Another reminder that online publishing laws need reform – The Dallas Morning News


Twitter announced a new policy Tuesday under which it will take more responsibility for the content on its site. That’s a step toward a solution we have long favored: treating social media companies more like publishers and less like neutral platforms.

Twitter said users will no longer be allowed to post private photos or videos of others without their permission. To keep such media from being removed, Twitter will require either a first-person report or one from an authorized representative. The change is meant to prevent doxing and harassment.

This step is bound to cause some confusion. It will take some time to work out the details. For instance, there are exceptions for images of public figures and events. Notably, Twitter said it would take its cues from traditional media.

“We will always try to assess the context in which the content is shared and, in such cases, we may allow the images or videos to remain on the service,” read the announcement on the company’s blog. “For instance, we would take into consideration whether the image is publicly available and/or is being covered by mainstream/traditional media (newspapers, TV channels, online news sites), or if a particular image and the accompanying tweet text adds value to the public discourse, is being shared in public interest, or is relevant to the community.”

This move seems to be a step toward accountability, but it’s incomplete. Our regulatory system still lacks a frame to appropriately categorize social media companies.

What those companies appear to be advocating lately, and what representatives from Facebook told us explicitly last month that they want, is a system by which they can meet certain minimum requirements for responsibility and still qualify for the broad liability protections afforded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Those minimum requirements could range from obvious standards such as removing child pornography to grayer areas, such as offering fact-checking for conspiracy theories or even removing removing incendiary speech and de-platforming public figures. Such standards can become all but impossible to define, a problem in reaching regulatory clarity.

These are incredibly complex questions in a global society where social media is used by billions. But we know that the status quo is unacceptable. Section 230 cannot be the shield for social media companies that are anything but neutral platforms. After all, Twitter is the company that de-platformed former President Donald Trump but still allows the self-styled “world’s coolest dictator,” El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, to tweet to his 3.1 million followers.

As we’ve said before, Section 230 needs an overhaul. Passed eight years before any social media company existed, it cannot appropriately apply to a company with the reach and influence of Twitter. The regulatory system needs a framework that acknowledges that Twitter and Facebook are more than just …….


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