Senator Hawley's Latest Dumb Anti-230 Plan Would Wipe Out The President's Advantage On Facebook

from the how-are-the-dumbest-people-in-charge? dept

After having his little whine fest in the form of a toothless Executive Order about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it was reported that the President has directly tasked Senator Josh Hawley to introduce a law that attacks 230. This was a fairly obvious choice. Hawley is a big Trump supporter, and Trumpian in his tactics. And, also, Hawley has been confusingly attacking 230 with questionable legislative ideas for quite some time now.

So, with this being put back on his plate, Hawley is apparently working on a new plan that is even dumber than his last plan. Specifically, according to Politico, Hawley’s new plan will condition 230 protections on not doing targeted advertising.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is preparing legislation that could require major online platforms like Google and Facebook to stop selling certain targeted ads to keep key legal protections, according to an individual familiar with the plan that would strike the heart of industry giants’ business.

This would, at a first pass, almost certainly be unconstitutional. Rewarding certain business models and punishing others based on what speech they allow is all sorts of problematic from a 1st Amendment standpoint. But we can cross that court case when we come to it.

What strikes me as even more notable about this is that… the biggest user of those targeted ads is… the President who asked Hawley to write this bill. Remember, it was just a few months ago that a Facebook exec was explaining that Trump’s electoral success was due to his campaign running “the single best digital ad campaign I?ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period.” And that was almost all via heavily targeted ads. From that same internal Facebook memo, a key part of the success was the use of Facebook’s “custom audiences” tag, which is a key piece to its targeted advertising strategy (with custom audiences an organization uploads an email list and can automatically target “similar” users).

So, if Hawley’s plan says that you can only get 230 protections if you don’t do that kind of advertising, many companies would stop offering such targeted advertising in order to keep the 230 protections (and, for what it’s worth, I think many companies would be better off dropping those ads and focusing on other types of ads — but I don’t think the law should compel them to do so, especially not in this manner). And thus, if that came to pass, it would actually take a weapon away from Trump… because Trump got mad at the platforms for fact checking him. Incredible.

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Comments on “Senator Hawley's Latest Dumb Anti-230 Plan Would Wipe Out The President's Advantage On Facebook”

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Koby (profile) says:

Never Fight The Last War

Back in 2012, it was Barrack Obama who was praised for having an online presence, and outreach through Facebook. Obviously, Trump had it by 2016. Except that Trump took it to the next level with targeted advertising. No doubt, Biden will attempt it in 2020. The finest political consultants that money can buy have been hard at work over the past four years. I’m skeptical that taking this weapon away from both sides would somehow only hurt Trump.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Never Fight The Last War

"I’m skeptical that taking this weapon away from both sides would somehow only hurt Trump."

In a somewhat saner world Trump even having access to social media would be the equivalent of having a squad of jackbooted thugs haul his credibility out back and shoot it in the face.

Though by some miracle he can churn out a steady stream of obvious bull and his voters apparently keep thinking he’s just channeling divine inspiration or something. Obama’s supporters tended to believe he could walk on water and admittedly, being a black man and ending up US president is something of a miracle.

That said if Obama tried pulling a tenth of the crap Trump has his advisors would have nicked his FB account long ago.

The utility of social media for an elected official depends entirely on his or her target audience. It’ll reach far more people if it’s all just slapstick. In that regard at least Trump will be hurt far more than Biden if you remove social media. Biden has to perform for a far tougher crowd. All Trump has to do is bite the head off a chicken or throw pies.

TFG says:

Re: Re:

While you aren’t wrong, the facts are a bit different in this case, in that if the legislation were to pass, the actual system that powers the targeted advertising would go bye-bye, even if there were a carve-out for politicians like Trump, primarily because maintaining those systems would no longer be profitable.

Essentially, if this were to happen, Trump then trying to sell targeted ads would be like trying to drive a car across a canyon after the bridge was taken down.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You make an interesting point. I seem to remember the politicians exempting themselves from the telephone telemarketing laws that they passed years ago.

We rightfully assume that when they say "targetted ads" that therefore they must mean political ads. But what if we’re wrong? What if the politicians exempt themselves, as they always do? Then this could be at attempt to eliminate the demonetization techniques of platforms such as Youtube. Youtubers affected by the adpocalypse would then love Trump.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is my understanding that Youtubers can have some videos on their channel monetized, while other videos on their channel are demonetized. In other words: it is not channel specific. Experimenters have concluded that the demonitization comes from any mention of certain key words, especially if they are politically incorrect.

Anyhow, the article is light on details about the proposal, likely because this is still preliminary. There is still time for legislation to be drafted such that it hurts social media companies right in the wallet, which could be one avenue of attack besides just antitrust.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:

Then this could be at attempt to eliminate the demonetization techniques of platforms such as Youtube

Did you really think about what you wrote here? Because it means forcing YT to show ads (compelled speech, 1A violation) PLUS forcing them to pay monetization for the privilege against their will.

Do you even care about the constitution? It doesn’t seem that way, because you rather trash one of the most important legal documents in the USA so you can punish YT and FB because they don’t behave according to your warped view of the world.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One of the problems of passing legislation that says "don’t do this bad thing" then involves the consequences. What if the corporation continues behaving as it always did? What happens if some future White House administration decides to not hold the corporations accountable?

That’s where section 230 could be involved. If Big Tech loses section 230 protection because they do targeted advertising, then they open themselves up to a whole world of hurt through private litigation. Government bureaucrats that want to protect the industry, either because they are under orders from a future president, or through regulatory capture, would be powerless to stop it.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Sounds great, we'll do that then, starting with you.'

Well now, it seems Trump/Hawley just offered up a perfect test case to see how removing targetted advertising will work out in a more general sense.

Social media should absolutely take him up on the offer and remove all such ads related to Trump for the foreseeable future, measuring how and to what extent that impacts things with the possible rollout of the change to everyone else in the future.

Best of all if Trump/Hawley throw a tantrum for being singled out like that the companies involved can simply point out that if Trump/Hawley are so against targeted ads that they would condition 230 protections the companies are simply testing that out starting with the people who are most against them.

ECA (profile) says:


lets ask a really big question..
If we remove 230, and NOT replace it with something..
HOW bad will it get?
Its not that everything is reversed..
Its not that there is nothing else that can and IS done.

Its that NO ONE will have recourse.. There would be no laws Fore/against what would happen, and Who would be responsible.
LEts drop all the internet bills and laws.

Let it go wild.

Have fun Mr. trump.
You think that politicians acting like 2 year olds trying to figure out launch, is fun..
Lets add the WHOLE school into this, and Then shoot the teachers.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I can wonder the little town I live in, in Idaho..
And find over 1/2 the people who agree with most of what I say/suggest..
ANd STILL the election is over 50% leaning the other way.
This has happened all my life, watching this and persons get tired that they find everyone around them Seem to have voted the same, but the coin flipped the other way.

(Dirty trick #1. Many states passed a law that an election can be legal even less than 50% voted.)

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