In “The Good Censor,” an 85-page briefing leaked to Breitbart News from inside Google, the company admits that the role of censor is associated with the role of publisher – a categorization that arguably should open tech platforms up to immense legal risk.
The briefing was the product of extensive research on the part of Google. This included expert interviews with MIT Tech Review editor-in-chief Jason Pontin, Atlantic staff writer and tech critic Franklin Foer, and academic Kalev Leetaru. 35 cultural observers and 7 cultural leaders from seven countries on five continents were consulted to produce it. It can be read in full here.
Responding to the leak, Google said the document should be considered internal research, and not an official company position.
The briefing admits that tech platforms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter underwent a “shift towards censorship” over the past few years.
On page 14, the briefing acknowledges that free speech was initially part of the “DNA” of these platforms, which used to prioritize the creation of “unmediated marketplaces of ideas.”
The briefing associates this earlier role with the role of “aggregator” and “platform.” But now, says the briefing, tech firms prioritize the creation of “well-ordered spaces for safety and civility” as they have “gradually shifted away from unmediated free speech and towards censorship and moderation.”
The briefing admits that this new role is more commonly associated with the role of “publisher” and “editor” than that of a platform.
This distinction between platform and publisher is critical to the ongoing debate over tech regulation, and has been brought up by multiple Republican lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
As platforms, tech companies are granted special legal immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law exempts them from legal liability for user-generated content.
But on page 15, the briefing admits that this special legal immunity is tied to tech firms acting as platforms rather than “traditional media companies” – i.e, publishers.
As Google’s own briefing admits, tech platforms have become associated with the role of publisher due to their move towards censorship. As multiple Republicans have pointed out, this suggests they should no longer be able to avail themselves of Section 230’s safe-heavens.
Read The Good Censor in full:
The Good Censor – GOOGLE LEAK by on Scribd