wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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YouTube as a common carrier

Ed Driscoll links a Robert Cox essay in the Examiner that warns of the dangers inherent in allowing the Silicon Valley Democrats to seize control of "Web 2.0", and points to Michelle Malkin as the canary in the online coal mine after one of her videos and her conservative group were banned by YouTube. (Related, although Cox doesn't mention it, is the ongoing Digg-of-war between CAIR sympathizers and Little Green Footballs supporters.)

I can't get too excited about this for a very simple reason. Back in the day, ISPs fought tooth and nail to be classified as "common carriers", like UPS or Southwest Airlines, in order to avoid getting sued to death for whatever poo got flung on their section of the internet. They won that battle, and now if you want to bring down the law on somebody for something that offends/threatens/defames you on the Internet, you have to go after the actual person doing the damage. So the ISPs have the right to be held harmless for the content they carry. The obverse of that, of course, is that they can't deny service to anyone for any reason, unless they can show reasonable cause that customer X is going to use them to violate the law.

The way I see it, "Web 2.0" services like eBay, YouTube and so on are in the same position as the ISPs that give people access to them. As Cox points out, there really aren't any alternatives to either site when it comes to accessing the vast sea of customers/viewers out there...and so eBay and YouTube can't reasonably deny access to anyone unless those people are doing things like violating copyright law -no, wait, um...Okay, you can probably get thrown off legally for posting pr0n clips. But censorship isn't okay, regardless of whether the YouTube headshed decides to pull the video on their own or whether they're doing it by "popular" demand. What happened to Malkin is a violation of the common carrier understanding, and is just waiting for a lawyer to come along and sue the pants off...oh, right, they're part of Google now, aren't they? Sure hope they mentioned this in their most recent 10K.
Tags: culture & politics, tech stuff

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