How Press Freedom—and Section 230—Led to Derek Chauvin’s Conviction
When Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts of killing George Floyd, it was a victory not just for justice but for free speech—a freedom currently threatened by a bipartisan coalition of federal legislators.
It was the culture and tradition of U.S. civil liberties and media freedom that played an essential role in protecting Frazier’s ability to record and retain possession of the video, and the capability of commercial corporations to publish it.
Had the same events transpired in China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Singapore or elsewhere, nobody might ever have learned of Floyd’s fate.
Socolow appreciates how the ubiquity of cell phones and other recording devices has made it easier to capture official malfeasance, but he stresses that the real difference-maker is citizens’ ability to distribute what they capture over platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. These sites are protected by Section 230, the 1996 law that gives websites legal immunity for most user-generated content while also giving them maximum latitude to moderate content as they see fit. Section 230 is often called the “26 words that created the internet” and “the internet’s First Amendment.”
Socolow notes that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have called for the repeal or evisceration of Section 230, as have such strange bedfellows as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), Ted Cruz (RTexas), Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Socolow also tells a fascinating story from a century ago. In Minneapolis (of all places), Jay Near, the rabidly
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