Trump Still Hates The 1st Amendment: Meeting With State Attorneys General To Tell Them To Investigate Internet Companies For Bias
from the oh-come-on dept
It never, ever ends. President Trump is continuing his war on Section 230 and the right for the open internet to exist. The latest is that he’s meeting with various state Attorneys General to encourage them to bring investigations against internet websites over “anti-conservative bias” despite the fact that no one has shown any actual evidence of anti-conservative bias beyond assholes, trolls, and literal Nazis upset that they got banned.
The Trump administration is expected to urge Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday to investigate social-media sites over allegations they censor conservatives online, escalating the White House?s war with Silicon Valley at a time when tech giants are increasingly taking action against the president?s most controversial posts.
A different report notes that Trump and the DOJ are also planning to talk with them about “revising” Section 230:
U.S. President Donald Trump plans to meet on Wednesday with a group of Republican state attorneys general about revising a key law that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.
?Online censorship goes far beyond the issue of free speech, it?s also one of protecting consumers and ensuring they are informed of their rights and resources to fight back under the law,? White House spokesman Judd Deere said. ?State attorneys general are on the front lines of this issue and President Trump wants to hear their perspectives.?
Of course, the State AGs would need a big change to Section 230 to be able to go after social media for bias — but they’d need an even bigger change to the 1st Amendment, which allows companies to choose which content to host — and what content not to host. If Trump and the DOJ think that law enforcement can investigate social media for anti-conservative bias, does that mean he’d be okay if AGs in other states investigate Fox News for bias? Or Breitbart? Of course not. The 1st Amendment doesn’t allow it, and so we get another stupid culture war from the President shitting on the Constitution he swore to uphold and protect.
In reality, this is all just more posturing. State AGs (of both parties) have long hated Section 230 because it removes a tool for their ridiculous grandstanding to help them get elected to higher office (look at how many state AGs go on to be Governor or Senator). For the better part of a decade, State AGs have been asking to change 230 because, while Section 230 has an exemption for federal criminal law, it does not for state criminal law. That means State AGs are less able to go after social media companies. But, boy do they want to.
Pretty much every internet company, upon getting popular, has gone through an attack from State AGs, that was not based on any legitimate purpose but to get the state AGs in the headlines to claim that they were “protecting the citizens of our fine state” or some other nonsense. Almost exactly 10 years ago, we highlighted what then Topix CEO, Chris Tolles, went through in dealing with state AGs. They put out a press release threatening Topix for how the company moderated user comments.
Tolles did what he thought was the right thing. He sat down with the various AGs who had signed onto the press release, and explained to them the ins-and-outs of content moderation and why Topix made the choices it did. All of those choices, of course, were protected by Section 230 and the 1st Amendment. But, the AGs did not care. They took what Tolles told them, and put out an even more ridiculous press release, misrepresenting nearly everything he told them, and again “threatening” to do something.
So, after opening the kimono and giving these guys a whole lot of info on how we ran things, how big we were and that we dedicated 20% of our staff on these issues, what was the response. (You could probably see this one coming.)
That’s right. Another press release. This time from 23 states’ Attorney’s General.
This pile-on took much of what we had told them, and turned it against us. We had mentioned that we required three separate people to flag something before we would take action (mainly to prevent individuals from easily spiking things that they didn’t like). That was called out as a particular sin to be cleansed from our site. They also asked us to drop the priority review program in its entirety, drop the time it takes us to review posts from 7 days to 3 and “immediately revamp our AI technology to block more violative posts” amongst other things.
AGs have been doing this for years (across both parties). The attack on Topix was done by then Kentucky AG, Jack Conway. We’ve covered similar attacks from then Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal, then South Carolina AG Henry McMaster, then New York AG Andrew Cuomo, then California AG Kamala Harris, then Mississippi AG Jim Hood, current Louisiana AG Jeff Landry and many, many more.
So of course AGs (of either party) are going to tell the President they need Section 230 reformed — and that plays straight into the President’s dimwitted playbook of wanting to harass companies he feels (wrongly) are “against” him. The reform the AGs want is to remove the state criminal law exemption, which will give them significantly more power to attack internet companies and demand ridiculous concessions that don’t serve the public benefit, but do serve to keep the AGs in the headlines for “taking on big tech” and “protecting the children” and other similar nonsense. The reform the President wants is anything that lets him drum up a new bullshit culture war and play the crybaby victim about how big tech is “against” him, even as Facebook and Twitter have been two of the biggest tools to make his short political career viable.
It’s nonsense, but a politically convenient nonsense for the President right now…