§ 230 and the SAFE TECH Act
You can see the PDF of my testimony (and the other witnesses’ testimony as well), but I thought I’d also blog the text; I commented separately on five different proposals, so I thought I’d break this down accordingly. As I noted, my plan wais mostly to offer an evenhanded analysis of these proposals, focusing (in the interests of brevity) on possible nonobvious effects. I also included my personal views on some of the proposals, but I will try to keep them separate from the objective analysis.
[III.] SAFE TECH Act
This bill contains several different provisions; let me focus on some of the less obvious ones.
[A.] Stripping Immunity from Paid Hosting Services (e.g., WordPress),
Platforms That Share Ad Revenue with Creators (e.g., YouTube), and
Platforms That Subsidize New Content
The bill would deny immunity to providers that have “accepted payment to make the speech available or, in whole or in part, created or funded the creation of the speech” (sec. 2(1)(A)(iii)).
This would threaten liability for any service that charges to provide hosting—for instance, blogging platforms such as WordPress or hosting services such as Amazon Web Services. After all, they “accept payment to make the speech available,” which is unsurprising since they’re in business to make money. Advertising-supported free services (which generally make money by selling access to their users, and their users’ data) would still be immune, so the market would be strongly pushed in that direction.
This section would also threaten liability on any service that shares its advertising revenue with creators, for instance as YouTube does. After all, by letting providers of popular videos monetize those videos, YouTube would be “in part . . . fund[ing] the creation of the speech.” (The providers will likely have created the videos in expectation of making money from them on YouTube, and the money they make would help fund future videos.) Creators would thus be less likely to earn money from their works, unless they’re earning so much as to make it worth the platform’s while to run the risk of liability in exchange for a share of the proceeds.
And the section would threaten liability whenever any providers provide grants to support local journalism or other such projects (something like the Google News Initiative), since there the providers will have again “in part . . . funded the creation of the speech.” Providers would th
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