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blog: Don Marti

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take the YouTube advertisers bowling

08 July 2018

(update 25 Sep 2021: also applies to other "safe harbor" laws such as Section 230 in the USA)

What if there is a better way forward on the whole Safe Harbor controversy and Article 13?

Companies don't advertise on sites like YouTube, sites teeming with copyright infringers and nationalist extremists, because those companies are run by copyright infringers or nationalist extremists. Marketing decision-makers are incentivized to play a corrupt online advertising game that rewards them for supporting infringement and extremism.

So the trick here is to help people move marketing money out of bad things (negative externalities) and toward good things (positive externalities). We know that YouTube is a brand-unsafe shitshow because Google won't advertise its own end-user-facing products and services there without a whole extra layer of brand safety protection.

Big Internet companies are set up to insulate decision-makers from the consequences of their own online asshattery, anyway. The way to affect those big Internet companies is through their advertisers. So how about a tweak to any laws that give a safe harbor to an Internet service? Keep the safe harbor for the service itself, but remove safe harbor protections for companies that advertise on it. This should help in several ways.

  • Give legit services some flexibility. If your web site's business model is anything other than "get cheap eyeballs with other people's creative work" or "get cheap eyeballs by recommending divisive bullshit" then you don't have to change a thing.

  • Incentivize sites to pay for new creative work, by making works covered by an author or artist contract a more attractive place for paid advertising than "content" uploaded by random users.

  • Make it easier for marketers who want to do the right thing, by pointing out the risks of supporting bad people.

  • Move some of the risks of online advertising away from the public and toward the decision makers who can make a difference.

How about it?