Today In Senators Who Don’t Know What The Fuck They’re Talking About Regarding Internet & Speech: Senator James Lankford

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

I’ve heard some truly bizarre attacks on Section 230, but Senator James Lankford from Oklahoma has taken it all to a new level of nonsense. The already Trumpian Senator is apparently facing a primary from someone even Trumpier, which perhaps contributes to whatever brain damage caused him to tweet a bunch of total nonsense over the weekend ostensibly about Section 230, but really just demonstrating what a very uninformed man, Senator James Lankford is.

The three tweet thread reads as if Lankford asked an AI (or a very, very stupid intern) to come up with something to say criticizing Section 230, and this is what it spit out:

Big Tech companies are not the ones who get to decide what free speech is. We need to rip & repeal legislation that allows Big Tech to subjectively censor groups they just don’t agree with that day.

Legislation like Section 230 was originally made to protect from child trafficking over the internet through websites like, but Big Tech companies are using it as a shield to censor Americans.

We need to continue to protect our children while also enforcing that Big Tech is doing their part to protect the next generation as well.

The first tweet also includes a video of Lankford doing the standard idiot’s guide to cherry-picking content moderation examples he disagrees with, pointing to a bunch of examples (almost all out of context) about what he believes are unfair or incorrect moderation choices. For example, he contrasts the removal of former President Trump with other awful global leaders, leaving out the reasons why Trump was banned. It wasn’t just that he was a terrible person or leader, but rather that he broke specific rules on the platform (specifically inciting violence). Lankford points to other terrible world leaders, but doesn’t point to any examples of them actually breaking Twitter’s rules.

Now, there may be a reasonable argument that Twitter shouldn’t allow terrible, dictatorial, authoritarian world leaders on its platforms. That could be a discussion worth having. But the argument here ignores the reality which is that — contrary to what Lankford and various very clueless people believe — the major sites don’t just ban people they dislike. They have policies in place, and they wait until someone actually violates those policies, as Trump did.

Either way, Lankford’s CPAC nonsense was wrong, but at least it was coherent. That Twitter thread, was both wrong and incoherent. First of all, if you want to “rip & repeal” what allows tech companies to moderate as they see fit, then you’re trying to throw out the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution (the same Constitution you swore to uphold and protect, Senator) not Section 230. It’s the 1st Amendment that grants a website the right to remove whatever content they want — and it’s what protects not just Facebook and Twitter’s choices, but also Truth Social and GETTR to similarly moderate how they see fit.

As for the second tweet… it’s just such pure incomprehensible nonsense that I need to repeat it here:

Legislation like Section 230 was originally made to protect from child trafficking over the internet through websites like, but Big Tech companies are using it as a shield to censor Americans.

Leaving aside the (very weird) decision to literally link to Backpage, none of the rest of this tweet makes even the slightest bit of sense. Section 230 was passed in 1996. was founded in 2004. And Section 230 was not originally (or ever?) made to “protect from child trafficking over the internet” because child trafficking (over the internet or otherwise) is a federal crime, and Section 230(e)(1) has always exempted Section 230 from federal criminal law.

Also, Section 230 was not “made” for anything related to any of this. It was actually written to support a very traditionally conservative belief: that websites should be free to moderate as they see fit, without fear of either legal threats or government interference. And it covers not just every website that allows third party speech, but also their users as well (so it’s not just about “Big Tech”). But, either way, the choices of a website to moderate content is, generally, protected by the 1st Amendment. The benefit of Section 230 is that it helps get those nuisance lawsuits tossed out sooner, which actually protects the smaller internet competitors much more than the big guys.

So, if he’s talking about ripping and replacing Section 230 to “stop censorship” he’s going to be mighty disappointed. First of all, it won’t stop content moderation — which, again, is protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution that Senator Lankford swore to protect and uphold. But it will lead to sites like Truth Social and GETTR (and lots of others) facing a lot more costly litigation. And would have no impact whatsoever on “child trafficking over the internet.”

So, Senator, either educate yourself, or find a better AI to write your tweets.

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Comments on “Today In Senators Who Don’t Know What The Fuck They’re Talking About Regarding Internet & Speech: Senator James Lankford”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Dear Senator Lankford:

The purpose of Section 230 was, is, and always will be to protect the right of websites to moderate content however they see fit⁠—especially “family-friendly” websites. If you’d like to know how I know this, I present to you the actual, factual, on-the-Congressional-record words of Republican lawmaker Chris Cox, who helped craft 47 U.S.C. § 230:

We want to encourage people like Prodigy, like CompuServe, like America Online, like the new Microsoft network, to do everything possible for us, the customer, to help us control, at the portals of our computer, at the front door of our house, what comes in and what our children see. …

[O]ur amendment will do two basic things: First, it will protect computer Good Samaritans, online service providers, anyone who provides a front end to the Internet, let us say, who takes steps to screen indecency and offensive material for their customers. It will protect them from taking on liability such as occurred in the Prodigy case in New York that they should not face for helping us and for helping us solve this problem. Second, it will establish as the policy of the United States that we do not wish to have content regulation by the Federal Government of what is on the Internet, that we do not wish to have a Federal Computer Commission with an army of bureaucrats regulating the Internet because frankly the Internet has grown up to be what it is without that kind of help from the Government. In this fashion we can encourage what is right now the most energetic technological revolution that any of us has ever witnessed. We can make it better. We can make sure that it operates more quickly to solve our problem of keeping pornography away from our kids, keeping offensive material away from our kids, and I am very excited about it.

(Yes I am using this copypasta again because goddammit it’s important to know what the people who wrote Section 230 were thinking when they wrote it.)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Imagine how stupid someone would be to ignore that resource

With so many politicians and other public figures confused as to what 230 says or was ‘meant for’ it’s such a shame that the people who wrote the thing aren’t alive any more to explain it…

I jest of course, while I’m sure there are a few people who’ve been lied to and have an honest misconception of 230 as a result a bloody senator has no excuse not to know better, so chalk up yet another lying politician who hates the first amendment and is attacking a fictional 230 to play to the gullible.

Lastly as always anytime someone tries the ‘social media is censoring people they disagree with’ garbage the question becomes what, specifically are they claiming that the platforms are ‘disagreeing’ with?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

My thoughts exactly, S.A. – why couldn’t Lankford (who doesn’t deserve any respect for the title he purchased) just walk down the hall and knock on Sen. Wyden’s door? Is he too lazy?

And wouldn’t it be delicious irony if Sen. Wyden came out publicly and asked that very question of Lankford: “Why didn’t you bother to ask the author of Sec. 230 what the intent was, instead of shooting from the hip with a misfiring gun? After all, my office is just down the hall from yours.”

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

Think music

If I have a club with live music, I can decide to invite only jazz bands to play in my club, because I know the patrons like jazz. The government can not tell me to schedule hard rock bands.

Facebook has a bigger club with multiple concert halls… they allow both jazz and hard rock (each in their own room). Now some senator is saying that Facebook should also schedule “racist hate rock” which neither management nor most of the patrons like to hear.

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

Just a reminder

Sec 230 was passed by a republican controlled Congress. So linking the purpose of the act to child exploitation, links the republican leadership to child exploitation… I really don’t think that was his intention, but when people go into bizarro-land this is what happens.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Legislation like Section 230..."

We all know that Section 230 preceded Backpage by almost a decade, and the honorable senator can’t possibly not know that, too, but no one ever bothers to delve into the slight of hand.

Just how much legislation is “like” Section 230 without BEING Section 230…?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:


Very little. Section 230 is brief, to the point, and essentially states basic common sense (the main thrust being “if someone does something bad, you sue them and not the owner of the property they used while doing it”).

But, as with some of the earlier constitutional amendments, for some reason language that seems very brief, clear and focussed seems to be the target of the most controversy when people start imagining it says something other than what’s written.

ECA says:

To funny

Lets ask where these folks are getting the information they have. How the hell are they creating an opinion, without Knowing anything about the subject, reading doc’s or anything about the statute.
We all have our idea of Who is trying to do this, but fighting against logic, even created in 1096(?) is abit on the real stupid side.

Could be?
Gov. trying to get a hold and control over what we see on the net
ISP’s trying to get a hold of something THEY think they Should control, as they cant compete With whats been created.
Can be Corps, they didnt Jump into the mash to get things started years ago, when it was cheaper to do it.
Can be Corps, Finally, Seeing the light that they Tried to smash in the past, Advancing to something they Never understood.
Could be the Corps who are upset, because now they cant control Price gauging as easy, or create a black market system Where prices HERE are not the SAME there.
Could be News giants not liking the Fast service thats being given to Everyone, insted of bottle feeding the people.
Could be a group, that dont want One nation communicating REAL time or REALITY of the rest of the world, to SHOW how Bad things are for each of us, if we did things abit differently.(news at 11, about Whats really causing the Crumble of the British medical system)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Crazy Partisan Assholes Complaining.

Someone wanna report on the spike in the use of gay hookup apps while they are in town?

The largest problem in this nation is that facts are now optional.
It can’t be that they are a rabid anti-Semite, its because they support ending abortion.
The removed content in question talked about how the jews should be rounded up and gassed in camps again but its easier to accept it must be their view on abortion that caused the removal.

The comforting lies need to end, we need to deal with the hard truths. That to appease a madman 800K people had to die to a disease we could have beaten if concern for our fellow man could have won over a death cult determined to kill its base to stay in power.

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