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Guess Which Social Media Network Would Suffer the Most, If Trump Had His Way?

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | December 2, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | December 2, 2020 |


This morning, Donald Trump threatened to veto a defense policy bill that would afford raises to those in the military unless Congress nullified Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially gives social media networks immunity from messages posted on their platforms. If you don’t think Donald Trump is serious, Kayleigh McEneny is here to insist otherwise.

The reason, again, that Trump wants to strip Section 230 is because he’s in a pissing match with Twitter, and Section 230 basically prevents social media platforms from being legally classified as “publishers,” and so they are not liable — as publishers are — for the things that are posted on those platforms. If I were to threaten to murder Ryan Phillipe on Pajiba, for instance, I could be held liable for it. If you were to threaten to murder Ryan Phillipe on Disqus, both Pajiba and Disqus are protected by Section 230. If you take Section 230 away, however, then Disqus and Pajiba could be held legally liable for the death threat you made in our comments section. Without Section 230, we would either have to shut down comments or approve every single comment before it is posted (and run the iffy ones through legal). That would obviously take more resources than a small, independent publication like Pajiba has. But it would also be ruinous for Twitter, too, because they would have to moderate every single tweet before it was posted. Twitter delivers 500 million tweets per day. The backlog would, in effect, make Twitter unusable.

Twitter does, however, engage in a fair amount of moderation, including of Trump, which — again — is the real source of Trump’s ire. But by punishing Twitter, Trump would in effect be punishing all the social networks, including — and most ruinously — Parler, the social media platform that conservatives have flocked to because, unlike Twitter, it does not engage in much, if any, moderation. FREE SPEECH FREE SPEECH FREE SPEECH!

FREE SPEECH, however, comes with its own host of problems. Sure, conservatives can spread as much disinformation as they’d like, and they can share their QAnon conspiracy theories to their heart’s content, but it also means that other users can flood the social network with as much porn as they’d like, too. From The Washington Post:

The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, have helped it become a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives, such as #keepamericasexy and #milfsfortrump2020.

The pornography threatens to intrude on users not seeking sexual material and has the potential to complicate hopes the site may have to expand advertising, which is now limited. Experts on the impact of pornography say major companies typically avoid having their sales pitches appear alongside controversial imagery.

The whole damn platform is just inundated with porn, and so conservatives — who once upon a time, anyway, were the party of family values — have now taken up residence on a social media platform where every other post involves graphic pornographic imagery. A UC Berkley prof quoted in the article predicts that Parler will eventually “be overrun with this stuff.”

That doesn’t make it a particularly friendly environment for advertisers, except for those advertising porn and escort services. But if Trump does manage to nullify Section 230 (he won’t), Parler would be confronted with an even bigger problem. Again, from The Washington Post:

It’s unlikely that Parler would face any legal ramifications for hosting images of naked adults in apparently consensual encounters, even if some of those links lead to sites that may offer prostitution. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 federal law undergirding much of the modern Internet economy, offers broad immunity for content uploaded by third parties onto social platforms. Laws against sex trafficking would implicate platforms only if they knowingly promoted such content, as opposed to merely hosting links to other sites, Citron said.

Boom! Remove Section 230 from the Communications Decency Act, and that immunity is gone, and then not only is Parler a cesspool of porn, but it’s also a social media platform that will soon be out of business because of the liability it would face for hosting illegal pornographic images or promoting sex trafficking. Truly, that is how crucial Section 230 is to the operation of social media sites, and if Trump were to successfully remove Section 230, he’d also rob himself of the very platforms where his misinformation gets spread. He would be f**king himself over to get back at Twitter.

Then again, no one ever mistook Donald Trump for smart.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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