Let’s talk a bit about Rupert Murdoch. To his slight credit, in the early 2000s, he seemed to realize that the internet would be big for media. He also realized that he might be missing out. He went on an internet buying spree. It got to the point where Newsweek was praising Murdoch’s “smart bets” on the internet. The cornerstone of Murdoch’s digital empire was MySpace; a site that was once so dominant, the media insisted that no one could ever surpass it — not even a dumpy little startup like Facebook.
We all know how that all turned out. Within a few years, people realized that nearly every one of Murdoch’s internet ventures was a total and complete flop (often embarrassingly so).
Since then, it has seemed that Murdoch has been at war with the internet. The man who spent years using his various media properties to insist that we needed “less” government, and more “free market” wasted no opportunity to demand that the government step in and regulate, breakup, or tax the internet companies which out innovated Murdoch’s News Corp. He’s even been occasionally successful in getting governments to burden his competitors with ridiculous regulations.
Over the last few years, Murdoch and News Corp. have been one of the leading voices attacking Section 230. Murdoch seems consistently angry at anything deemed good for the internet. News Corp. has been lobbying against Section 230. Fox News’ most popular host, Tucker Carlson, regularly (if consistently ignorantly) rails against Section 230. Trump’s attacks on Section 230 in 2020 were completely consistent with Murdoch’s views.
That’s why we found it grimly ironic last week when an Australian court ruled that media companies could now be held liable for 3rd party comments on social media. This was an upside down version of Section 230 Down Under, that reached way beyond social media sites being liable. Instead, it made the news organizations that posted links on social media liable for the comments that came under them.
I joked that perhaps Murdoch would finally realize why Section 230 was important, and it did not take long for News Corp. to demand that the law be changed to protect… organizations like News Corp. from some 3rd party liability:
The ruling was “significant for anyone who maintains a public social media page by finding they can be liable for comments posted by others on that page even when they are unaware of those comments,” News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said in a statement.
“This highlights the need for urgent legislative reform and I call on Australia’s attorneys general to address this anomaly and bring Australian law into line with comparable western democracies,” Miller added.
You don’t say? You mean, it might be helpful if there were some sort of law? One that made it clear that intermediaries and media organizations should not be held liable for comments from random commenters? Someone should tell Tucker Carlson…