Section 230 Killer Legislation Introduced in the US Senate

Legislation was introduced in the US senate aimed at effectively killing Section 230. It represents the latest prong sparked by Trump’s executive order.

The war on online free speech is continuing. Earlier, Republican’s asked the FCC to look into redefining Section 230. This put pressure on the American regulator to act on the short-sighted executive order that would effectively kill Section 230.

This was followed up by the Department of Justice backing legislative efforts to kill Section 230.

Now, a Republican senator is tabling legislation that would kill Section 230. The legislation is being introduced by senator Josh Hawley. From Gizmodo:

The bill, dubbed “Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act,” would effectively grant users the right to sue major internet companies that enforce their own terms of service unequally and in bad faith. As it stands, users cannot sue any website for content generated by another user (e.g., tweets, comments, posts, etc.) or for any decision by the website owner to restrict access to content that the owner finds “objectionable.”

However, the changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act proposed by Hawley do not appear to place any new restrictions on how companies define their own moderation policies—only that they stick to, and evenly apply, whatever rules they ultimately decide upon. (Any effort to regulate how internet companies moderate content beyond that which is illegal, such as child sexual abuse material, would more than likely run afoul of the First Amendment.)

One section of Hawley’s bill, for example, aims to prohibit “intentionally selective enforcement of the terms of service,” i.e., taking action against one user for violating a rule that others are allowed to break. (This is a pretty obvious nod to allegations that Facebook and Twitter treat conservatives more harshly, a claim for which no real evidence has ever been provided.)

One thing we can’t help but notice is just how optimistic this all is. This insanity is never going to go through anyway, so why worry. It’s starting to follow along the same trajectory as Trumps rise to power in the first place.

While he was running for the nomination, observers expected him to fizzle out. Several scandals later, people expected that to be the end of his campaign. He then clinched the nomination, so everyone expected him to lose in the general election. While he lost the popular vote, Trump won thanks to the Electoral College rules. After he won, observers said that he would at least temper back all these insane ideas and start acting presidential. That never happened and he’s been pretty much wrecking everything in the country ever since.

What are we seeing here now? Trump threw a temper tantrum at Twitter for fact-checking his Tweet. People just figured that him vowing to hit back hard is bluster. After that, the very next day, he issues an executive order. The reaction is that the order is legally meaningless and nothing but gibberish. After that, we saw commentary about how the FCC would never go along with this, yet Republican’s are already pressuring the FCC to follow through with this insanity. After that, the Department of Justice stepped in, and people only noted the move. Now, we are seeing legislation in the senate and the commentary is that, don’t worry, it doesn’t really change anything. The running theme? Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.

What we are seeing is a concerted effort from multiple fronts to kill off Section 230 protections. This has gone beyond the petty scribblings of a glorified manchild at this point. We are witnessing a full on assault on Internet freedom from multiple sides right now. We certainly hope the end result is different this time, but we are all too familiar with both political and technological history at this point. The parallels are becoming apparent. If we are wrong and all of this amounts to nothing, we are thrilled at the idea of simple legal protections for websites are left intact. This, of course, hinges on every one of these attempts to kill section 230 to fail. All it takes is one success and it is game over for free speech.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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