Tennessee Lawmakers' Latest Attack On Section 230 Would Basically Ban All Government Investment
from the seems-counterproductive dept
We’ve been highlighting a wide variety of state bills from Republican-led legislatures that all attempt to attack Section 230. Nearly all of them are blatantly unconstitutional attacks on the 1st Amendment. Somewhat incredibly, the latest one from Tennessee might not actually be unconstitutional. That doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, it’s not just incredibly stupid, but demonstrates that the bill’s authors/sponsors are so fucking clueless that they have no idea what they’re doing. In effect, they’d be banning the state from investing any money it holds. To spite Section 230.
The bill — which is House Bill 1441 and Senate Bill 1011 — from Representative Tim Rudd and Senator Janice Bowling represent such a lack of understanding of how literally anything works that it should embarrass both elected officials and anyone who ever voted for either of them. The bill is pretty simple: it bans the state from investing in any entity protected by Section 230. The problem with this? Almost every single person and every single company is, in some way, protected by Section 230. So, in effect, the bill bans the state from investing any of its money.
Let’s dig in on the specifics. The bill is pretty short and sweet. Here’s the key part:
On or after August 1, 2021, monies within the pooled investment fund must not be invested in any entity that receives immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230). Any monies from the fund that are invested in such an entity as of the effective date of this act, must be divested prior to August 1, 2021. Written notice of the divestment must be provided to any such entity at the earliest practicable time after the effective date of this act.
To be clear, this text would be inserted in Tennessee Code Title 9, Chapter 4, Part 6 which covers the disbursement and investment of state funds. Amusingly, Section 602 says that “It is the policy of the state of Tennessee that all funds in the state treasury shall be invested by the state treasurer to the extent practicable.” The problem is that if this new law passes, there is almost no one who would be allowed to receive those funds, so “to the extent practicable” would be… non-existent.
Part of the issue, it seems, is that in their rush to attack “Section 230” neither Senator Bowling, nor Representative Rudd bothered to, you know, read Section 230. I’ll cover the essential part for our discussion here today:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable…
No provider or user. Section 230 protects both the users and providers of an interactive computer service. So, basically any entity — person or organization — who uses an interactive computer service is protected under Section 230. And, based on the text of this bill, that means… just about anyone. If you use email, you’re protected. So no entity that has email can receive investments from Tennessee state funds. No organization that has a website. I’m sure there might still be some neo-luddite organizations out there that don’t use any computers at all, so perhaps the state of Tennessee will invest its funds in, like, a toy shop with an old fashioned cash register, and a rotary telephone or something. But that seems pretty limiting, and not a particularly good investment.
Obviously, this bill comes out of the very, very false belief that Section 230 only protects “big tech.” That’s a favored myth of Section 230 haters. Of course, that’s never been the case. And you’d think that before writing legislation about it, someone who is elected to a state legislature would do the very least to actually read the law they’re attacking. But, I guess that’s too much to ask of Representative Tim Rudd and Senator Janice Bowling.
People of Tennessee, I beg of you: stop electing fools who are so focused on culture warrioring that they can’t even be bothered to understand the bills they’ve introduced.