Editorial: Elon Musk will fix social media. Seriously?


For quite some time, Americans have heard of the evils of Big Tech – companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter that have played a dominant role in the internet’s ability to choose who can spread truths and lies.

But now, with the news that Tesla and SpaceX pioneer Elon Musk is buying Twitter, everyone’s supposed to believe things are going to get better with the richest man in the world – Mr. Very Big Tech – at head of the company?

Conservatives have complained that Twitter and Facebook have unfairly censored more of their views than those of liberals. Their thought is that Musk, a libertarian who says he strongly supports free speech, will restore a better balance of opinion on Twitter.

We’ll see, though it’s easy enough to predict that if Twitter relaxes its oversight of comments too much, the inevitable result will be more lies, slimy innuendos, and slanderous messages disguised as legitimate opinions. They are tried and true by-products of social media.

What conservatives, liberals, and anyone who thinks social media has gone too far should seek a change in federal law to hold these websites to the same level of accountability as other publishers, such as newspapers, radio stations and television channels.

Currently, website companies are largely exempt from liability for what they allow others to say. Over time, this has encouraged increasingly outrageous comments and allegations, which human nature tends to pay attention to.

This is all due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It specifically states that an interactive computer service – such as a popular social media website – cannot be considered the publisher of information. on his site if someone else has provided the information.

The idea was to allow websites to grow during the early years of the Internet without facing a slew of lawsuits. Well, mission accomplished, but this success comes at a price.

Does anyone seriously think Tesla shouldn’t be legally responsible if its electric cars start catching fire with people inside? Should SpaceX be responsible if one of its ships crashes in a residential area? Of course they should – but internet companies have no responsibility for the harm their products allow some of their users to cause.

The world and the internet would be a better place if sites like Facebook and Twitter were to be more careful about what they allow online. Given that online businesses have proven themselves to be masters of innovation, it’s ridiculous to claim that they can’t find a way to do it.

Big Tech opposed the law changes before Elon Musk got involved. Now that he owns one of the biggest names on the internet, he’s also sure to champion the posting exemption. To do otherwise — allowing serious limits on exaggerated opinions, claims and conspiracy theories — would be bad for business when the internet has proven there is a market for it, no matter who gets hurt.

—Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal


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