Josh Hawley Introduces His Latest Attack On Section 230

from the collect-them-all dept

Guys, I’m beginning to get the feeling that Senator Josh Hawley doesn’t like Section 230. I mean, beyond creating a laughably inaccurate and misleading “True History of Section 230,” Hawley has now introduced at least four bills to modify or end Section 230. Perhaps if he introduces 10 he’ll get a free one. His latest, introduced last week would remove Section 230 for any internet company that has “behavioral advertising.” Now I’ve been skeptical of the value of behavioral advertising in many cases, but this new bill is absurd.

Basically what the bill would do is say that any site that uses behavioral advertising loses 230 protections:

An advertisement server shall be held liable for any claim brought against a covered provider because of the application of subparagraph (B) if, after the covered provider directs the advertisement server not to serve or deliver behavioral advertising to users of the interactive computer service described in subparagraph (A)(iii)(I)(aa) provided by the covered provider (or if the advertisement server fails to provide reasonably accessible means to receive that direction from the covered provider), the covered provider unknowingly takes the action described in subparagraph (B)(i) because of an action taken by the advertisement server, including the failure of the advertisement server to provide the covered provider with a conspicuous disclosure regarding the category of advertisements to be displayed.??.

Because all bills need to have terrible acronyms, this one is the Behavioral Advertising Decisions Are Downgrading Services Act — or the BAD ADS Act.

No matter what you think of behavioral ads — and again, I think they’re generally quite lame and don’t work nearly as well as people pretend — the structure of this bill seems absurd. Why should 230 protections have anything to do with what kind of advertising model you use? What does one have to do with another? And what job is it of Congress to change whether or not you’re protected from liability of 3rd party speech based on what kind of business model you use?

Again, this just seems like yet another example of Josh Hawley (who pretends to be a “small government” Republican) seemingly wanting to be the product manager for the internet. He doesn’t like Section 230. He doesn’t like behavioral advertising. So, no problem, as a Senator, he moves to outlaw them. Why? Because he doesn’t like them. This seems like the kind of big government intrusions into private business that Hawley used to scream about.

Of course, being in the Senate, rather than actually working for a living as a product manager, means that Hawley doesn’t have to deal with (or care about) the inevitable fallout from any such change to the law. It would almost certainly harm smaller companies which would be much more limited in what kinds of advertising they could use to support their own sites. As someone who would love to remove all behavioral advertising from our own site (and have tried to multiple times), we’ve found that the market just isn’t there for non-behavioral ads right now. That means it would likely dry up revenue for a ton of sites. Google and Facebook could figure out ways to deal with it. Everyone else? Who knows.

There are, of course, also significant Constitutional questions about this. Why should liability for 3rd party content depend on what kind of business model your site uses? The two seem wholly disconnected, and it seems that this bill could be seen as an attack on free speech and free enterprise (both things Hawley pretends to support). As with many Hawley bills, this one appears to be mostly for show, to appeal to his base of ignorant people who think there’s a culture war going on against “big tech” that plays out only by attacking Section 230.

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Comments on “Josh Hawley Introduces His Latest Attack On Section 230”

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14 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Like having an alarm where the default is 'going off'

While I’m usually a big fan of the ‘turnabout is fair play’ test in this case I’m not sure how useful it is given that the bar is low enough that ‘wearing the wrong color suit’ hits it.

crinisen (profile) says:

Who cares about the Constitution, it only applies to lesser gods

There are, of course, also significant Constitutional questions about this. Why should liability for 3rd party content depend on what kind of business model your site uses?

The Constitution only interferes with his garbage and grand-standing well after the sound-bytes have gone out. Who cares about the impact that will happen before the courts deal with it? By that point he’ll probably be back up for reelection, and can rant against liberal judges or something.

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

It’s strange how the republicans the party of small government wants to stifle free speech by imposing
random regulations on tech company’s.
230 protects free speech for everyone,
This includes republicans who use forums and comment on various websites like anyone else. And they,ll be quick to complain if some websites
block users or close down forums due to the laws
passed by the senate.
These laws will effect startups more than Google or Facebook who can afford to hire more moderators
or lawyers to deal with more regulation
The point of the free market is to allow various
services to use various types of advertising
and see what works as long as its legal under
federal regulations

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It’s strange how the republicans the party of small government…"

The GOP hasn’t been the party for "small government" since they switched ideological stances with the democrats after the "New Deal".

What they’re really after is this; No government to regulate business. All-in Government to regulate individuals. The current dream scenario of the GOP is to have a government consisting entirely of Hoover’s FBI, and an army.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What would such a government be called?

How about fascism?

“Mussolini thought that democracy was a failed system. He thought that liberty of expression and liberty of parties was a sham, and that fascism would organize people under state power,” [professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University Ruth] Ben-Ghiat says.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nasch nailed it.

The GOP as such doesn’t have a plan. Admittedly the neoconservatives did and yes, that "plan" reeked more than a little bit of fascism.

The key criteria of fascism, however, are all very much on the openly stated wish list of GOP politicians. More obviously so in recent years because even under GWB no one in the GOP had the chutzpah to go out and call for military assaults – including drone strikes and clusterbombing of protestors – inside american cities.

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