When Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, they were shockingly forward-looking. They could not have anticipated the growth of the blogosphere and they certainly did not anticipate the influence of social media. But they did recognize that holding interactive content providers responsible for their users’ posts would be a serious threat to free speech and would have a major chilling effect on free speech online.
Of course, totalitarians always seek to restrict free speech, especially speech that is critical of politicians. Make no mistake about it: That, not protecting children, is the real reason there is a push to exempt sex trafficking from the general protections for interactive content providers.
See, politicians hate the Internet. They hate personal web sites, they hate blogs, they hate social media, they hate newspaper comment sections, and they hate anywhere that the great unwashed masses can freely express their opinion online. That is why they want to make interactive content providers worry they will be held liable if their users post something the government does not like. Today, it is sex trafficking – something that absolutely is a crime against humanity and should be subject to the death penalty.
But if you think that politicians will stop with Backpage.com and sex trafficking you are very naïve or you are deluding yourself. Like I said, politicians hate the fact that the average person can broadcast his views, especially criticism of politicians. Soon this precedent will be used to strip interactive content providers of protections related to “radicalized” or “terrorist” content. Government’s definition of that, of course, will be very broad. Do you oppose the cruelty to animals represented by dog fighting? Well, you must be part of the Animal Liberation Front. Say hello to the SWAT team.
Obviously, we should go after child sex traffickers hard. They should be caught, prosecuted, and, if convicted, put to death. I will even volunteer to personally pull the switch on the electric chair. But holding interactive content providers responsible for un-screened content posted by users is dangerous and that power will be abused to restrict much more speech than the proponents of this legislation claim it will. Google recognizes that, and that is why they oppose this legislation.
The idea that Google’s objection to amending the Communications Decency Act is some kind of support for child sex trafficking is the worst kind of dishonest smear tactic. Frankly, those who are accusing Google of defending child sex trafficking should be ashamed of themselves, both for the smears and for exploiting the victims of sex trafficking to grind a political axe or advance a political agenda. When “conservatives” are the ones doing it, the behavior is even more abominable. Conservatives need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and not swim in the sewer like this.