Why It’s Time to Cancel the Internet’s Free Ride
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Apple’s “It’s show time” event on Monday is shaping up to be one of its most momentous in quite some time. Apple does events several times a year, typically to announce new products and services. Some unveilings are box-checking exercises: a new phone version with additional bells and whistles, a smaller laptop, a bigger desktop. And so on.
This event promises to have it all: a subscription streaming service, celebrities, even the CEO of Goldman Sachs.
It also is said to include the debut of a paid version of Apple News. As we noted yesterday, The New York Times reported that The Wall Street Journal has bought into Apple’s new service that will take a 50% cut of subscription revenues. The Times itself and The Washington Post are said not to be participating.
The news business hasn’t shown so much promise in years—and not because of the specifics of Apple’s offering or anyone else’s. Leading publications like The Journal, The Times, and The Post all already have robust subscription offerings. Whether or not they enhance their business models by participating with Apple is neither here nor there from an existential perspective. The point is the industry is surviving, maybe even thriving, by charging its customers for their high-quality product. Finally.
At the same time, Facebook, the entity that did more than any other to hollow out the news industry, is floundering. (Google is a close second, for what it’s worth; it does not appear to be floundering.) Facebook is the behemoth that can’t shoot straight. It can’t protect is users’ passwords. It can’t stop apologizing. And it can’t stop degenerates from using its platform to broadcast their heinous acts.
The solution to this is so simple, by the way: Repeal the legislation that’s responsible for it all. I’m talking about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It created the fiction that because terrorist-criminals livestream murderous rampages on Facebook, the “social media” company isn’t responsible, accountable, or liable for the content it publishes. You won’t find such garbage on the sites of any of the news organizations I cited above (including Apple News) or on a broadcast network or cable channel. That’s because those news organizations curate what goes on them—and can be sued if what they publish harms someone.
Repeal this misguided legislation, and Facebook (and Google’s YouTube) absolutely will find a way to prevent their publishing platforms from being used for ill. Would it hurt their business models? Of course. What’s more important, entrepreneurial glory and wealth generation or protecting the integrity of democracy and keeping foul content from hurting people?