Thursday, December 24, 2020

Senator Lindsey Graham offers a two-year sunset for Section 230, which Trump seems to buy


SCOTUS, 2019

Following up on the NDAA issue, The Hill reports that Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill to sunset Section 230 as of January 1, 2023 (two years) unless Congress intervenes sooner to rewrite or repeal it (Graham's link).  

It is also reported that Trump will sign that. I’m surprised that the mainstream media is overlooking this. Well, really I'm not.  

So it sounds likely that this proposal will appear Monday before the House votes on the veto override.

One possible rewrite would be to replace the “first prong” (regarding “publisher”) with language making certain kinds of infrastructural companies “common carriers” like phone companies or cable.  This could apply to webhosts who do not normally monitor content, but only cancel accounts that break an Acceptable Use Policy (similar to Terms of Service but not quite the same).  AUP’s typically prohibit illegal content (like sex trafficking now), sometimes undesirable businesses like “online pharmacies”, weapons sales, escort services, and the like. But the companies normally only act when violations are reported.  They don’t censor on political beliefs or vague notions like “hate speech”. They do prohibit other behaviors like spam or generating DDOS’s, hacking, and the like. (Some advocates believe that hosts have some protection from the Prodigy and Compurserve decisions in the 1990s.) 

Social networking sites that make their moderation very minimal might conceivably have this classification, as well as blogging platforms like Blogger (this one) and Wordpress.  A recent “state of the Word” speech at Wordpress paid little heed to these problems.

But lawmakers still have to reckon with the observation that, until the mid 1990s, a “common carrier” only carried private or circumscribed traffic like phone calls or voicemail. You have to make a public policy decision that ungated user-generated content is eligible for this classification.

The argument for such a determination (appealing to conservatives and libertarians) would be that individualized speech tends to express more critical thinking (or has the potential to) and sometimes represents great achievement (like Avi Schiffmann’s coronavirus tracker).  Without that being permissible, we would not have such a product from a gifted teenager (who saw the pandemic coming before most governments, including the US, did).

The argument not to encourage this anymore is to suggest people need to work with others “where they are” before speaking and be more aware if they are responding to real needs.  It is a kind of Lefitst, indeed Marxist, argument.  They want people marching with them, not just filming and writing about them. 

We need to get this point.

Other than that, the real use of the web would be more structured, authoritative speech and commerce.  Unless I came up with something to sell in commercial volumes, I would no longer be allowed to have my own presence, as I do now.

There is another subtle point.  When you put yourself online, and others approach you to go to bat for them and join them "where they are" (often claiming intersectional oppression), your refusal to help the is suddenly taken as indirect “hate speech” – the science is violence theory on the Left.

Even the “free speech” sites and forums, and the blockchain sites, would be subject to this. 

Right now, I’m happy to put my three books online for free so people still find them.  In a copyright sense, I own them.  But because of the indirect societal effects of this freedom (that I can still neglect “them”) I just might not be allowed to.

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