Techdirt’s Mike Masnick Hoists New York Times Blowhard Nicholas Kristof by His Virtual Skivvies

Artist conception

This just in from the rip-’em-a-new-one department: Techdirt’s Mike Masnick has administered an online atomic wedgie to Nicholas Kristof in response to the self-righteous scribe’s recent column, “Google and Sex Traffickers Like Backpage.com.”

Kristof’s McCarthy-esque guilt-by-association reasoning works this way: Because Google opposes the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), and because SESTA putatively is inspired by allegations that Backpage “facilitated” sex trafficking, therefore Google has sided with Backpage and supports sex trafficking.

Nicholas Kristof, trafficker of lurid trafficking tales (via Twitter)

In Masnick’s rebuttal, the techspert lights into Kristof’s obtuseness, pointing out that almost the entire tech industry opposes SESTA because the bill would nullify an important principle that allows the internet to exist in its current form: i.e., interactive websites are not liable for content posted by their users.

Masnick calls SESTA “a nuclear bomb on how the internet works,” running through the legislation’s flaws as he pulverizes Kristof’s column paragraph by paragraph. Along the way, he dings the self-righteous Timesman for being “laughably credulous” in the Somaly Mam affair, for suffering from a “savior complex,” and for playing “fast and loose” with facts in regard to Backpage.

At times Masnick’s screed reads like the author’s head is about to explode:

Incredibly, when an actual human trafficking expert and researcher, Dr. Kim Mehlman-Orozco, decided to challenge Kristof and point out that his opinions aren’t backed up by the actual research, Kristof dismissed her views and data as not being as valuable as the few anecdotes he has.

“Even if Google were right that ending the immunity for Backpage might lead to an occasional frivolous lawsuit, life requires some balancing.”

Uh, what? This is basically Kristof first admitting that he’s wrong that it won’t impact sites other than Backpage, and then saying “meh, no biggie.” But that’s… really fucked up. We’re not talking about the “occasional frivolous lawsuit.” From what we’ve seen with the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act], it seems likely that there would be a rash of dangerous lawsuits, and companies being forced out of business — not to mention tons of frivolous threats that never get to the lawsuit stage, but lead to widespread censorship just out of the fear of possible liability. How can Kristof just shrug that off as “balance”?

For example, websites must try to remove copyrighted material if it’s posted on their sites. That’s a constraint on internet freedom that makes sense, and it hasn’t proved a slippery slope. If we’re willing to protect copyrights, shouldn’t we do as much to protect children sold for sex?

HOLY SHIT. And here we learn that Kristof is so completely out of his depth that it’s not even funny. Seriously, someone educate Nick Kristof a little on how the DMCA has been abused to silence speech, to kill companies and to create huge problems for free speech online? And that’s with much lower penalties than what we’re talking about with SESTA.

Click here to follow Mike Masnick on Twitter. And click the link below to read Masnick’s virtual vivisection of Nicholas Kristof:

Shockingly, NY Times Columnist Is Totally Clueless About the Internet

About Stephen Lemons

Stephen Lemons is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering everything from government corruption to white-supremacist gangs. In addition to Front Page Confidential, his work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine.