House Republicans Introduce Ridiculous, Contradictory, Unconstitutional Package Of 32 Bills About Section 230 And Content Moderation

from the performative-nonsense dept

If you read Techdirt, you already know that there have been literally dozens of ridiculous Section 230 reform bills introduced over the last few years. On Wednesday, the House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee decided to not just add to the batch, but to flood the entire zone with a package of thirty-two more Section 230 reform bills. I mean, if you’re going to go that far, why not go all the way and write 230 reform bills?

I’m not going to go through every bill. That would be a total waste of everyone’s time. These bills are not designed to do anything constructive at all. They are not designed to pass. They are not designed to reform Section 230. They are designed for one reason and one reason only: to act as performative grandstanding for a deliberately ignorant base who are kept in ignorance by politicians pushing bills like this nonsense.

What I will note, however, is how many of the bills in this package clearly contradict one another (and just how many are obviously unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment in that they seek to regulate speech). In some ways, the package of 32 bills shows why all this focus on Section 230 is nonsense in the first place, and the difficulties of content moderation itself. For example, you have the “Preserving Constitutionally Protected Speech” bill from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan. That one would punish websites that remove constitutionally protected speech (which is an unconstitutional attack on those websites’ 1st Amendment rights). But, uh, then you have things like bills to require companies to remove cyberbullying and remove doxxing (among a few other things).

Of course, neither cyberbullying nor doxxing are well defined in those bills, but in both cases the speech described is almost certainly protected under the 1st Amendment. So you have some bills saying removing any speech that is protected by the 1st Amendment should lead to punishment, and other bills that say you are required to remove speech that is protected by the 1st Amendment or face massive penalties. Did no one bother to actually look at this collection of bills and realize they don’t work together?

There are also a bunch of bills that seem to restate what the law already is. For example, there’s one requiring companies to remove child sexual abuse material (though the bill uses the now disfavored term “child porn.”) Except, um, that’s already the case. Saying it with emphasis in a new law doesn’t change that.

Anyway, I’m hard pressed to find anything even remotely sounding like a reasonable idea in all of these bills, but to be fair, I didn’t have time to go through all 32 bills in full. Perhaps they can pass a bill to force someone to content moderate these 32 bills to algorithmically show me which ones actually have reasonable ideas, and which ones are just performative nonsense. I fear that the final tally will show that all 32 bills are performative nonsense.

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Comments on “House Republicans Introduce Ridiculous, Contradictory, Unconstitutional Package Of 32 Bills About Section 230 And Content Moderation”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Now is a good time to remind everyone than when asked about what content they want to protect from moderation, conservatives inevitably answer with the vague notion of “conservative content” or an allusion to that idea.

But they never get specific about what that phrase means. And they know exactly why. To use a popular copypasta/tweet…

Conservative: I have been censored for my conservative views
Me: Holy shit! You were censored for wanting lower taxes?
Con: LOL no…no not those views
Me: So…deregulation?
Con: Haha no not those views either
Me: Which views, exactly?
Con: Oh, you know the ones

(All credit to Twitter user @ndrew_lawrence.)

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Bloof (profile) says:

The cyber bullying bill will no doubt be intended to stop criticism of right wing politicians and talking heads, the Doxxing bill will be intended to stop people crowdsourcing the identification of Nazis and reporting their activities to employers and the anti child abuse legislation is an attempt at giving them ammo for attack adverts on anyone who votes against it, and will throw more red meat to the qanoners of their base.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

What speech would that be Rodgers and Jordan, be specific.

For example, you have the "Preserving Constitutionally Protected Speech" bill from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan. That one would punish websites that remove constitutionally protected speech (which is an unconstitutional attack on those websites’ 1st Amendment rights).

‘As a reminder racism is constitutionally protected speech.

Sexism is constitutionally protected speech.

Arguing in favor of torturing gays until they ‘give up their sinful ways’, constitutionally protected speech.

Claiming that the nazis had the right idea and it’s a shame they were stopped before they could really do something about those shifty jews, constitutionally protected speech.

Saying that vaccines not only don’t work they actively make things worse? You guessed it, constitutionally protected speech.

Anyone who tries to argue that platforms should limit themselves to only excluding unconstitutional speech is arguing that all of the above and more should be exempt from moderation.’

(I am getting way more use out of that copy/paste then I should be but so long as they keep using the same stupid argument…)

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