Politicians have opinions like many people. Sometimes those politicians say things like, we are going to do this or those people are doing this, etc. The definition of a lie can vary significantly between people, especially if the statement made is not in line with their narrative or agenda.
If the statement is in line, I think people tend to overlook the statement more. But, when it is not, people dispute it. Twitter is at a crucial point because how they handle their disclaimers will have significant impact on the way their platform and other platforms are treated by lawmakers.
Currently, as a platform, Twitter can claim limited liability surrounding the content on their platform that is not posted by their company. Platform neutrality is significant because it says that a company can create a platform and let third parties post content on the platform while not being legally liable if that content is false, misleading or otherwise actionable.
Twitters addition of “disputed” is a good feature but I think the addition of text and content to the original post could be a problem moving forward. Spreading false information is not good but going back to the definition of a lie and what is false can make taking something down a bit difficult.
If Donald Trump says he is the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln, that is not a lie but many people might disagree. If he says that Abraham Lincoln was a black, that is clearly not true but a post like that down would still be a violation of Mr. Trump’s right to free speech. Or, is it?
To resolve this, I think a third part agency should be set up that could be the clearinghouse for content, for lack of a better term. Similar to the structure of the court system, a low court could rule on a piece of content, if the decision is disputed, a content creator or promoter could challenge the decision taking it to a second tier, and then a third tier, each time with the opportunity to provide additional supporting arguments one way or the other. Anyone who many have requested the content be taken down would have the opportunity to weigh in on the decision – providing their argument for why it should be taken down. The content could maintain a disclaimer that it is in review while being disputed.
If all three tiers of content reviewers are not able to make a decision that satisfied all parties, the decision would be taken to an outside court or mediator. Considering the amount of content online, the biggest challenge is in protecting free speech while also protecting people from harm, and not overloading the court system unnecessarily.
The jury is out, so to speak, on whether content, especially political content should be censored or flagged and what future actions by platform companies could do to their rights to neutrality.
Section 230 says that “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” (47 U.S.C. § 230).
Another way to protect platform neutrality would be to let users move to more of a protected model where people would have a content wall, possibly paid, that would limit public distribution of content without knowingly accepting that content is not the view of the platform.
This might be what happens in the future if lawmakers start to clamp down on platform neutrality. Free content distribution will be limited. Paid platforms will emerge.