10, 2019 4:48 PM

> But I don’t think it should protect dating apps when they are used as a conduit for abuse.

Any method of communication can be “used as a conduit for abuse.”

Once you start restricting something, there are always good reasons to tighten the restrictions more and extend them to other things.

SpaceLifeForm December 10, 2019 7:02 PM

IMO, 230 is NOT broken.

There is no problem to be fixed.

Any issues can, and should be, addressed via other existing laws, courts, and legal process.


SpaceLifeForm December 10, 2019 7:34 PM

Carriers should be separate from content providers.

End of story.

A corp, if they want common carrier status, all good. You can provide a basic simple website. No social media bs.

You want to be a Facebook? Fine. No common carrier for you. You police the crap you create.

You either transmit packets for a living, or you provide the crap social media.

You do not get to do both.

The main problem is that social media is uncontrollable.

People see stuff they did not want to see.

It is broadcast, not unicast.

In the olden daze, you could turn off the tv or change the channel. (If you got off your arse and turned the knob).

But, if you are one that just has to be on social media, you are going to see crap that one does not care to see.

Who is at fault there? The user. For being stupid enough to not change the channel.

We do not need legal changes due to lazy stupid users.

But, a blog site like here is not broadcast.

No one forces anyone to read here.

But Facebook forces the users to read stuff they do not care about.

Weather December 10, 2019 7:58 PM

There’s been a lot of trigger points, but if you say I want information, so tell you to inspect for me, the full blame goes on them, in this case I would tell them to back off, as …

jdgalt December 10, 2019 8:06 PM

I vote for imposing Dan Geer’s one-or-the-other choice, at least to the extent of “no viewpoint discrimination if you want Sec 230 protection.” (Extending it to “carry any bits” would make it impractical to block spam, viruses, etc.)

There can’t be exceptions for “hate speech” or even “abuse” without defining those terms, which gets government into the business of regulating speech and that must not happen. Indeed the existing content regulations on radio and TV should have been overturned when they were enacted (certainly they accomplish nothing worthwhile now, since all the major networks are peddling fake news and lies on every newscast and nobody has challenged their licenses).

But I would like to see antitrust police put a stop to any further mergers or acquisitions by the six multinationals that now control nearly all communications worldwide. The fewer they are, the more power they will have to force people and viewpoints out of the public arena. (And we need to take back control of ICANN, or work around it by building a peer-to-peer DNS replacement, because the UN will certainly cooperate with the deplatformers and censors, especially state actors.)

And last but not least, we desperately need some kind of transparency act that will compel the likes of Facebook and Google to reveal, and in many cases curtail, the ways they use and abuse our personal data.

Clive Robinson December 10, 2019 8:13 PM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

It is broadcast, not unicast.

Is the main distinguisher between a newspaper and a letter.

And should work well except for two problems,

1, The right of “free speech”.
2, The disire to profit by data theft.

The first issue has been through the courts one way or another many times and “freespeech has thereby had a number of it’s corners knocked off. But it is never “static” and changes with the norms of society can all to easily make bad law.

With regards the second issue, you will hear much wailing from corps about how slim their marginis are and how they need to make profit for the good of the economy, the Internet and mankind it’self… Well in most cases it is simply not true, it’s actually a lie told to preserve dividend for their share holders.

jdgalt December 10, 2019 8:16 PM

And P.S. No matter what side of the deplatforming issue you’re on, shadowbanning needs to be forbidden for any site. It’s a vicious form of fraud.

SpaceLifeForm December 10, 2019 8:44 PM

@ All

This is extremely timely, and I can only rest my case. I really do not know how to expound on this problem. Seriously. I rest my case.


“Margaret, it may well be that those who will benefit the most by breaking the bond of trust you have with the likes of The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post have already won, but I urge you to consider which news source you can get in touch with. Who is willing to look you in the eye and tell you they did their best to get it right versus those who pop up on Facebook, spout something so compelling that others share it, and with that undermine the truth and discombobulate decent citizens.”

SpaceLifeForm December 10, 2019 9:31 PM

@ Clive

Broadcast, Unicast

Is the main distinguisher between a newspaper and a letter.

And should work well except for two problems,

1, The right of “free speech”.
2, The disire to profit by data theft.

Well, I can spot junk post (paper letter) quickly, and never have to read the bs message. Goes to trash. Never open. Never see. May go to fireplace.

That is SPAM marketing, on their dime.
Their right to free speech ends in trash can.

And, I am not forced to read newspaper either.

But, I fully support newspapers right to publish, but some I avoid because propaganda, misinformation.


SPAM marketing, disinformation, via social media, ads, is on the users dime.

And when the user is paying for access and bandwidth, they should be able to ignore crap.

But, it’s difficult on social media, esp. FB.

Let there be no doubt: The collection of information about a user is more profitable than what they actually pay. Or close.

Basically, the users are paying to be spied upon.

Dan R December 10, 2019 10:25 PM

The hairs that need to be split are very fine, potentially impossibly so. Consider Content Delivery Networks and hosting providers

Should AWS, Microsoft Azure or Cloudflare be at all liable for content they contract to host? (no, liability should pass through to the owner doing whatever) Should they be allowed to deny services or restrict their customers range of usage? (yes) What about blogs? (likewise with pass through liability) What about Facebook? (likewise) What about 8chan or similar? (so do we disallow anonymous posting?)

I’m sure that smaller steps between these could be made, that make it even murkier. Also, how much user identification do we require to absolve the platform? There will be accounts set up that end up with no identifiable human to hold liable. What’s the level of reasonable effort by the platform to secure a party to be liable for any offending content?
The worst offenders will also be the accounts most likely to use fraudulent registrations.

Jon December 11, 2019 2:05 AM

There is an interesting little problem, that may turn out to be fundamental:

Facebook, Google, et. al. have already lost their Section 230 immunity because they themselves are injecting their own content into the stream – namely, ads.

They already choose between ads by ‘did they pay?’ That’s moderation. If the advertiser did not pay, the ad does not run. If paid, they run.

At the moment, they’re getting away with occasionally hosting highly malicious ads that use various scripting languages to take over your computer, but they have already vetted those ads on the grounds of ‘did they pay?’.

So for anyone who wants ‘common carrier’ status, you’re not allowed to select between paid ads and unpaid ads. J.

(For a ‘common carrier’ metaphor involving railroads, imagine if the railroad was allowed to inject a certain quantity of garbage into any of your shipments. You might think the railroad could very well be held liable for injecting materials that really screwed up your industrial processes, especially as the railroad got paid to do the injection…)

Curious December 11, 2019 6:45 AM

Sry for this long text below. I don’t blame anyone not wanting to read it all, but I did take the time to make it readable, and also made sure my points are fairly well explained and fairly easy to understand.

Reading down in this thread, I came to think of something that is rather obvious to me in my mind, but something I guess I haven’t thought of before, or at least, not this sussinctly.

Disregarding earlier notions of mine re. any unease in thinking of abuse of applying law or specifically policy, or politics if you will for changing society in ways involving words like “hate crime”; it occurred to me just now, that, afaik any ‘libel’ accusation against you, would have to be ultimately be considered void in any case in which you simply expressed your personal point of view as such, like basically being honest. And so I suspect that terms like ‘hate crime’ might become a political tool to be abused, in the context of understanding that such abuse sort of crossing the rather obvious line between simply stating your opinion and being guilty of ‘libel’. I think this philosophical insight, would be more relevant that some monolithic right to free speech, because that type of problem as I see it, really boils down to being human, either all alone, or living your life as an individual among others.

Example: There is a big difference between saying that you think somebody murdered somebody, and saying that somebody in particular is a murderer (as if appying guilt and making claims of such).

I can’t help but wonder a little (I didn’t sleep on all of this here): if perhaps the common perception of ‘free speech’ as an idea in USA, in being something that is taken for granted by people, given the prominence of that idea publicly in media, but also re-occurring in courts as presumably a constitutional right vs the state (as if defending yourself against the state, or seeking physical or monetray remedy), that this is a whacky context, in which this general claim of free speech might as well be thought of as existing within an understanding of it as being a paradox (note: as existing on contradictory terms or predicaments). So, to just clarify, a paradox, would simly be a way of understanding things, nothing more.

I’ve always thought that being basically ‘free’ fundamentally means something different than whatever is understood by the word ‘freedom’ as it is commonly used, most of the time simply referred to as being a named idea but without a definition to go along with it, ‘free’ being more perceptive’ and ‘freedom’ being more prescriptive, and yet I can’t help that these seemingly positively laden words become talking points where people on behalf of themselves talk past people that discuss politics (law, practice, governance, etc). And so, I sort of imagine there also being a parallel then to this word pair ‘free/freedom’, in thinking of “free speech” as a given, in which an individual is expected to be able to speak his/her mind without being punished for that, but also, that this (I can imagine) in turn exist in a contradictory setting, in which law/politics/policy cannot or doesn’t seem to want to fulfill the predicament that comes with applying the idea of a right to free speech specifically in indirect ways (as if saying, because there would be this given right to “free speech” as the justification, as opposed to referring to desirable human behavior as such). And so I can at least imagine people having such issues confused, in people on average simply associating ‘free speech’ as something desirable and trivial, while a government probably doesn’t, because they would likely have a much more nuanced take on things, and more importantly having other interests that probably go against ‘free speech’ as a principle. Presumably US congress is a part of government, so perhaps no wonder the confusion would be complete mixing policitians with public officials and law enforcement/military. Assuming here that politiancs are basically dumber, more ignorant than state people, and also perhaps afflicted by self or corporate interest.

I know better than to just jump to my conclusions here, as there is probably the risk of ending up with ‘sophistry’, because ones ideas/theory if you will, is framed within some way of understanding which is either biased, pressured, influenced or limited by interest (thus lacking or failing even, but disregarding ill will because I am writing this and after all I didn’t come prepared here to write what I write here today, I didn’t come here to bullshit).

Still (I don’t live in USA): I wonder if perhaps it wouldn’t be the technology part of society that makes for troublesome prospects re. whatever goes for understanding such tech (the assumption of mine would then be that such insights is more philosophical than factual), and the related behaviors as abusive or being obviously criminal, but I am tempted to instead entertain the notion that there would be this impossible or rather paradoxical problem in thinking of society as being progressive with free speech rights (no, I am not implying that free speech is a bad thing, relax), if also setting the framework for abuse and suspected crime by insisting on treating rights as a ‘monad’ of sorts (ref. philosophy). It then seems obvious to me that debating tech and science and its impact on, or such policy in society, feeds a controversy (bad thing in this case, because it would be something that repeats itself I can imagine, as opposed to the idea of debates or law, being truly ‘progressive’), but the controversy wouldn’t really be ‘free’ ‘speech’ as such as I understand it, but being instead sort of a type of insistence in both believing in ‘free speech’ as a right, but all the while also having concluded that ‘free speech’ is also impossible as in being predictably undesirable (anything intended as being authoritarian or rules in general even). This would imo explain why I find ‘freedom’ as a word, to be something of an oxymoron, as ‘freedom’ is imo sort of what is left, after you also have been informed what you cannot do, a form of definition power that is based on something prescriptive. So, I think there is a general misunderstanding of the word ‘freedom’, because some might simply associate it as ‘being free’, being something perceptive, and not prescriptive like when you are told what you can or cannot do.

Btw, if my many additions inside () signs are distracting to read, they are meant as clarifications, and as a way for me to avoid writing even more text and thus risk adding unnessesary confusion and opening up for misinterpretation on the part of the reader. So my advice is to try re-reading a sentence either with, or without the added text, instead of just not reading further. (Ideas about monad(s), perhaps the least interesting aspect of philosophy? Perhaps best interpreted as a confusing singularity as far as a world of idea goes. It is descrbed on Wikipedia as being “monist idealism”. Hm, maybe, monads being a world understanding without a proper or explanatory context.) Admittedly I haven’t read much about Leibniz’s Monadology: Supposedly, it is confusing stuff, but maybe they wrote that to make it seem more of a challenge to people ref. book “Philosophy for beginners” iirc. Given the quasi religious content of the latter, such would be fairly off topic I would think, not something I intended to discuss here. I do like the importance of trying to front the general idea of ‘monads’ as being absurd and thus something inapproppriate. It just seems so obvious, like, some kind of black hole of authority that can’t be challenged.

Random Human December 11, 2019 10:00 AM

Hi All,

I think its worth looking at Mike Masnic from He has written many an article on this.

Firstly, CDA 230 is about providing people running a web site to be able to experiment with moderation of user generated content. It was passed at a time in which ISPs and others were trying to provide access to content appropriate for children, or other curated content.

Secondly, Masnic states quite correctly that content moderation at scale is impossible. If you’re moderating 10 000 000 messages a day with a 99.995 % accuracy you’re still getting 500 wrong, every day. Secondly, the more contentious messages require context. Video documenting war crimes are not nice to look at, but have a purpose.

Here’s his canonical piece on content moderation at scale:

The state of the information you see published on social media is a direct reflection of the nature of society. The internet and the social media companies just manage to magnify the crap that’s under the surface of society.

Finally, remember that social media sites are run by companies that have every right to decide what they publish. You have a right to set up your own blog and say whatever opinion you wish or publish whatever fact you want.

vas pup December 11, 2019 2:09 PM

@Bruce:”I want CDA230 to protect things like the commenting section of this blog.”, but Moderator sensor content of some posts already using not so clear criteria.

At least, when comment deleted, small explanation should be provide – kind of ‘out of blog content’, ‘irrelevant altogether to security’, ‘not supported by facts/links/references.

Moreover, to make it more equal, set text box allocated to comment to particular maximum size – just opinion if you don’t mind.

Jon December 12, 2019 1:16 AM

@ Curious

No. Your honestly held opinion can and will be held as libellious, if can be reasonably seen as such. Honest opinions are not automatically immune from libel claims.

And I think the Free Software Foundation boiled down quite a lot of your arguments to a simple phrase, “Free as in freedom and/or free as in lunch*”.

Two significantly differences in definition in the same word. The English language is like that.

(I did skip the discussion on monads as irrelevant, sorry about that… )


  • or beer.

Curious December 12, 2019 6:20 AM


I initially had some difficulty writing this without ending up writing a LOT of text, but your inclusion of ‘beer’ solved my problem, for finally hammering my points home:

I never said anything about being automatically immune from “libel claims” (that doesn’t make any sense to me, as somebody can probably try make claims of libel regardless). Not sure what you are trying to say here. I must ask, did you understand my point about there being a difference in making claims about others, and simply stating your honest opinion as such?> Formally, such two types of expressions seem evidently very different. I am ofc assuming that anyone’s opionion wouldn’t be simply be considered harassment and for obvious reasons. I would think that if anyone was allowed to file a libel claim against you, on the basis that what you said and did might perhaps be deemed offensive in ways by a court, but more importantly I would think, this would have to be for other reasons than simply having spoken your mind and without directly attributing guilt or whatever goes for being defamation, to thought to be wanting to harass somebody. I ofc don’t know how the US courts work re. libel claims, that is not really what I am discussing here. The problem at hand would be to at least understanding the distinct difference between being honest about what you think, from accusing other people by means of direct attribution (and thus not related to ones own opinion). I can imagine UK being very different, presumably being very authoritative, despite being a “western country”.

“Free as in freedom and/or free as in lunch”
What is this sentence supposed to mean in your opinion? How would you even interpret that to have meaning? This sentence is hardly suggestive, and doesn’t seem to have a point to it and no point is made clear. That sentence would get a red card from me so to speak, in apparently mixing both making a point and making an explanation in specifically phrasing it all the same way. And why would this this have anything to do with specifically my ‘arguments’ as you wrote? How is this that you referred to, not simply idiocy? Meaning, a highly personal and idiosyncratic interpretation of things. If words like “free” and “freedom” is just a form of rhetoric for sanctioning or supporting other opinions and other ideas, but with sentences empty of meaning, then I would say no wonder I have my reservations in my former comment, in thinking of people associating “freedom” with being “free”, when what is discussed might as well be more like being wishful thinking but not being relevant. As if spontaneously attibuting meaning to meaningless statements.

I would very much like to hear your answer here, otherwise, I could have written a wall of text disucssing my thoughts about your comment as I try to put meaning to what I am reading (I shouldn’t have to), but I won’t do that.

If you sit at a table about to eat your lunch or to drink our beer someplace, it doesn’t make any sense to bring about the point that you are “free” or even, that you have the “freedom” to eat your lunch or to drink your beer, such is either self evident or just a highly personal opinion that might conflict with other people’s ideas about the matter, specifically like any other blatantly obvious facts of life I would think. It could be that other people observing you, make the point that you are ‘free’ to drink beer and that you have the ‘freedom’t to drink beer, but again I think it would be unreasonable to assume that they would all happen to be sharing the same opinion, as opposed to their own.

The ‘beer’ part there in your comment makes this I wrote a little tricky though (but a fine opportunity to hammer my points home, after this), as you (baically any functional human being with beer and being unrestrained) would certainly/factually be free to drink alcoholic beer generally ouside in the town of Oslo (at least for some time depending on the circumstances, maybe the police sees you and makes you stop), but it would be I am sure, illegal, and thus, the only one that thinks you have the ‘freedom’ to drink a beer generally anywhere in the city would be you yourself, either perceptively, or prescriptively (if that is even a word in English), as it would be silly to assume that other people necessarily would agree to your highly personal opinion when such obviously might as well not be the case (eihter other people, or law in general). And so, the word ‘freedom’ might as well be thought of, as being allowed to be free, and not risking sanctions due to such free actions. There you have it: Without making sensible distinctions between the words like ‘free’ and ‘freedom’ in a given context, things get very idiotic very quickly I would think.

Petre Peter December 12, 2019 7:30 AM

My own data is as inaccessible to me as the horizon because it’s stored on someone else’s property? This is like going to a restaurant and finding out that you are their property because you sat in a chair that belongs to them and now you have to pay to get off your seat.

ayyy December 12, 2019 7:45 AM

Citron is a a very radical leftist, progressive feminist type. Some of her book chapters include:

“Why Combating Online Abuse Is Good For Free Speech,” in Free Speech in the Digital Age. Oxford University Press
“Platform Justice: Content Moderation at an Inflection Point.” in Hoover Institute Aegis Series.
“The Surveillance Implications of Combatting Cyber Harassment.” in Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance Law.

Here’s the agenda (getting this from filling in between the blanks in what she has written):

  1. Replace CDA with something that requires moderation by providers. Justify this with reference to extremism, CP, harassment, etc. and with reference to large providers like Facebook or ones that have become notorious like 8chan.

  2. Work through nonlegislative angles to develop “codes of conduct” which could include “hate speech” provisions and, possibly^H^Hwho am I kidding definitely, eventually be politically used. This would likely not be a first amendment issue as it is for private moderators and carries no legal penalties.

  3. When a site retains something violating the “code of conduct” for wrongthink, hit them with legal penalties for something else that they have left over (as all sites of a given size will) that violates the law.

  4. Thus, create a climate of intimidation for any company that has any interest in hosting deviant thought. Given that it’s nearly 2020, freedom of speech is very nearly synonymous with the ability to have a place to post legal speech, especially political speech, online. This can do away with it with a complete endround.

Jon December 12, 2019 10:54 PM

@ Curious

I never said anything about being automatically immune from “libel claims” (that doesn’t make any sense to me, as somebody can probably try make claims of libel regardless).

Well, actually, you did, and I quote again:

afaik any ‘libel’ accusation against you, would have to be ultimately be considered void

Maybe you don’t think “Would have to be considered void” counts as immunity, but I do.

In other news, legally it doesn’t matter much for culpability if you were just lying your ass off or stating your honest opinion; if it’s libellious. The laws might differ in Oslo. IANAL.

The point being (did you read my much shorter post?) that ‘free’ can have two radically different meanings despite being the same word.

Have fun, J.

lurker December 13, 2019 12:35 AM

In my dotage I have been translating subtitles for Chinese TV docos and uploading to YouTube. Lately YT have got into a tizz over “Kidsafe” material, to wit, uploaders must declare if their content is “Made for Kids”, and if so jump through some other hoops. Now setting aside that my content is not, never has been, and is unlikely in future to be intended for juveniles of the Genus Capra; I sometimes think loose language in pseudo legal documents like this is designed for lawyer fights. Now they could have just added a checkbox to the existing upload page. But no, there must be some added secret sauce because you have to click a link to a new page, and I get: “Ooops, sorry something doesn’t add up, we don’t support your current browser. Please use one of these: …” and the list was the most generous I’ve seen for a while, included Safari and Opera, but I’m stubborn enough to not download Yet Another Browser. I changed my User Agent string to the latest Firefox, but still got shown the exit.

Their AI that works out what’s content and what’s transport, seems to be a work in progress. My User Agent string change provoked an immediate response from their “Security” division that a new Linux device [emphasis added] had logged into my account. Go figure.

Curious December 13, 2019 10:53 AM


Good thing I had a writing course many years ago, or I might perhaps have thought of this writing of mine as boring and unnecessary. On the contrary, I find it amusing, but also important, because I get to clarity what I mean and with ideally minimum vagueness.

You clearly didn’t quote me right. You paraphrased me and omitted the word ‘ultimately’, or, didn’t quote me properly. Also you used the phrase “automatically immune” earlier, something that obviously doesn’t not ring true when you in your last comment made a reference, specifically to how you basically wrote that, what I had meant, was something that you thought must mean ‘automatically immune’, when that is more like your personal interpretation more than anything else as you yourself made a point of by saying “but I do”. I don’t see you entertaining a notion of good faith either, so it seems to me that you jumped to conclusions so to speak. When you write “well, actually you did”, but then simultaneously make it clear that you are clearly just making a personal interpretation, you are clearly contradicting yourself and so you lost me, or I don’t find it convincing.

Obviously, I am not a fortune teller for anyone to be involved in any libel case in US, nor do I acutally know the US law for libel as I think I’ve already pointed out. I had been pointing out something I thought would had to be obvious. I don’t understand how this I wrote could be misunderstood as arguing for there being an ‘automatic immunity’ for anything regarding a libel case in USA. If I didn’t clearly intend it, then I didn’t. Funnily enough, this claim of yours seems to be a parallel of sorts to the very distinction that I argued could be made, between simply saying something on your mind as your personal opinion, and whatever was perhaps intended by saying something (because other people, can’t just make things up with regard to other people’s intent as if there was some imagined motive there when there wasn’t). Maybe If I had written “MUST be considered void” it would be something entirely different I would think, then it would sound more like a claim as opposed to being a point in itself. Presumably, there would be other factors in a libel case, like considering harassment to be a complication of the situation in which a libel case based based on. As I don’t know US libel law, but with ‘libel’ as I understand it seemingly being related to forms of expression, it made good sense for me to discuss what I would have thought to be the basic merit of any libel case (presumably, libel would be understood as having said specifically the “wrong things” to somebody, as if intending to offend, not just being accused of some arbitrary claim of somebody feeling offended).

Did you read my much shorter post?
There is only ONE post from what I can tell. Ofc, I read it, I had already commented on it. 😐 Btw, you on the other hand, have not acknowledged whether or not you understood my point from earlier, as I solicited an answer for very early in my second paragraph. I also asked you how you would find that quotation of yours about lunch or beer, to be meaningful with the start of the third paragraph. So, if you were simply making a point in trying to answering my questions, this would be more like a conjecture, making a point but lacking an explanation.

I don’t understand your point about “free’ can have two radically different meanings despite being the same word.” . You ought to keep things within the same paragraph, or there is hardly any explanation if any at all, for the point you are making.

With reference specifically to the sentence “Free as in freedom and/or free as in lunch”:
This point of yours about how the word ‘free’ would have radically different meanings doesn’t make any sense to me, because ‘free’ as a single word, clearly isn’t the same as the word ‘freedom’ if that was what you meant, or it would surely had to be spelled the exact same way I would think (unless maybe using a second word from a different language being thought of as being roughly the same). Your point seem to have zero relation for the word pair ‘free’ and ‘freedom’, and they are clearly not the same words, but ofc, you may wish for that to be so, someting associative. That any one word might have radically differnt meanings associated with it, is perhaps entirely possible insofar as it would be expected as opposed to idiocy (something idiosyncratic, not at all meant to be a rude characterization), but not relevant. I fail to see how such would be relevant here, to anything I or you made a point about previously. The “and/or” part of the sentence sounds like a reference a programmer might make, but the sentene doesn’t make more sense to me regardless of that. Seems to me that anyone thinking this sentence makes sense, is for a moment anyway, something of an idiot (worse, maybe being easily gullible or aroused in some relevant context). The sentence doesn’t seem to have any virtue to it being a slogan or idea. I don’t find anything to be existential about it except acknowledging the very idea of eating a lunch and drinking beer, in turn none relating to being ‘free’ for whatever reason. It sounds super vague, as if being highly suggestive. An unknown conceptual metaphor, or basically nonsense I would think. Imagine if Decartes, instead of saying something like “I think therefore I am”, said “I think, therefore I am free”. What a monumental understatement of the blatantly obvious, and perhaps even clouding your judgement if already making new random associations, like a complete idiot for the next second. A similarily stupendous idea, would be to say like Colbert did on his former show: “I am America, and so can you.” Cheap, but pointless I would think. Perhaps best understood as some kind of rhetoric.

This reminds me of something I think I read somewhere, or perhaps somebody told me this, I have since forgotten where or when. If I have somehow made this up myself, I will be the first to be surprised:

“It is an act of acknowledgment, that when you think you have solved a problem, you come to realized that the problem never existed.” Also, something blatantly obvious, as far as statements goes, but should be very interesting; because, one then one probably ultimately realizes that things are not ‘problems’. Problems are problems, intellectual propositions, but not really events, real places, nor other real people, nor natural disasters as such even.

Jon December 14, 2019 6:38 AM

@ Curious

I believe I quoted you just fine. The indented bits are the direct quotations, so here I go again!:

You clearly didn’t quote me right. You paraphrased me and omitted the word ‘ultimately’, or, didn’t quote me properly.

The above was a quotation. This line is me writing. This is what I wrote, now including nested quotations(!) wherein I’m quoting myself quoting you:

@ Curious

I never said anything about being automatically immune from “libel claims” (that doesn’t make any sense to me, as somebody can probably try make claims of libel regardless).

Well, actually, you did, and I quote again:

afaik any ‘libel’ accusation against you, would have to be ultimately be considered void

Maybe you don’t think “Would have to be considered void” counts as immunity, but I do.

I added the emphasis, in case you missed it the first time. No, I did not quote your entire post. Sorry about that. Anyhow, we’ve gotten a bit off topic here, so lets call an end to it. Thanks. J.

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