Marco Rubio Jumps To The Head Of The Line Of Ignorant Fools Pushing Dumb Social Media Regulation Bills
from the sit-down-marco dept
It seems like we can’t have even a peaceful week go by without yet another grandstanding fool in Congress introducing yet another terrible bill to destroy the internet. The latest comes from Senator Marco Rubio, who, last week, excitedly released a ridiculous bill that he claims will “crackdown on big tech algorithms and protect free speech.” Of course, cracking down on algorithms is, itself, an attack on free speech. And the rest of his bill is nothing but an attack on free speech.
The actual bill is a clusterfuck of bad ideas. It’s called the “Disincentivizing Internet Service Censorship of Online Users and Restrictions on Speech and Expression” or “DISCOURSE” Act, and the only thing clever about it is the name.
So what does the bill do? It says big internet companies can no longer moderate “viewpoints.” Specifically, it says you no longer get Section 230 protections if you’re a firm with a “dominant market share” who…
… engages in a content moderation activity that reasonably appears to express, promote, or suppress a discernible viewpoint for a reason not protected from liability under subsection (c)(2), including reducing or eliminating the ability of an information content provider to earn revenue…
In other words, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are no longer allowed to kick Nazis off their platform or even to demonetize them. This is basically “the Marco Rubio wants to make sure Nazis get free services Act.”
And from there it gets worse. It says you don’t get 230 protections for anything an algorithm recommends. You lose 230 if your firm with a dominant market share…
… amplifies information provided by an information content provider by using an algorithm or other automated computer process to target the information directly to users without the request of a sending or receiving user…
So, Facebook or Twitter trying to make your feed more relevant means they have to take on liability for everything in your feed.
For all the talk of how this is protecting “free speech,” it’s the opposite. It’s an out and out attack on the free speech of these companies to recommend to their users what they think is most relevant to them and not to be associated with assholes, trolls, Nazis and the like.
Believe it or not, the bill gets even worse and becomes an even bigger attack on free speech. It also says that if you comment upon some other content, you lose 230 protections over that content. I mean, that’s just a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment, as the entire purpose is to disincentivize companies from adding their own commentary, fact checking, and the like. The bill says you lose 230 protections if a market dominant firm…
… solicits, comments upon, funds, or affirmatively and substantively contributes to, modifies, or alters information provided by an information content provider…
Got that? Fact checking now makes you liable for the underlying thing you fact checked. That’s… both unconstitutional and ridiculous at the same time.
And it gets worse. It would only exempt a very narrow class of content, by limiting it to a revised version of (c)(2)’s classifications — taking away the subjective ability of a platform to decide what is objectionable on their platform and limiting it to:
any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user has an objectively reasonable belief is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, promoting terrorism or violent extremism, harassing, promoting self-harm, or unlawful, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected
The wider net of “otherwise objectionable” is removed, and a few new categories are added (“promoting terrorism or violent extremism, promoting self-harm, or unlawful”). Of course, locking it to just these categories is problematic. Unless you consider Nazism to be “promoting violent extremism” then you probably can’t ban Nazis. Spam… totally allowed under this bill. Being an asshole, as long as it’s not “objectively” deemed to be harassing… must be allowed.
The bill also has a transparency clause whose only real purpose is to allow Nazis and trolls to insist they were treated unfairly, by insisting that their harassment of someone was nothing of the sort, and that they were treated unfairly.
Finally, it makes a huge additional change by saying that Section 230 is no longer an immunity, but rather “an affirmative defense.” This may not sound like much, but it gets rid of the main procedural benefit of Section 230 as an immunity. As an immunity, it means you get cases dismissed much faster. As an affirmative defense, in many cases you don’t get to assert that until much later in the case, after you’ve gone through expensive discovery. So this takes away the most useful part of Section 230 and makes it an expensive burden.
It’s hellishly weird to see someone like Marco Rubio, who pretends to be a traditional “conservative,” pushing a bill that will be a massive boon to tort lawyers, and will clog up the courts with vexatious lawsuits. But, hey, it seems that Marco has realized the only way for him to stay relevant these days is to culture war with the best of them, and thus he has to pretend that social media really is out to get conservatives (it is not) and that he has to pass an unconstitutional law to attack the 1st Amendment rights of websites. It’s a pitiful move by an increasingly pitiful politician.