Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie About Section 230?
from the it's-a-bad-trait dept
Richard Blumenthal has spent years trying to undermine Section 230 of the CDA. Unlike some Senators who have only just jumped onto the silly, counterproductive bandwagon, Blumenthal has been mad about 230 since long before he was even a Senator. Back in 2008, when he was Connecticut’s ambitious grandstanding Attorney General, he attacked Craigslist because people had found some ads for sex work on the site. Again, this was protected by Section 230, so Blumenthal just kept threatening Craigslist until it finally made a change: rather than allowing its adult ads to be placed for free (as it had in the past), it required payment with a credit card, which Craigslist (quite reasonably) said would likely discourage more sketchy ads, and would leave a paper trail for law enforcement for any illegal activity. Blumenthal initially celebrated this victory… before turning around and grandstanding again two years later… that Craigslist was now “profiting” off of sex work because it was charging for those ads (ignoring that it only did so because he pressured them, even though he knew he was limited by 230).
Since getting elected to the Senate, Blumenthal has kept up this weird infatuation with hating the internet. He was also the lead Democratic sponsor on SESTA (which became FOSTA), the bill to chip away at Section 230, which has now been seen to make it more difficult for law enforcement to track down sex traffickers, and has put many women at risk.
Indeed, in the run-up to that bill passing, perhaps the most frustrating thing was that Blumenthal has a weird penchant to simply lie about Section 230 and what it did and how it worked. And then after the bill was passed, he flat out lied about what his own bill actually did. In a normal society, you might think that maybe journalists should call him on that.
Now, with his dangerous EARN IT Act being voted out of committee, Blumenthal is back to his old tricks. As reported by Newsweek, during last week’s markup, Blumenthal made some statements about Section 230 that are simply untrue. Indeed, they’re part of my omnibus post on wrong things people say about Section 230:
Blumenthal stood by the Act’s design, saying: “There is no reason for these platforms to have blanket immunity, a shield against any accountability that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way.”
Pretty much all of that is wrong. They do not have “blanket immunity.” They have a narrowly limited immunity for (1) content they didn’t create, and (2) for moderation choices they make — not including any violations of federal law (which is what the EARN IT Act covers) or intellectual property. In other words, whatever immunity Section 230 does cover, it doesn’t even cover the very thing that the Act Blumenthal is praising is focused on.
Second, the line about 230 being a shield “that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way” is also nonsense. Section 230 applies to every website. And these days, pretty much every industry is online and everyone has a website. Section 230 protects them all. It is not a special protection for one industry. And, since most of Section 230 is really just a procedural out for bogus litigation that would be barred under the 1st Amendment, I might want to remind Senator Blumenthal that everyone is also protected by the 1st Amendment.
But it really does raise the question: why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230. I get that it helped him jump up from Attorney General to Senator by falsely attacking a website that was protected by 230 and lying about it, but dude, leave well enough alone. You’ve done enough damage already.