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Free Speech Regulations and Section 230

Published
Sep 8, 2021 4:42 PM
Last updated
Dec 6, 2021 11:41 PM

Should Facebook, AWS, and others like them considered utilities or platforms? Should they have unrestricted rights to decide who publishes what on their domains?

Sparked by major social media platforms banning Trump and censoring certain types of content, as well as this excellent interview with Ira Glasser, my brain did its “categorization” thing to try answering these big questions. Here are the results:

(Remember, these are my own interpretations & I welcome disagreements)

Utilities

  • Can be privately or publicly owned
  • Provide essential services
  • May not discriminate who uses their services or what for, though they must terminate services upon evidence of illegal use (e.g. using these services for sex trafficking)

Examples of utilities:

  • Municipal utility departments (City of Mesa Utilities)
  • Private utility companies (SRP, APS)
  • Cellular networks (Verizon, T-Mobile)
  • Landline phone companies & Internet service providers (Cox, CenturyLink)
  • VoIP services (Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and non-public areas of social media e.g. Facebook Messenger specifically)
  • Web hosting services (GoDaddy, Amazon Web Services)
  • Self-publishing services (Wordpress)

Public venues

  • Publicly owned spaces, meaning they are not privately owned by any one company. Anybody is free to enter them
  • ALL free speech is permitted so long as it does not violate the Constitutional rights of another—in short, anything goes, within the scope of Constitutional law

Examples of public venues:

  • Public spaces (squares, parks, beaches)
  • The Internet itself (if you have the tools & knowledge to run your own private server out of your home)

Private venues

  • Privately owned spaces (meaning owned by an individual, group of individuals, company or nonprofit but not a governmental entity) that allow anyone to enter
  • Reserve the right to control access & behaviors, even beyond the scope of the Constitution

Examples of private venues:

  • Shopping malls & commercial courtyards (Chandler Mall, the Churchill)
  • Country clubs & resorts (Arizona Grand Golf Course, the Del at Coronado Island)
  • Publicly accessible forums (reddit, 4chan, ToyotaNation)
  • Publicly accessible sections of social media & publishing platforms (news feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Medium, etc.)
  • Done-for-you publishing tools (Wordpress.com, Notion sites like this one!)

Originally published Sep 8, 2021

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