Twitter’s ham-fisted attempt at censoring the New York Post has blown up in their face. @Jack tweeted this—I’ve been sued for defamation because of posts here at Hogewash!, and I’ve won all of those suits because the plaintiff was never able to show that anything I wrote was false. The truth or a reasonable opinion based on evidence can’t be the basis for a defamation claim. The plaintiff also tried to claim that I was responsible for the content of remarks made by commenters here at Hogewash!, but Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity for website publishers from third-party content. Neither this site nor Twitter is responsible for what a third party posts.
However, if Twitter adds “context” to a tweet or comments on it, Twitter will be responsible for what it posts—and could be held responsible for the its statements providing such context or commentary. By making its own comments, by speaking for itself, Twitter should become a speaker unprotected by Section 230 with respect to its own speech. Saying that an article contains hacked information when there is evidence that the information was obtained legally might be the sort of false statement that would trigger a defamation suit.
Twitter needs to keep its users satisfied. It makes money by selling ads, and driving users away with unfair censorship policies isn’t good for business. OTOH, keeping its users happy may make it difficult to operate as a progressive echo chamber, so we may have reached a market-based solution to Twitter’s unfair treatment of a large group of its users, many of whom have been leaving for Gab and Parler. Section 230 may need some legislative tweaking based on lessons learned since it was enacted in 1996, but the market may apply more pressure more quickly to drive Twitter toward better behavior.
Of course, Twitter may think that it is a monopoly that is too big to fail. That’s what
America Online AOL thought.
Things are about to get interesting.