Today, a meeting of the United States Senate Committee is holding a hearing on “Big Tech Censorship”. Over the last several months, this has become a very big issue. With the internet being a primary source of information for many people, it is critical that people have accurate, complete, and accurate data. WITHOUT getting into political aspects of this; as we all have our own opinions; I would like to see if we, as a community, can help to make suggestions and recommendations regarding this issue. I believe that as Privacy and Security professionals, one of our roles is to ensure that data integrity and privacy is appropriate across the internet.
At the center of this discussion, is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As I am not an attorney, I will not attempt to interpret the law. What I will do is provide some of the details and a link to a legal resource I use frequently, Cornell Law School. It is my understanding that Section 230 is a reference to 47 U.S. Code § 230 – Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230).
This law opens with the following.
(a) The Congress finds the following:
(1) The rapidly developing array of Internet and other interactive computer services available to individual Americans represent an extraordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to our citizens.
(2) These services offer users a great degree of control over the information that they receive, as well as the potential for even greater control in the future as technology develops.
(3) The Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.
(4) The Internet and other interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit of all Americans, with a minimum of government regulation.
(5) Increasingly Americans are relying on interactive media for a variety of political, educational, cultural, and entertainment services.”
It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media.
(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.
(3) to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services.
(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and
(5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.”
This law goes on to talk about.
(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2) Civil liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A)any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B)any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).
(d)Obligations of interactive computer service
A provider of interactive computer service shall, at the time of entering an agreement with a customer for the provision of interactive computer service and in a manner deemed appropriate by the provider, notify such customer that parental control protections (such as computer hardware, software, or filtering services) are commercially available that may assist the customer in limiting access to material that is harmful to minors. Such notice shall identify, or provide the customer with access to information identifying, current providers of such protections.
(e)Effect on other laws
(1) No effect on criminal law
Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair the enforcement of section 223 or 231 of this title, chapter 71 (relating to obscenity) or 110 (relating to sexual exploitation of children) of title 18, or any other Federal criminal statute.
(2) No effect on intellectual property law
Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or expand any law pertaining to intellectual property.
(3) State law
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any State from enforcing any State law that is consistent with this section. No cause of action may be brought, and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.
(4) No effect on communications privacy law
Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the application of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 or any of the amendments made by such Act, or any similar State law.
(5) No effect on sex trafficking law
Nothing in this section (other than subsection (c)(2)(A)) shall be construed to impair or limit—
(A)any claim in a civil action brought under section 1595 of title 18, if the conduct underlying the claim constitutes a violation of section 1591 of that title.
(B)any charge in a criminal prosecution brought under State law if the conduct underlying the charge would constitute a violation of section 1591 of title 18; or
(C)any charge in a criminal prosecution brought under State law if the conduct underlying the charge would constitute a violation of section 2421A of title 18, and promotion or facilitation of prostitution is illegal in the jurisdiction where the defendant’s promotion or facilitation of prostitution was targeted.”
The sections of the law are directly copied from the Cornell Law School site that I cited above.
In the spirit of being great cybersecurity professionals, I would like to ask each of us to weigh in on this concern and issue in a nonpolitical manner and a judge free mentality (without attacks and offensive responses).
In your response, I ask that we all answer the following questions.
- Is this a cybersecurity/privacy professional concern?
- Is this an issue that we face in the world today?
- Should private organizations have the responsibility or authority to control the messages that are being delivered to the world?
- How do we, as a community of security and privacy professionals, come together and help to ensure the integrity of free information, while ensuring that everyone is safe and free of offensive material?
I would also ask that you tag your US Senator https://www.senate.gov/senators/index.htm and your US Congress member https://www.congress.gov/members?searchResultViewType=expanded
Lets become part of the SOLUTION and show our value!