The opposition of Section 230, which gives social media companies immunity against legal charges for harmful content, has been escalated recently as the repercussions of the Capitol Hill attack continue to haunt United States democracy.
Section 230 remains vulnerable to vocal attacks from President Biden but also from former President Donald Trump, who accused Big Tech of providing a favorable playing field to Democrats.
Now the hype of the Safe Tech Act is in the United States that will make social media and third-party websites, which offer their platform to others to share their opinions, vulnerable to much more scrutiny.
The rise of social media has paved the way for conspiracy theorists to propagate their messages across the masses. It is also an undeniable fact that the Internet has given voices to unheard individuals as well.
As Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono, and Amy Klobuchar try to bring effective solutions to these problems, the eyebrows of the freedom of speech watchdogs have already been raised to a great extent.
How can this politicization of the Internet, in the form of the Safe Tech Act, help and haunt the public interest in the United States simultaneously? Let’s have a look.
Safe Tech ACT: A Necessity Amid the Rising Fake News
As Section 230 gives Interactive Computer Service providers an immunity against legal battles in case of the harmful content on their websites, they were not taking enough actions against the conspiracy theories and the fake news that seemed to be a norm on these types of platforms.
All of these websites are driven by business models, so they are not taking enough actions against their own users so that they end up making big money.
As access to the Internet became easy in the recent past, the need to restraint users also became urgent.
To tackle the upsurge in fake news, WhatsApp started mentioning “forwarded” on the forwarded messages, amid the spike in murders and killings in India due to the fake forwarded messages from a couple of years ago.
The same fake news is promoted lately on Facebook and YouTube, mostly in the pandemic after the murder of George Floyd and the elections.
Currently, if we examine the output, it is easy to note that no social media outlet pre-scrutinizes the content on their platform, as they don’t have any fear of legal battles.
Amid all of these Internet crises, the SAFE Tech Act has become a necessity so that the nonsense voices can be stopped.
Safe Tech Act: An Internet Recession in Coming?
While the SAFE Tech ACT has some benefits, this act is also haunting freedom of speech advocates even before the passage of the act.
This act will result in unprecedented scrutiny of social media platforms. The social media outlets will have to introduce some kind of pre-approval on the content before making them published on the Internet.
This will increase the operational cost of the platform, as most of it seems to be labor-intensive work.
Secondly, filtering the content will result in less content on social media platforms. As these platforms work on advertising models, the likelihood of the advertisers leaving the platform will increase exponentially. With this, the profit of these media giants will reduce drastically.
Passing the SAFE Tech Act could start yet another crisis. As social media will start taking down the content, the users are likely to leave the platforms in masse, considering the severe restrictions on freedom of speech.
This will limit the database of the social media giants, most of which are used to make big profits by selling data.
This additional scrutiny will also make the social media platforms less accessible and lacking in the latest updates.
Consider the example of Quora, for instance. Anyone can sign in to answer any of the questions being asked from any individual across the globe on the platform.
The platform is not policing the users right now due to the absence of any law. However, with the passage of these acts, the platforms have to scrutinize each answer, which will slow down the proceedings of the platform and hence all the Internet.
While introducing legislation like the SAFE Tech ACT is an appreciable move to tackle the curse of fake news and conspiracy theories, the repercussions of these acts should be taken into account before passing any such law.
The rollback of social media will not remain limited to the online community. It will affect many businesses as well that are thriving only on social media.
Lack of users on the online platform will impact the digital marketing efforts and advertisement industry, directly posing a threat to the existence of many small businesses.
At the end of the day, it can even scale down the economy, considering that businesses today are interconnected in a complex supply chain, where a hit on one sector directly impacts the whole market.