Friday, August 09, 2013

State "attorneys general" circulate proposal to gut Section 230 to Congress; could Blogger, Wordpress, YouTube operate?

Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting on a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a New Jersey law that would seem to contradict Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The story is here
The injunction appears to protect the Internet Archive, as well as  The New Jersey law, similar to another law in Washington State, attempted to impose criminal penalties on operators of Internet services that allow the display of sexually oriented ads that might involve minors.  The problem is vagueness, and service providers have no reliable way of knowing in advance what postings could contain such content. 
EFF reports that a coalition of states’ attorneys generals are asking Congress to gut or repeal CDA Section 230 protection, even if it means the end of most “amateur” speech online, in order to protect parents and children. I had not read about this proposal before.
Elizabeth Heichler has an article on TechHive (June 18) about the states’ proposals, wanting simply to insert the words “or state” to language that allows some prosecutions involving federal law.  It is not clear how this would work, or whether it could allow states to pass laws like New Jersey’s yet.  The TechHive article is here
PopeHat has more analysis of the proposal, quite recent (Aug.. 2013), here
In fact, the ACLU has an analysis of the proposal, dated Aug. 1, 2013, which is quite dark indeed.  I don’t know if Blogger and Wordpress could continue to operate if what this article says really holds.  What about social media?  Does the “whitelist” idea make any difference?  

Tim Lee's Switch Blog for the Washington Post Aug. 9 (today) connects it to the NJ "anti-prostitution" law here

It's important to note that "only" criminal downstream liability immunity is affected by the NAAG proposal, not civil lawsuits.  But many states have laws that allow prosecution for vaguely defined offenses.  The original source for the letter (July 24, 2013) is here

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