It just seems odd, but the more money and power the tech titans get, the more entitled they seem to become. Way back in the early days, however, it wasn’t so.
In the late 1990s, internet service providers began getting sued for (1) hosting copyrighted content on their platform that they hadn’t licensed, and (2) lying about individuals and harming their lives. In most cases, the ISPs weren’t actually doing this; someone who had an account with them was doing it.
The music and movie industries made it clear to Congress this had to change. By the late 1990s Congress had acted, and created the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Basically, the DMCA protected the ISPs and content finders (search engines) from their subscribers, who were the ones really posting copyrighted material or telling lies about their friends and enemies.
Congress worked out a special deal for the ISPs and search engines, and in 1998 Bill Clinton signed it into law. If ISPs and search engines followed the new law regarding takedowns of copyrighted or defamatory material promptly, they were off the hook for financial damages. The person who posted the material could still be sued, of course, but the ISPs and search services no longer cared. They made a great point out of saying that they didn’t regulate content.
There were, however a few catches in the DMCA. According to NOLO’s legal encyclopedia, ISPs and search engines could:
- Not obtain financial benefit from the infringement
- Not have actual knowledge or awareness of facts indicating infringing transmissions
- Upon learning of an infringing transmission, act quickly to remove or disable access to the infringing transmission
- Implement a policy of terminating the accounts of subscribers who are repeat infringers
This didn’t solve the problem, but it did mitigate it.
Back then, however, Big Tech was just a big baby. Today it’s grown into a big bully. It feels entitled to do whatever it wants, but it still claims financial immunity. How realistic is that claim?
- Social media sites and search engines both make money by selling ads. The ads are displayed with appropriate content when that is viewed by a user or subscriber. When the user goes to the site or social media page he found, the search engine/social media site makes some money for displaying the ad. Hmm … financial benefit?
- Social media and search engines now track our every move and index all our searches and requested content. How could they not have knowledge of child pornography or copyrighted music, movies, books and other materials viewed or uploaded by subscribers?
- They still get decent marks on removal.
- I don’t know how they treat repeat infringers.
The DMCA attempted to carve out a nowhere land between content creators and content publishers, which big-tech-to-be could inhabit. Now the nowhere landers have become publishers by controlling what appears on their platforms, under the guise of a terms of service agreement.
What’s the difference between a TOS that prohibits you from publishing hurtful articles about people or businesses, and a publisher who says to the agent or writer, “No, we don’t publish works that makes snowflakes melt?”
Big tech’s TOS agreements do seem to lean toward prohibiting speech that political leftists don’t like to hear. In fact, things they hate to hear, because they have no answers.
Far better (for the leftists) to shut down the discussion. Big tech’s response? “Only doing our job, you know.” Well, you controlled the content, and you disseminated the words, music or images. Welcome to the world of publishing. You’re now responsible for the content on your platform.
So this is what it has come to. Big Tech makes money by live-streaming suicides, killings, torture and child abuse, among all those cute kitty videos. And the people running these places are now setting themselves up to be the arbitrators of political speech and the first amendment freedoms (or lack thereof) in the online world?
Now that is funny!