Yesterday in the US Senate the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on a proposed amendment to s. 230 of the ironically named Communications Decency Act (CDA) – the shield behind which Backpage indecently hid for years. I will be writing about this more substantively soon but my breath was rather taken away by the testimony of Senator Wyden (starts just before the one hour mark if you want to watch).
Wyden was one of the principal authors of the original s.230 back in 1996 and while he had the good grace to acknowledge that things had not worked out exactly as he had envisaged, he was standing by it because he wants to “defend the little guy – the gutsy start up” so they can “hire engineers rather than lawyers” to help get their business going. And this in a space utterly dominated by around half a dozen mammoth concerns with enormous wealth and the power that goes with it.
There was once a green field where gutsy little guys could prosper but that plot of land was sold long ago and has been heavily built on since.
Wyden boasted that the way they had set things up in the USA had created a “trillion dollars of value for US businesses” and said that although India and China had more people and computer users than the USA they couldn’t have done the same thing because they didn’t have the equivalent of s. 230 and a wider body of internet laws. Who knew?
Wyden then referred to France as an example of another benighted land that had got it wrong, the implication being that they too hadn’t had the foresight or the imagination to adopt a s.230 lookalike. Thus is the history of Minitel noted and dismissed.
It’s hard to know where to begin. So I won’t. Yet.