Senator Hawley's Section 230 Reform Even Dumber Than We Expected; Would Launch A Ton Of Vexatious Lawsuits

from the dude,-seriously? dept

So there were rumors about Senator Hawley’s bill to reform Section 230 earlier this week, saying that it would remove 230 protections if you used targeted ads. Today, Hawley released the actual plan, which is very different, but even dumber. It would certainly turn the GOP from the party that wanted to push for tort reform and limit frivolous and vexatious lawsuits into the party that encouraged an avalanche of wasteful litigation.

The shortest version of the bill’s likely impact is that it would create an army of “content moderation troll” lawyers, because you could sue any platform that you felt removed your content unfairly and get $5,000 plus attorney’s fees. With a bit more detail, the bill requires that a platform have clear terms of service and any moderation would have to be tied back to those terms — which pretty much shows that whoever wrote this pile of shit has no idea how content moderation works, and the fact that you need to keep adjusting the actual content moderation practices, because dishonest people who are trying to abuse your system are always trying to game things to stay “technically” within the “terms” while still wreaking havoc on your platform.

The bill then says that if a platform makes any design or operation decision that is not in “good faith”, anyone can sue them for $5k and attorneys’ fees. Note that this seems to go beyond just moderation decisions. It includes a platform making design decisions that you dislike. That’s… crazy. There’s also the question of what is actually meant by “good faith” and all the 1st Amendment issues that raises, because determining what is and is not “good faith” is a straight up editorial decision, and the whole point of the 1st Amendment is that the courts can’t jump in to second guess editorial decisions.

To be clear, this law’s attempt to expand “good faith” seems to be purposely made in bad faith to simply overwhelm internet platforms with tons of lawsuits.

This bill flips the entire purpose of Section 230. As Jess Miers said, this bill seems to take the immunity from civil suits in the law and turns it into a private right of action for tons of frivolous and vexatious lawsuits.

It is not a serious attempt at reform. It’s an unconstitutional pile of crap that seems to serve no other purpose than to allow whiny aggrieved grifters to shake down every platform for their moderation and design choices.

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Comments on “Senator Hawley's Section 230 Reform Even Dumber Than We Expected; Would Launch A Ton Of Vexatious Lawsuits”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I will be filing against all the right wing and religious right outfits which deleted my comments, since they by far have always moderated with the most heavy hands.

Good luck, Senator Dumbass!

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arp2 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I know this is half-joking (I think), but the idea is that the right are more brazen and have more resources do just that- just sue the sh*t out of any platform’s politics or policies they don’t like. Add a bunch of Republican (not conservative) judges and they’re happy to engage in this war, because in the long run, they’ll come out as victors.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Pretty much joking, and yes, you are correct that the right generally have more resources and the will to sue. They are also more easily offended by imaginary things, and by an order of magnitude more than that, willing to pretend the have been offended or slighted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Excuse me?
Both left and right are full of lawsuit happy assholes. The right will scream about their "conservative" opinions being unjustly suppressed while the left will attack with PC bullshit and turn the internet into a "you didn’t respect my choice of pronouns" nightmare. Then you have the technology terminology wars involving master, slave, blacklists, whitelists, etc.
Nope. Neither the right, nor the left would have clean hands with the lawsuit nightmare that would be forthcoming

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sorry, no, privileged authoritarians get way more upset and are far more likely to file suits.

No one said the "left" was some sort of pristine garden. That’s just you tilting at strawmen.

And fuck you if you won’t respect people’s pronouns. Sorry it’s so hard on your ass to not disrespect things like that for your amusement. No one sued anyone over it, unlike the hurt fee-fees what-passes-for-conservative-these-days set.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

If someone tells you that they prefer to be referred to in female pronouns and you insist on using male ones, you are behaving like an asshole.

It’s the same thing as if a guy named David tells you not to call him Dave but you persist in doing that.

Is it so fucking hard to accommodate people even if you perhaps find it stupid and silly?

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Joe says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

You’re right, I want you to call by the pronoun "my lord my master" from now on.

Is it so fucking hard to accommodate people eve if you perhaps find it stupid and silly.

If not the above, then please refer to me as the pronoun "Rocky’s mom is a whore for living."

C’mon, it’s not that hard to accommodate me.

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Koby (profile) says:

Contracting

because dishonest people who are trying to abuse your system are always trying to game things to stay "technically" within the "terms" while still wreaking havoc on your platform.

I was shown an old real estate purchase contract from a few decades past. Yes, it was that oversized legal paper, but everything fit on one page. Over the years, that one page grew to one page front&back, to two pages front &back, to five pages, then six with really tiny print. The contract size grew because there was a problem, and so they fixed it such that the expected outcome of the sale was spelled out in the contract, and noone could complain. It’s been about the same size for the past few years now.

This is standard in our society. From rental agreements, to credit cards, to cell phones… Eventually, they work out the rules. What we DON’T want is for the rules to change in the middle of the game to bias one side or the other. You’re probably okay with accepting all the other agreements that are a part of daily life.

If there is a complaint that the rules might be clearly spelled out is powerful evidence that bias is currently occurring on social media.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Contracting

Please provide data

To date, no major social media company has made their moderation data available. It’s as if they have something to hide

Instead, the documented events of bias against conservatives has accumulated to the point where it has become undeniable to the general public. No doubt, if left wing activists were treated unfairly, those stories would have made front page news by now.

Today’s example of bias on social media is yesterday’s demonetization of The Federalist and Zerohedge websites. A left wing UK based group called CCDH was behind the demonetization effort, and was not a complaint from advertisers, or a problem that Google discovered internally. Talk about bad faith! How soon until Google work closely with outside right wing groups to comb websites for undesirable comments? Don’t hold your breath.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Contracting

Yesterdays article briefly mentioned a "UK-based operation", but no. The operation was not named, who they are was not explained, and their shady dealings with both NBC and Google conveniently omitted. Of course, if this was a Russian group, it would be considered foreign interference against democracy and collusion.

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Contracting

I suggest you read the article again, and work at comprehending the role of this UK-based operation, which is … nothing of authority.

To whit: said operation (www.stopfundingfakenews.com, it was linked to in the article itself) wrote up a list of orgs they think shouldn’t be funded.

NBC news asked Google for comment about it.

Google reviewed and found that there were comments their advertising clients woudln’t like to be associated with, and informed the two orgs accordingly.

The orgs weren’t demonetized. Those specific pages had advertisements from Google removed if they didn’t take away the comments.

Stop misrepresenting stories to fit your narrative.

If you wish to support the claim of anti-conservative bias, provide the data that supports it. All you have so far are people getting tossed for being assholes.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s as if they have something to hide

Please give us your Social Security number. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

the documented events of bias against conservatives has accumulated to the point where it has become undeniable to the general public

The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”. You can bring up anecdotes of conservatives saying they were booted from Twitter for being conservative all you want. But that doesn’t prove they were booted only because they self-identified as “conservative”, or that they were booted without violating the TOS, or that they were disproportionately punished more than self-identified “liberals” for breaking the same rules in equal measure. If a conservative is more likely than a liberal to use a racial slur and thus get the boot from Twitter, the issue isn’t with Twitter.

Today’s example of bias on social media is yesterday’s demonetization of The Federalist and Zerohedge websites.

Did you read the article, or did you only read the headline and decide that Techdirt was wrong because you want to believe in the “anti-conservative bias” conspiracy theory?

Your superstition holds no weight here. You don’t want to be proven wrong (which you have been), and you’ve done nothing to be proven right (which you aren’t). If you want us to take you seriously on the matter, stop bringing it up like it’s an objective fact until you can prove it’s an objective fact.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Please give us your Social Security number. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Nobody has identified a problem with my social security number. But another poster (TFG) is DEMANDING to see the moderation data. You better go talk to them first.

But that doesn’t prove they were booted only because they self-identified as “conservative”, or that they were booted without violating the TOS

Then social media companies should be happy with Hawley’s proposed legislation. Of course, I suspect that they will not, because either they will need to stop the anti-conservative bias, or else they will have an estoppel problem in court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Then social media companies should be happy with Hawley’s proposed legislation.

They will not be happy as the either suffer a death of a thousand cuts as every moderation decision is challenged in court, or they stop all moderation, and let the racists, bigots and trolls drive most of their users away.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

That’s easy, so that when the bigots ever so slightly tweak their bigoted remarks to get around the precise prohibited terms the site can’t punish them for it, and have to engage in a neverending game of catch-up all the while risking getting sued at any point for daring to moderate.

Rigid moderation rules are a troll/bigot’s wet dream, as without flexibility it is trivial to bypass the spirit of the rules even if technically you aren’t in violation of the text.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

That’s easy, so that when the bigots ever so slightly tweak their bigoted remarks to get around the precise prohibited terms the site can’t punish them for it, and have to engage in a neverending game of catch-up all the while risking getting sued at any point for daring to moderate.

You know how we could prevent such lawsuits? We could give services such as Twitter the leeway to legally moderate speech as they see fit without having to worry about facing spurious lawsuits for those decisions.

I wonder if we already have a law like that on the books~.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Or as one AC quoted in an old article:

One of the developers of Toontown Online, wanting to get around this problem while at the same time allowing players to interact, suggested using a list of approved words and sentence fragments that a user could string together to form full sentences. This idea was shot down by one of the other developers who had tried the approach in another game. The 14-year old boy who was testing the software was able to, within a minute, construct the following sentence: "I want to stick my long-necked Giraffe up your fluffy white bunny".

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Khym Chanur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Defendants (sites) don't get awarded fees if they win.

Under the proposal, if the plaintiff wins the defendant has to pay for attorney fees and such, but if the defendant wins each side has to pay for their own costs. So if a site enforces their ToS with complete fairness but some users think that it’s being enforced unfairly the site has to eat the cost of each resulting lawsuit. In the face of that, how many sites would rather just forgo any moderation? (Even forgoing moderation wouldn’t provide complete protection, since sites could still sued if some users believe the site to engage in shadow banning)

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

The difference is that you don’t have those videos(if you did you wouldn’t desperately try to wiggle out of providing them, you’d simply do so), all you have is the equivalent of people saying that the police broke their arm and beat them black and blue yesterday all the while standing there with two perfectly fine arms and unblemished skin.

Don’t pretend that claims are at all equal to demonstrable proof, it’s not going to work out well for you.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

if you see enough videos depicting police brutality against citizens, you might know that there’s a problem

But those videos, on their own, don’t suggest such a problem is prevalent across all police departments in all cities in all the states. You’re asserting, with only anecdotal experience, that Twitter is guilty of having an “anti-conservative bias”. And you’re asserting this alleged bias exists only because of people self-identifying as conservatives instead of, say, such people using racial slurs and anti-queer speech that violates the Twitter TOS.

Please offer proof that self-identified conservatives are being punished only for their political identity, or are being punished at disproportionate levels for TOS-violating speech used by self-identified liberals in equal amounts. Until you can do that, your superstition remains a superstition.

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Khym Chanur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Contracting

Just yesterday there was a Techdirt article about Google and The Federalist:

1) The exact same thing happened to Techdirt last year, and thus looks more like a stupid Google policy rather than bias on Google’s part.

2) It had to do with the comments to an article, not the content of the article itself.

3) It would be just that one page that was demonetized, not the entire site.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Contracting

Instead, the documented events of bias against conservatives has accumulated to the point where it has become undeniable to the general public.

No amount of lies add up to a truth, all it does do is show everyone watching that the liar in question is not interested in an honest discussion.

Today’s example of bias on social media is yesterday’s demonetization of The Federalist and Zerohedge websites.

This being a perfect example of that. That’s not even remotely what happened, as was explained in the article itself and in the comments but since that doesn’t fit your persecution complex it was twisted until it did.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Contracting

Instead, the documented events of bias against conservatives has accumulated to the point where it has become undeniable to the general public.

Documented? Undeniable? Then YOU should have no problems listing these undeniable and documented events of bias against conservatives.

In short, put up or shut up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Contracting

The "documented" evidence of bias against whining cry-babies has accumulated to the point where they are going to call their "Mommy" Trump to fix the problem for everyone…

I admit I see a lot of whining and crying by the alt-right, what I don’t see is any actual evidence of biased moderation.

Making a claim doesn’t mean anything, I mean have you stopped beating your wife? No? See you are a wife beater plain and simple. Yes? Well you may be a reformed wife beater then… Easy to claim, harder to prove (look for the bruises…)

Talk about bad faith! How soon until Google work closely with outside left wing groups to comb websites for undesirable comments? Don’t hold your breath…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Contracting

"To date, no major social media company has made their moderation data available"

So, you’re making it up when you make those claims, since you don’t have evidence to support them. Good to know.

"Today’s example of bias on social media is yesterday’s demonetization of The Federalist and Zerohedge websites"

Yeah, people don’t like paying for naked propaganda that’s not based on evidence. Is that why you’re such a mardy idiot? You’re getting your data from fiction writers?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

What we DON’T want is for the rules to change in the middle of the game to bias one side or the other.

…says the guy who believes the law should be changed to force social media services (including any such service that he owns!) into hosting speech that their owners absolutely don’t want to host. I mean, you all but said the law should change to favor White supremacist propaganda; wouldn’t that be changing the rules to benefit one “side” over another?

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

…says the guy who believes the law should be changed to force social media services (including any such service that he owns!) into hosting speech that their owners absolutely don’t want to host.

I believe the law should be changed to get social media companies that create an open platform for free discussion for all to live up to their promise. If they don’t want to host certain content, that’s fine, but JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT. Let them say that they hate conservatives, and that they will ban anyone who shows support for a right wing political position. Spelling out their desires in writing would be very honest of them. The Hawley legislation would allow them to do that.

I mean, you all but said the law should change to favor White supremacist propaganda

No, I never said that, and I do NOT think that the law should ever favor white supremacists. Do not slander; it is very hateful of you to demonize me and pretend that I support a position that I don’t. Equal rights are the ultimate counter to white supremacists

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I believe the law should be changed to get social media companies that create an open platform for free discussion for all to live up to their promise. If they don’t want to host certain content, that’s fine, but JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT.

Twitter does say that. What the fuck do you think the Terms of Service are?

Let them say that they hate conservatives, and that they will ban anyone who shows support for a right wing political position. Spelling out their desires in writing would be very honest of them.

Stop spewing such disingenuous bullshit. You can’t prove your superstition; until you can, I’ll continue referring to it as such.

The Hawley legislation would allow them to do that.

They can already do that without his shitty legislation.

I never said that

Hence “all but said”. You didn’t say it, but you sure as shit implied it with all your sidestepping and handwringing over One Simple Question.

I do NOT think that the law should ever favor white supremacists

And yet, you’ve all but said that White supremacists should have the favor of law when it comes to social media by way of having the law compel a service to host White supremacist propaganda.

Do not slander; it is very hateful of you to demonize me and pretend that I support a position that I don’t.

If you don’t want me misinterpreting your position — even though you’ve already heavily implied that you hold the position I say you hold — you can clear everything up by answering “yes” or “no” to One Simple Question:

Do you believe the government should force an open-to-the-public interactive computer service that you personally own and operate to host speech that you don’t want to host/want associated with you and your service?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Reading your comment something rather funny stuck out to me, in that the very same person who said that if social media companies don’t want to host certain content they should ‘JUST COME OUT AND SAY IT'(they do, it’s called the TOS), also refuses to give a plain answer to the question you keep asking them on hosting content.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Quick, everyone on the left wing start shit posting on Alt-Right and Conservative websites… give them a taste of their own crap.

Crap post on as many conservative and alt-right websites and forums as you can, try to violate Google’s terms of service so they demonetize the page (not the full site)… with enough postings we can wipe out the Alt-Right’s resources to the point they won’t have the capital to compete.

I mean this is what the Alt-Right is currently doing on websites I follow, so lets all return the favor and show what being on the receiving end looks like…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Contracting

"If there is a complaint that the rules might be clearly spelled out is powerful evidence that bias is currently occurring on social media."

How is complaining viewed as powerful evidence, I don’t get it.
Bias is occurring everywhere, are you suggesting that bias can be removed? I do not think so, how would this be accomplished? I doubt there is one single thing that everyone on this planet would agree upon, their reasons for disagreement probably also are biased. There is no getting rid of it. Now, for the hand waving attempt to qualify the request – I’ve seen it before.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Contracting

"Over the years, that one page grew to one page front&back, to two pages front &back, to five pages, then six with really tiny print. The contract size grew because there was a problem, and so they fixed it such that the expected outcome of the sale was spelled out in the contract, and noone could complain. It’s been about the same size for the past few years now."

In my current job I’ve managed to come across a few US-style contracts like the ones you describe – and I’m honestly always as surprised, with the standard EU legalese often being able to fit in a single A4 with 10-point font.

It’s so bad, in fact, that even major european companies often just say "No thanks" when a US company offers their boilerplate, because no company here believes it’s a worthwhile investment to sink half it’s development and maintenance budget into the legal department.

"This is standard in our society. From rental agreements, to credit cards, to cell phones… Eventually, they work out the rules."

And, I’d have to say, not a great way of doing things to begin with. Necessary because US basic laws and regulations leave vast loopholes around just how you can screw someone if they weren’t smart enough to plug the hole in specific legalese but it does mean if you can’t afford a team of lawyers on retainer, just give up on building a major company.

"You’re probably okay with accepting all the other agreements that are a part of daily life."

Reality begs to differ, looking at all the major scandals arising out of hastily clicked-through 100-page EULA’s etc. You are probably ok with simply not having been screwed yet. Or if you’re a comcast customer, not so OK at having been told that yes you’ve been overcharged for years and no there’s shit-all you can do about that since you didn’t spend four hours of lawyer time second-checking the fine print.

"If there is a complaint that the rules might be clearly spelled out is powerful evidence that bias is currently occurring on social media."

That’s…false. The current status is that the rules are clearly spelled out. The first amendment applies and section 230 confirms. The proposed bill makes the rules…ambiguous and confusing, demanding two conflicting opposite actions with harsh penalties imposed for violating either.

But I confess I’m not too surprised, given the topic, to see you come out swinging in favor of legislation which screws you whatever you do if your intent was to operate an online platform.

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Khym Chanur (profile) says:

I see two big differences:

1) For things like rental agreements, credit cards, etc, people stand to lose money or a place to stay. With online services and CDA 230, people stand to lose comments they made (usually for free) on someone else’s platform.

2) If someone contemplates rules-lawyering a rental agreement (or whatever) the consequences of them being on the losing (montary, losing their housing, etc) end serve as a strong deterrent. If a troll decides to do some rules-lawyering regarding the ToS of a social platform, the consequence is merely getting banned, which they can often get around by creating a new account. Currently the lack of consequences for the trolls is balanced by the platforms being able to easily ban the trolls.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1) For things like rental agreements, credit cards, etc, people stand to lose money or a place to stay.

There are a number of personalities and celebrities that have made big bucks by promoting themselves through social media. Aside from the money, you are right that rules are established when something is very important. That we also consider rules to guarantee freedom of speech alongside expensive housing or vehicle purchases shows just how important free speech is.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Your right to free speech is protection from the government stopping you publishing you speech at your own expense, or via a publisher that agrees to publish it. It does not say that you will find such a publisher or that you can force others to publish your speech.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"You’re right, I think that it’s MORE important, and therefore in more need of contractual protection."

So that’s why you argue in favor of nationalizing popular platforms by abolishing the rights of the owner of said property to determine who is and is not welcome in their house and home?

You always dodge that very simple answer to a very simple question with very simple principles and very simple ramifications. And Koby? That tells us everything we need to know about just how serious you are with continually trying to market this shit.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone who has ever actually worked at moderating a forum knows how difficult it is. With the best will in the world, with a well-defined topical focus, a set of community standards based on keeping discussions of that one topic amicable, with a small group of moderators who are constantly discussing issues, …

It is a constant effort, frequently involving disagreements among moderators as to exactly what should be moderated, and how.

Again, anyone who has actually done this, knows this.

And anyone who hasn’t actually done this, really needs to do one of two things: (1) set up their own forum, and run it as best they can, or (2) use other people’s forums, try to talk nice, and learn what isn’t considered nice when they get moderated. Hint: whining about getting moderated for being rude is ALWAYS rude. In Every Universe.

Discussing moderation approaches in public, with the people who are maliciously intent on subverting the forum’s intended use, and making it into a vehicle for their own agenda, … is not going to happen. Ever. Anywhere. Any time. In Any Universe. It would be like Gmail publishing its techniques for spotting e-mail spam.

In related news, scientists report that gravity is prejudiced against fat people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"In related news, scientists report that gravity is prejudiced against fat people."

It’s not the fall that hurts you,
it’s the rapid deceleration trauma.

btw, overweight people would fall at the same rate as non overweight people, ignoring friction of course. They would however, impact with more force. Either way, it’s gonna hurt.

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ECA (profile) says:

Anyone..

Get the idea, that someone Thinks they have little control of things, and wants it back?
Understanding that the Internet is about the biggest/easiest way to see/hear/express opinions and what people want to know in a democracy.
But we arnt a democracy.

Anyone remember those sites that started up with the idea of Creating bills and petitions to send to congress??
FAIL all to hell.
Why? because everyone wanted THEIR own opinion and the way they expressed it. A site with 2 million subscribers, and 2 million suggested petitions. and reading thru them was a MESS from hell.

If anyone went into it and Cleaned/joined/combined ANY of it, it would become a pissing match of Who is right and who is wrong. And whose opinion would do anything.

It was Hilarious.
The Worst part is those on the hill think they are better at it then we are.

bobob says:

Personally, I think legislsation like this which is considered "dumb" from our perspective is probably not dumb at all if you take into account what’s driving it, which is the personal interests of the people backing it. I’d guess that vagueness is deliberate. If it’s vague, it will appeal to the widest audience which in general are not the people who look at the consequences in the future.

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ensure that cool: go for a clear, high energy and recent photo

A profile picture is MUST profiles with missing pictures look dodgy and are treated as shady.

Go for the answers of yourself and no one else, Make sure it recent ideally taken in the last year and if possible outdoorsy.

Men are 19% more prone to bag a date if their profile picture was taken outside.

  1. Avoid asking her out for AT LEAST 2 weeks Allow at least a fortnight worth of continuous messaging before suggesting to meet up, Connect on Facebook or inviting her number.

That two weeks if you been uninterruptedly messaging and are both keen to take the next step.

  1. Be honest about your happiness

we’ve two options here: Be honest and attract people that appreciate you for who you’re really.

as well as two, Lie and end up caught out, Blocked and probable end up back at square one.

need more advice? Here are 10 online dating site tips to guarantee you a date.

Bag a date on reflect Dating. Join the Mirror personal dating site Mirror Dating today and find love in just 5 steps!

Simply create a profile with our 7 top tips, And wink potential matches for free when you sign up.

Go premium to read through, Reply and send messages See who viewed your profile and more use premium.
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