By Ruth Vitale
Typos are annoying. In fact, there’s no one that hates typos more than me, Ruth Vitale. Ask anyone that works at CreativeFuture. Really.
But, at the same time, I trust that most people are smart enough to get by and understand what a writer meant when the mistake is minor. After all, they happen to everyone – and when, say, the pressure of a trade agreement between major economies is weighing down on you… they’re likely to become more common.
For example, “The dog jumpd in the pool.” I understand that – no need to make a scene. The dog jumped in the pool – the end.
Here’s another example: “Public Knowledge lobbyists are disingenius and latch onto any bit of news to make their point, even when their argument hinges on a simple typo that they knew was an honest mistake.”
Did you catch the typo there? Read closely. It was disingenius.
In late August, the disingeniuses running Public Knowledge, a Google-funded “think tank,” latched onto an honest mistake made by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with regard to the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
They did this to capitalize on a mistake and turn it into widespread disinformation that they could use to rile up their base and create a problem where there was none.
From their press release:
Today, President Trump announced that the United States has reached an agreement in principle with Mexico during negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including a variety of provisions on intellectual property. At present, Public Knowledge understands that the agreement would require a minimum copyright term amounting to the life of the author plus 75 years. If enacted, this would effectively extend the copyright terms in existing U.S. law.
Yep, there was a typo. Instead of saying that the copyright term would include the life of the author plus 70 years, someone typed “75”. The mistake was easy to understand, too. The agreement did provide a copyright term of 75 years when the term is measured from date of publication (for some “works,” copyright term is based on the life of the author, for others it is based on the date of publication). But while that term is five years longer than many prior free trade agreements (which is why the USTR wanted to tout the number), it is still less than the equivalent term in US law.
I know what you’re thinking… okay, fine, but how is Public Knowledge supposed to know that this was a typo?
Well, first, every knowledgeable source I reached out to knew right away, based on a couple of decades of US free trade agreements, it had to have been a typo – and meant to refer to term from date of publication. Public Knowledge claims to be knowledgeable. Hmm, were they really confused?
Second, it’s amazingly easy to find out even for the unknowledgeable/easily confused. When we saw the press release, we sent an email to the USTR for clarification. They responded that the announcement contained an error as just discussed above. How hard would it be for PK to do the same thing? They have lobbyists, after all – you would think it would kind of be, you know, their JOB.
Nah. Instead, they chose to write a press release, tweet, misinform their thousands of followers across social media, rally their troops and try to raise money around a non-issue, and finally – and totally in character – (falsely) accuse the entertainment industry and the government of wanting to affect outcomes in U.S. law by leveraging provisions in a free trade agreement.
Now, who would do such a thing? Here’s a hint: Big Tech.
One recent example is the whole ordeal with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) vis-à-vis the Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA).
I’ll do my best to keep this short and simple:
Section 230 of the CDA ensures that companies like Google cannot be held accountable for spreading disinformation on their platforms through a legal mechanism known as a “safe harbor.” This provision allows Google to shirk responsibility whenever its platforms are used to propagate illegal activity like say sex trafficking or drug peddling.
This year, FOSTA and SESTA passed the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support and were signed into law. It was the first chink in the absurdly thick armor provided by CDA 230. In a nutshell, a website called Backpage.com, where people could post advertisements for goods and services, became infamous for being a one-stop shop for child sex traffickers. State prosecutors looking to take down Backpage for giving these heinous criminals a place to operate could not do a thing – because CDA 230 was literally a get out of jail free card for the sleaze bags at Backpage – just ask the CA and TX State AGs. SESTA changed that and finally allowed prosecutors nationwide to do their jobs.
And what happened? A group that makes much of its living as a Google shill, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), screamed that this change was a “threat to free speech” and a “slippery slope” that would “ultimately hurt victims of sex-trafficking.”
Seriously – this 1984 doublespeak bad-is-good and good-is-bad nonsense was Big Tech’s reaction to FOSTA/SESTA. So much so that, as we speak, the EFF is suing the government in Federal Court claiming that this law is unconstitutional. And the kicker is that too many people are falling for that tech doublespeak and not realizing that Big Tech’s rhetoric is hurting the victims of heinous crimes taking place online.
As you can see, Google and their lapdogs have mastered the art of convincing millions to fight on their behalf for causes that are JUST. PLAIN. WRONG. They propagate misinformation – and they use powerful internet platforms to push their POV.
And now, the EFF and other pro-tech and anti-copyright groups have a new tool to protect outdated legislation like CDA 230. How, you ask? Well, by doing the very thing they’re accusing the creative communities of doing – leveraging U.S. free trade agreements to affect U.S. laws. In their own words:
This negotiation [NAFTA] comes at a time when Section 230 stands under threat in the United States, currently from the SESTA and FOSTA proposals, which could escalate into demands that platforms also assume greater responsibility for other types of content. As uncomfortable as we are with the lack of openness of trade negotiations, baking Section 230 into NAFTA may be the best opportunity we have to protect it domestically.
We’ve called out the EFF, and we’re calling out PK. They seem to fall over one another to mislead the public about issues affecting the tech industry – whether it’s sex trafficking, piracy, or almost anything else. When it comes to tech and the internet, these groups insist on seeing no evil (and “doing no evil”), even when it’s right there in front of them.
And, unfortunately, they succeeded. For the first time ever in a free trade agreement, the new NAFTA includes a provision based on CDA 230 from U.S. law. Just as American policymakers are beginning to rethink CDA 230 and its overly broad immunities for Big Tech, they are being incorporated for the first time ever in a free trade agreement. And, in the EFF’s own words – the purpose of this is to foreclose Congress’ ability to make changes.
The point being that the EFF and Public Knowledge are happy to use trade agreements to lock in things they like such as CDA 230, but hypocritically go ballistic when trade agreements include things they don’t like such as the aforementioned phantom term extension.
It needs to SOTP… NOW.
See, I meant STOP… no big deal. Get over yourselves.