Facebook Admits It’s a Publisher in Court Filings

Facebook Admits It’s a Publisher in Court Filings

The Associated Press

Andrew Harnik/AP

ALLUM BOKHARI 18 Sep 2019

Facebook, in court filings defending itself from a lawsuit filed by activist and congressional candidate Laura Loomer, has cited its first amendment rights as a “publisher,” contradicting public claims by the company that its social media service is a platform.

The distinction between publisher and platform is central to the legal protections enjoyed by big tech companies, and is frequently cited by Republican lawmakers in their criticism of Silicon Valley’s political bias.

Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, tech platforms have immunity from lawsuits arising out of their decisions to host (or not to to host) user-generated content. Unlike publishers, which are liable if their writers defame someone, a tech platform is not held liable for content created by its users. . . .

The distinction with respect to legal procedures is applied to speech in question. Online services are not considered the “publisher or speaker” of the speech of another. They are the publisher or speaker of their own speech. This is not a distinction for which an online service falls into one classification or the other for all speech posted on their site. For example, a news service may publish many stories for which they are the speaker. But if they provide an area bow their stories for users to interact they are not considered the publishers of those statements from the users.

Content for which an online service has some involvement in its production is considered the speech of the online entity. But the comments and other content from users posted independently of the online service is not the speech of the service.

Any online service has the protections of this immunity, including a blog with a comments area or even CAF.

2 Likes

ThinkingSapien . . .

The distinction with respect to legal procedures is applied to speech in question.

So what you are saying is they can jump back and forth and claim 'em both (publisher AND tech platform) depending on the circumstance.

Right? Is that what you are claiming?

It is dependent on the speaker of the speech being examined in court. If Mark Z says something on Facebook the corporation gets no immunity for the statement being published there. If John Doe of 123 Main Street says something on Facebook the liability for the statement is on John Doe. Facebook doesn’t have the liability for the statement that John Doe made.
This isn’t a matter of jumping back and forth. It is a matter of the answer to the question of “who said it?”

Given a statement on Facebook ask the question “was this posted by a user that is a representative of Facebook or did Facebook assist in authoring this speech.” If “yes” then Facebook can be held responsible. If not then Facebook has protections and the speaker of the speech has the liabilities of the speech.

There are some nuances I haven’t touched. But the above is applicable in the general case. Think of it this way; if you had a cork board that you allowed people to use to post things you are not liable for what I decide to put on the board. But if you put something on it yourself then you are responsible for that.

2 Likes

ThinkingSapien . . . .

This isn’t a matter of jumping back and forth. It is a matter of the answer to the question of “who said it?”

So are you saying section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, is unnecessary? (Because you are a computer guy. Not a legal guy. And legal guys HAVE said this is necessary enough to write it into law.

Your cork board example is a gross oversimplification.)

Why should I believe a computer guy on an internet forum when others much more qualified have said differently?

Nope. Especially not based on Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co.. It is a foundational reason that the Communications and Decency Act Section 230 part C exists.

I think it is not. In the above mentioned case an annonymous use posted that Stratton Oakmount was a fraud. Stratton sued Prodigy and Prodigy lost. Without section 230 a site owner would have liability for any and all statements that any users post on their site. Do you think CAF should have liability for any and all posts made by users?

I would rather you use resources at your disposal to seek an answer that is independent of anything I say. If you can find legal professionals to interpret these scenarios that are not invested in them that would be great!

Nope. Especially not based on Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. . It is a foundational reason that the Communications and Decency Act Section 230 part C exists.

First of all, thanks for all your research.

But this is NOT a cork board item.

Do you think CAF should have liability for any and all posts made by users?

Ask them.

Ask if they are publishers.

I could ask you the same thing flipped.

Do you think a child porn publisher should be immune from liability if they claim “Well its just the author. We only published it.”

No. Of course not.

.

If you can find legal professionals to interpret these scenarios that are not invested in them that would be great!

No.

I am not that invested in myself.

I will let them play it out and observe what occurs. Naturally I will add my comments along the way (just as others will do).

No research. I know that if the top of my head. Have posted about it many times. At some point it just becomes part of memory.

Well that’s illegal. As for protections from another user posting child exploitative imagery (and human tracking, and some other issues), this is covered by one of the nuances that I mentioned not going into above. See the SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traficking Act). It amends section 230. We have this act in part because of the activities of a site known as BackPage. In addition to hosting advertisements for sexually exploitative services they facilitated in the authoring of those ads (so it was also their speech). They tried to use 230c to protect themselves from liability for exploitative ads. But they also help author those ads; it was consodered their speech (thus even without the amendment they have liability).

Their answer to this question doesn’t influence liability for what the users say. They can callthemselve publishers while still being protected from liabilities for what us users say.

Well that’s illegal.

Yes but so can political partisanship be under certain circumstances.

Their answer to this question doesn’t influence liability for what the users say. They can callthemselve publishers while still being protected from liabilities for what us users say.

You’re using circular reasoning.

I think you may be confusing circular reasoning with observing an irrelevance. Whether or not they call themselves a publisher doesn’t address the “who said it” question." Publishers can have the protections of section 230c. A Publisher (general usage) is not necessarily the “publisher or speaker” of a statement posted by a general user in their site when performing a section 230c evaluation.

.

No buts needed. There is a legal and moral incentive [for] sites to act against exploitative imagery.

1 Like

You are using circular reasoning TS.
I’m not going to play it out for you, because I’ve done that sort of thing and it doesn’t matter to your positions.

I just don’t have the patience for that routine tonight.

.

No buts needed. There is a legal and moral incentive sites to act against exploitative imagery.

There you go again.

Only addressing PART of the issue and pretending you have addressed the WHOLE. (There are legal and moral incentives to act against MORE than exploitative imagery isn’t there?).

What you say is true. But there is more to my argument.

You know that.

There is a legal and moral incentive sites

I think you may be conflating “a legal and moral incentive sites” with illegal activities on legal sites.

Like I said. I just don’t feel like dealing with the word-game routine. Maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow.

All I know is that regulations are a coming.

I focused on giving a response to your question. You asked about immunity for child exploitative imagery (this is the formal term for such images used across the industry and law). I informed you of an ammendment to Section 230c that addresses this and other content of sexually illegal nature. Online service providers have legal duties to take action on such content. Being without immunity for it is status quo.

If there is something that you want considered ask about it.

Not at all. There is no conflation of punishments and consequences here with the actions that proceed it.

It is an analogy. Such boards are also known as “bulliten boards,” which is also the name that was applied to computer systems that allowed people to post messages. Though today we call such systems “forums.” Both are systems provided that allow third parties to post speech. On both someoneone could post illegal content. On both the question “who is responsible for the speech posted” can be asked. Do you see post on either to be the speech of the person that owns the board or the person that posted the message?

Hope you had a good night.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google had representation at a hearing this week. The topic of the hearing was weaponization of social media and the spread of online hate. There were discussion topics that you might find interesting, such as how “hate speech” or “extreme” are defined.

You can find a description of the hearing here.

All of the video from the hearing is online.

Related:

Zuckerberg Heads to Capitol Hill to Push His Version of Internet Regulation

Facebook founder will seek to placate lawmakers who are weighing tougher moves

WASHINGTON— Facebook Inc. FB 0.03% CEO Mark Zuckerberg will travel to Capitol Hill on Thursday to pitch his vision for moderate internet regulation and seek to placate lawmakers who are weighing tougher moves.

“Mark will be in Washington, D.C. to meet with policy makers and talk about future internet regulation,” a company spokeswoman said. “There are no public events planned.”
[…]

1 Like

If it gets thrown out on summary judgment I will admit I was wrong.

If it goes to trial, you can (but probably won’t) do the same ThinkingSapien

Those are not the only possible outcomes.

Perhaps it is worth considering the claims made in the court filing. The case can go to court even if Facebook’s activities on their site are found to be immune. The case isn’t solely about Facebook’s right to decide who can user the service. Loomer makes a defemation claim that is on part based on her being permanently suspended but also based on statements that Facebook made in public.

Though there are other defenses for public statements, such as the statement being shown to be true or a statement being completely subjective and thus impossible to show as true or untrue.

Rather than make an inference based on the outcome of her legal action reading the opinion in the outcome may be informational.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.