• 47 U.S.C. § 230

Why Are There Online Scammers?

Why Does Facebook & Social Media Largely Ignore Scammers?

United States Law rules the Internet (or did until Obama gave the internet away this year)

One of these laws is 47 U.S.C. § 230, a Provision of the Communication Decency Act

All of us in the Internet industry in those days (which included our CEO who was a cofounder of TigerDirect.com – the largest internet retailer at that time). We were all scared of what people were posting on our websites, chat services, and incipient social network services (such as ICQ and America Online).

The provisions of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 was designed to allow the Internet to grow and prosper.

Tucked inside the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet: Section 230.

This comes somewhat as a surprise, since the original purpose of the legislation was to restrict free speech on the Internet. The Internet community as a whole objected strongly to the Communications Decency Act, and with EFF’s (Electronic Freedom Foundation) help, the anti-free speech provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court. But thankfully, CDA 230 remains and in the years since has far outshone the rest of the law. But sometimes there are unforeseen consequences.

Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230). In other words, online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. The protected intermediaries include not only regular Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but also a range of “interactive computer service providers,” including basically any online service that publishes third-party content. Though there are important exceptions for certain criminal, intellectual property-based claims, identity theft & impersonation, and defamation, the CDA 230 creates a broad protection that has allowed innovation and free speech online to flourish.

This legal and policy framework has allowed for YouTube and Vimeo users to upload their own videos, Amazon and Yelp to offer countless user reviews, craigslist to host classified ads, and Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking to more than a billion Internet users.

Given the sheer size of user-generated websites (for example, Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users, and YouTube users upload more than 100 hours of video every minute), it would be infeasible for online intermediaries to prevent objectionable content from cropping up on their site.

Rather than face potential liability for their users’ actions, most would likely not host any user content at all or would need to protect themselves by being actively engaged in censoring what we say, what we see, and what we do online. In short, CDA 230 is perhaps the most influential law to protect the kind of innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive since 1996.

However, it has a dark side too! (Enter the scammers, the hater, the defamer, and the terrorist!) Because these people use this loophole to exploit what and who they want.

The good news is that there are laws against that behavior too.

Haters and defamers can be sued and stripped of their money and assets.

Terrorists and criminals can be discovered and in many cases arrested in the more developed countries.
But scammers have flourished!

Why? Because the flip side of the law is that websites and social media act like the three monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. So if they don’t look, they are not liable.

They have had their lawyers establish Community Standards, and Terms, Conditions, and Policies that protect them at all costs, and sometimes even the consumer. However, it means that anything wrong has to be reported.
Just one problem in this “live happily ever after” world of legal fiction – the ability of consumers to report and be heard by these websites and social media networks.

Facebook especially is massively deficient in the training of their Standards Checking Personnel to the point that they don’t recognize scammers when they see them, and Facebook doesn’t even use basic technology to check the IP addresses of profile creators and editors to match where they say they live. It is for these reasons that the Society has created the SCARS Plan to help Facebook and others understand their weakness and what could even be called culpable negligence, and simple remedies to resolve a significant number of these problems rapidly.

Now that you know why Social Media and website behave this way, what will you do to help change their minds? We would love to hear your opinions!

» SCARS was created by a consortium of Anti-Scam Organizations, Groups, and Professionals with more than 20 years of experience in online fraud. Founded in 2015 to become the only real anti-scams standards and accreditation body in the world. We invite you to become a member now for free! We will contact you when your membership is approved about our benefits, services, and features.

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