Hotels Are So Scared of Airbnb They are Lobbying to Kill the Entire Internet

Hotel industry lobby group the American Hotel and Lodging Association sponsored a push poll to support eliminating or undermining protections of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

As the lobby shop – which represents “9 of the 10 top U.S. hotel brands” including Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and Hilton – explains, “Online web sites and social media platforms have claimed that CDA Section 230 gives them protection from any third-party user publishing information or content to their website.”

47 U.S.C. § 230 shields “interactive computer service(s)” that publish information by third party users from liability for what those users write. That means I’m not liable for the comments posted to my blog, Wikipedia isn’t liable for content posted by users, TripAdvisor can’t be liable for libelous hotel reviews, and can’t be sued by travel companies when users post about selling miles or discount codes.

The law protect does not protect companies from federal criminal liability. However it trumps local criminal ordinances (and a limited shield against civil liability) that would hold “Big Tech” to account for content posted by users on their sites, whether it’s posts to someone’s Facebook feed, tweets, or homesharing listings on Airbnb.

Hence the hotel industry attack on the internet, and a desire to hold online platforms responsible for what users post to those platforms.

78% agreed “Communications Decency Act (Section 230) should be amended to make it clear that web sites are accountable for removing illegal products or services.”

73% agreed “Communications Decency Act (Section 230) should be amended to remove potential loopholes that companies such as Airbnb could use to avoid local laws meant to prevent illegal rentals.”

Gutting section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is gaining bipartisan support in Congress, as Democrats want online forums to have to moderate hate speech while Republicans want to take away legal protections from forums they view as unfriendly to conservatives.

Hotels see an opportunity to crack down on Airbnb and in the process would also be able to kill third party reviews of their properties because they could sue sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and FlyerTalk over user-generated content, too.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects users of a service as well. Without it you could be sued for what you re-tweet or for links to other sites you share on your Facebook wall.

(HT: @mmasnick)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m cool with seeing the internet fundamentally restructure away from “heads I win, tails you lose.”

    That it will be dominated afterwards with people and companies with “skin in the game” is great.

  2. As for me as a customer, hotels have nothing to worry about AirBnB. I have stayed at AirBnB only twice. I would stay there only under specific circumstances.

    I stay in hotels for
    1. business stays
    2. road trips (driving long distances on the highway and not knowing exactly where I will stop)
    3. unfamiliar cities where I don’t know the neighborhoods

    I would stay in AirBnB if I am traveling to a city for a week or so, know the city well, hotels are expensive, not on business, and I am getting in the city between 3 pm and 7 pm. All these conditions are rarely met.

  3. Gutting of Section 230 would go down in history as one of those things that, given time and reflection, they wished they had never done. It will open a Pandora’s box of long term trouble nobody who backs it can foresee because of their myopia to achieving their short term goals. The current system may have issues but it’s better than the wild west alternative that gutting the system will produce.

  4. Gary wrote: “Gutting section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is gaining bipartisan support in Congress, as Democrats want online forums to have to moderate hate speech while Republicans want to take away legal protections from forums they view as unfriendly to conservatives.”

    Seriously Gary, do you even see the bias in your statement. The dominant left wing culture has defined “hate speech” as most “conservative speech”. As a result:
    –Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube has been shadow banning, outright banning, or demonetizing almost every person on Fox News, conservative talk show hosts, and most evangelists.
    –Conservative Congressmen and Senators regularly have had their Facebook and twitter accounts shadow banned or shut down.
    –People that retweet President Trump are being shadow banned.
    –Someone copied the Declaration of Independence on their Facebook page and they were cited for hate speech and shut down.
    –According to Harvard Professor, Democrat, and Hillary supporter Robert Epstein, Google has been increasing biasing its searches for Democrats.
    –Videos have been leaked of Google executives admitting that they are all in for the Democrats in 2020.
    Basically, the left wing is trying to use the “hate speech” designation to shut up half the country. At least the left wing thinks big: Why steal they hubcaps when you could steal the whole car.

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was created to allow platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to allow content, without legal liability, on the basis that they are neutral platforms. Continuance of this freedom without the heavy hand of government regulation is really important.

    Therefore, instead of putting out statements that parrot the left wing “hate speech” propaganda, you should be lobbying for platforms to go back to neutral. All speech should be allowed. Push back against anything that hampers free speech. If you do not take a stand now, even travel sites, as you have pointed out might (no would) face legal liability, and the free exchange of ideas on the internet will be gone. Poof.

    To quote Ronald Reagan with my additions in brackets, “Freedom [of expression on the internet] is never more than one generation away [which is like a year or so in internet terms] from extinction.”

  5. @Other Just Saying- precisely, doesn’t it scare you to put your political opponents in charge of what’s said on the internet, since you’ve said yourself they want to shut you up? that’s exactly why we don’t want to upend section 230.

  6. I’m with Derek. There are situations under which AirBnB is perfect and others where I much prefer a hotel. The fact is that hotels are overbuilt in many areas and they are running scared. Too bad, so sad. They made a miscalculation with regards to market capacity and now they need to live with it. What if more hotels, B&Bs, hostels and motels were built? Those also would be competition to the big chains. Would they then attack these new accommodations and seek to limit their ability to compete? I owned a B&B in Key West in the 90’s and the hotel/motel association hated us and fought to keep us out of the Chamber. What they didn’t realize is that we are two very different products within the overall accommodations business. My little 6-room B&B wasn’t the right place for big spenders and the high-end hotels weren’t right for someone looking for a cozy place like mine. But we both brought business to the island and everyone profited. Competition makes you work harder and smarter and in the end, both the consumer and the inn keeper benefit.

  7. @Gary. I agree with you that putting Government regulators in charge of “free speech” is a disaster. Once government is in charge of monitoring free speech, all speech is government speech. And freedom is not only gone for Conservatives, but for liberals as well. “Republicans” always fall for these types of traps. I am a Conservative and believe in freedom above all.

    The second problem with getting rid of 230 protections that you did not mention, is that large companies have the money to comply with so called “hate speech” regulations. A smaller start up would not. It would barriers to entry, prevent competition. Economically, barriers to entry create monopolistic situations.

  8. @Other Just Saying
    I don’t even have to refute your points. The answer is even simpler.
    If the left had the talent to pull off such a coordinated attack on conservatives, the Republicans wouldn’t be in power.

  9. To wit: Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was signed into law in 2018 with broad bi-partisan support (97-2 in the Senate and was signed by President Trump). FOSTA established an exception to Sec. 230 for conduct that “promotes or facilitates prostitution”. This may seem good, but it immediately led to Craigslist shutting down its Personals section. The road to censorship is always paved with high sounding moral intentions.

  10. @Peter. My points are factual. What are you going to do, a CNN style fact check. Just make it up or cite sources that are just making it up.

  11. Perhaps if we just had a “truth in advertising” law that applied to politicians and lobbyists, we could avoid having this conversation.

    The amount of baseless and patently wrong drivel that gets repeated enough that people believe it is literally destroying civilization.

  12. People should be able to rent out their own property and engage in voluntary transactions as they see fit. Period. Full stop. Nothing more to think about.

Comments are closed.