Over the weekend I started seeing rumors of Reddit losing the “safe harbor” provision Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act afforded them.
I started looking into the matter, and stopped when I read this piece by Keith Lee, proprietor of the blawg Associate’s Mind.
Give this a read. It’s seriously worth your time and effort, especially if you play around on Reddit or enjoy any of its content. Come back here when you’re done. I’ll wait.
Back? Okay, a few additional thoughts.
I think Keith’s on the money with his analysis of what happened. He’s been a champion of the mantra “Lawyer Up Before You Startup,” and many companies continue to ignore this at their peril. I think Keith takes great pleasure in proving tech companies that love “disruption” wrong at every available opportunity. This is different. We’re not dealing with the future of Pokemon Go lawyering, we’re dealing with a CEO of a website that bills itself as the “front page of the internet” editing content because reasons.
That’s a big enough deal to consider the ramifications as we enter a new era where more people are pressuring social media sites like Facebook and large search engines like Google to flag “fake news” and report it, or reject it outright. What happens when Facebook takes the word of a J-Scho0l professor and decides to start tagging “news articles” as “fake” or “biased?” Does that pierce the protections § 230 provides? Only time will tell.
Next, I know Keith would have gotten a bit more nuanced with his post if he had the ability, but I gather he was short on time and wanted to get his thoughts out there. Give it a bit and I think you’ll see the story develop a little more, and Keith’s analysis a little more than what is on the table at the moment. Right now, it’s too early to tell and Thanksgiving isn’t usually a time for litigation. Since Steve Huffman decided to overreach in such a fashion, and abuse his power in the manner he did, I predict there will be at least one lawsuit, if not more, in the future.
In the meantime, be careful what you post on Reddit until this entire mess is resolved. Enjoy the sideshow that is the various subreddits. Watch, wait, and see what happens before you go whole hog with posting on Reddit again.
And remember if you’re a tech company “Lawyer Up Before You Startup” is a pretty darn good idea.