Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Verge republishes Sarah Jeong's "The Internet of Garbage" with its important observations on Section 230 and on DMCA Safe Harbor (different things)



Sarah Jeong, the writer who moved from The Verge to the New York Times amidst controversy over some of her old “tweet-backs” that some viewed as racist (they weren’t), has an out-of-print book called “The Internet of Garbage” (2015), now only on Kindle for $.99.  But The Verge is republishing it online on its site.  Here is the link to the first section: 

Jeong discusses a case where an actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, in case Garcia v. Google, litigated to have segments of “The Innocence of Muslims” taken down when her voice-over was used without her permission in a manner that apparently insults Islam, and resulted in her getting constant threats. She tried to claim copyright on her own voice-over and get the material taken down by DMCA Safe Harbor. YouTube insisted this was not copyright.  A long legal battle in the appeals courts follows.

The piece then explains the difference between Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor.  The former has to do with the usual torts, like defamation and invasion of privacy.  The latter is about copyright.

The article also explains the basic reason why it is so hard to control online harassment.  Platforms by and large are immune from most liability under Section 230, because they cannot possibly pre-screen everything.  On copyright (which was the biggest concern in the earliest days of the WWW), YouTube has come a long way with ContentID in identifying most infringement before the fact, but there are false positives.  (You could be flagged for your own music, and there are silly flags for outdoor background music obviously PD.)  But harassment is much harder to police and hate speech is so subjective that a lot of it is hard to define outside of specific intersectionalities.


Likewise, as we saw yesterday, it would be very difficult to require platforms to be responsible for publication of weapons assembly (Cody Wilson, the injunction yesterday regarding 3D printers) although YouTube and Facebook have already become proactive on this.
  
The article doesn’t mention how the FOSTA (Backpage-driven sex trafficking law) legislation passed this spring complicates Section 230.

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