Is William Barr's Latest Attack On Section 230 Simply An Effort To Harm Tech Companies For Blocking His Desire To Kill Encryption?
from the this-makes-no-sense dept
Last month, we noted that Attorney General William Barr was making a bizarre attack on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, claiming that the DOJ was “studying Section 230 and its scope” and arguing — without evidence — that 230 might be contributing to “unlawful behavior” online. As we noted at the time, Section 230 explicitly exempts federal criminal charges from what it applies to, meaning that it literally cannot interfere with any DOJ prosecution. So it’s truly bizarre to see the DOJ concerned about the issue.
But Barr has continued to push forward with this anti-230 kick, and is going to host a “workshop” about 230 in a few weeks.
The U.S. Justice Department is hosting a workshop next month seeking ?a wide diversity of viewpoints? on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the federal statute that, with few exceptions, protections major internet companies and private website owners from liability when it comes to the posts and comments generated by users.
While the DOJ claims that this workshop will have that “diversity of viewpoints,” as we’ve seen in other contexts with the DOJ, that this is rarely the actual case. It may offer up a sacrificial lamb in support of 230, but it is likely to stack the deck against 230. This is the same thing that the DOJ has done, repeatedly, with regard to the encryption debate and questions around “going dark.” Indeed, we’ve noted before the similarities between the government’s efforts to attack encryption and the playbook that was used to attack Section 230 in 2018. In fact, we’ve heard that the very same former Hollywood lobbyist is a key player in both efforts.
Given the similarities in the playbook, and the fact that the DOJ is not hindered at all by 230, it makes you wonder if Barr and the DOJ are playing this anti-230 card simply as a method of punishing the internet industry for opposing his desire to gut encryption? The whole thing seems to be little more than an abuse of DOJ power to intimidate and threaten an entire industry for daring to support online security and free speech online against a government which would prefer neither thing be enabled.