Saturday, October 13, 2012
Was Lieberman's proposal to gut Section 230 just an April Fool's joke? Will it come back? It's a "clown question"
Here’s more on danger to Section 230. It’s been around quite a while.
Apparent, there was an “April Fools” joke last spring that Senator Joe Lieberman was preparing to introduce a bill to kill Section 230. Here’s the “April Fool” (now October Surprise) postiing by “Patterico’s Pontifications” , on April 2, 2012, link .
A site called “McIntyre v. Ohio” had posted a story way back on April 1, 2012, “Section 230 Revision Will Likely Impact Anonymous Internet Speech”, link here.
The story then was an underground rumor that Lieberman would revise Section 230 as follows:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the speaker or publisher of any information provided by another information content provider.”
The story says that Lieberman wants this wording:
“A provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as the speaker or publisher of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Lieberman had said he is motivated by national security, to prevent a group like the Taliban (really notorious again in recent days – see the International Issues blog) from using a service like Blogger or Wordpress. This sounds a bit like “know your customers” proposals for banking that were common after 9/11, and often a subject of criticism in libertarian circles.
The Ohio story mentions the case Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy case in 1995, in which the New York State Supreme Court ruled that Prodigy (remember that old, “clown question” service?) could be held liable for libel by its users if it even used minor editorial control of content. That modified an earlier case Cubby v. CompuServ, where the service provider had been shielded. Wikipedia’s article on the Oakmont case is here.
Here’s another account from the “Legal Satyricon” Wordpress blog, link.
But of course stripping Section 230 protection wouldn’t just apply when the speakers were anonymous. It would make Google responsible for what I say in this blog. Under such cases, it doesn’t sound like Google could afford to take the risk of letting speakers like me continue. Maybe it could pre-clear speakers. Maybe it would allow speakers who generate enough money (I don’t) and turn online publishing back into a numbers’ game (like on the ABC show “Nashville”, about country music). Of course, the recent controversy over “do not track” invokes those possible concerns.
By the way, “McIntyre v. Ohio” (1995) is a Supreme Court case that held that on Ohio law that prohibited anonymous campaign literature was unconstitutional. It’s not surprising that the case could lead to focus on the issue of “anonymity” and Section 230. EFF has long held that anonymity is protected as part of a First Amendment fundamental right. The Wikipedia link on the Ohio case is here.
That case does foreshadow the controversy over bloggers and campaign finance reform that would emerge around 2002, and connect to a bizarre incident when I was substitute teaching, that would occur exactly seven years ago today (see July 27, 2007).
So will Section 230 come up again soon? It’s a bit surprising that it wasn’t tossed around more as a target during the SOPA debate last winter (because the underlying issue is the same as with DMCA Safe Harbor: service providers can’t afford to allow uncleared user-generated content if they can be held responsible for it prospectively. Then it gets down to a basic philosophical debate.
I do have the impression that Romney-Ryan may be a tad more responsive to First Amendment concerns than the current administration, even though Obama is much better on equal rights for gays. Conservatives have been mentioning the First Amendment more often than liberals these days, as particularly the way the GOP shot down Obama’s immediate reaction to the terrorist events in Libya and Egypt as the reaction to a rogue, self-published and admittedly inflammatory video. Even as to self-interest, I’m really in a quandary. I don’t know who is better for “me”. Probably Romney, even if I hate to admit it. Most of my life, I’ve been “conservative” and my parents liked Ike.
To change the subject, yes, I saw the Washington Nationals melt down with two outs in the top of the Ninth last night. St. Louis does this all the time. (When I was in graduate school in the 1960s, other students at KU worshipped the Cardinals then, too.) It seems that the Nats blew more leads at home this year (especially big leads) than on the road (as I recall, they lost only one road game where they led going into the bottom of the ninth). (Visiting teams tend to do well in MLB elimination games, if anyone notices; teams feel looser on the road.) They have a winter to recover, and need it. I remember a horrible game in Boston in June, 1961 when the “new Senators” (as called then, an expansion team) blew a 12-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth in Boston with two outs and a man on first. I watched it from a church picnic halfway to Baltimore. That ruined the season for the Senators that year, as they would go 31-68 from the point (they were 30-32 going into that game.) I even remember a couple of last-weekend victories on my roommate’s “clock radio” from my dorm room at William and Mary, as the meltdown that would determine the course of my life was just starting. Baseball does bring back memories.
I am wondering how Bryce Harper will reconcile baseball with the Mormon expectation that young men give two years of their lives to a mission. I've talked about the mission issue on my TV blog in connection with shows about Romney.
No more jokes right now, and no more clown questions, please.
First picture: A family trip to Hocking Hills, Ohio, early 1950s; second picture, Kipton, Ohio (my summers as a boy); third picture, "pinball stadium" myself and other kids made in Ohio in the 1950s for fantasy baseball (the Indians were good then.)