Blaming Social Media And Section 230 For Mass Shootings Is Ridiculous; Stop It

from the that's-now-how-any-of-this-works dept

In the past, we’ve talked about how much of politicians’ obsession with regulating internet companies seems to stem from it being an easy way to deflect attention from their own policy failings. So many aspects of the complaints about social media are really just because social media has shined an extraordinarily bright light on the inability of the government to actually deal with underlying societal issues around mental health, social safety nets, criminal law… that then bubble up elsewhere. And it’s a lot easier for politicians to just point the finger at social media, rather than to admit their own failings.

This past weekend’s mass murder in Buffalo is just the latest example of this. We had already mentioned this, in passing, in our story on how Twitch taking down the live stream likely violated Texas’ social media content moderation law, but NY Governor Kathy Hochul seems to be doing everything possible to deflect any responsibility of the horrific incident, and pointing all the blame at social media.

Even though Twitch apparently took down the livestream in about two minutes, that wasn’t good enough for Hochul, who said that if it wasn’t down in a second, it was a problem:

The governor blasted social media platforms following the shooting, demanding companies be more vigilant in monitoring their content.

“This execution of innocent human beings could be live-streamed on social media platforms and not taken down within a second says to me that there is a responsibility out there,” she said.

She then went on Meet the Press this weekend to continue to deflect any attention from any of this other issues around mental health, law enforcement, etc., all of which are clearly much more central to this issue. But all of those implicate her actual failures. So instead, she focused on the evils of social media. Of course, it was Chuck Todd who brought it up, pointing the finger at Section 230.

CHUCK TODD: Well, let’s talk about holding these internet companies responsible. Obviously, there’s this law on the books that allows the internet to, sort of, escape liability on so many things that, frankly, we, as television broadcasters, cannot escape the same liability. Do you think they should be held responsible for the easy spread of this propaganda?

So, first of all, this entire line of questioning is bullshit. He’s obviously referring to Section 230, but he’s wrong. There is no law that holds TV broadcasters liable for the spread of propaganda. Propaganda is protected under the 1st Amendment, and lots of people are noting that many of the shooter’s ideas were, in fact, mainstreamed not on social media, but by people like Tucker Carlson.

So even if there were no Section 230, there is no cause of action for spreading propaganda.

Hochul, of course, is happy to take the lifeline and use it to blame social media for her state government’s own failings:

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL: I hold them responsible for not monitoring and alerting law enforcement. That’s exactly the issue here, is that it is fomenting. People are sharing these ideas. They’re sharing videos of other attacks. And they’re all copycat. They all want to be the next great white hope that’s going to inspire the next attack. We can’t let that continue. And we know where it’s occurring. It’s not happening in the basement of a KKK meeting anymore where you have a limited number of people who are succumbing to these evil influences. This is happening globally. They’re looking at what happened in New Zealand and what happened in Pittsburgh and what happened in South– they read this. They absorb this. This becomes part of their mentality. And they share it with others through the internet. And that’s the responsibility of the internet and of the individuals who are responsible are the ones who own these companies. And I’m going to be talking to them directly.

Look, lots of us can agree that this kind of speech is troubling, and the ability of these ideas to catch hold speaks poorly to a lot of things. But again, the speech is protected by the 1st Amendment, and you can’t just magically make that disappear. The real issue, again, gets back to things that actually are under Governor Hochul’s mandate: improving mental health care, and improving education to make people less susceptible to this kind of nonsense.

But rather than talking about that, it’s easier to point blame at the internet. Bizarrely, Chuck Todd (after insisting, falsely, in his previous question that TV broadcasters can be held liable for spreading propaganda) then points out that TV commentators can’t in fact be held liable for spreading propaganda, because of this pesky free speech thing.

CHUCK TODD: We also have TV commentators and some political figures that, sort of, appease this right-wing extremism. Sort of, you know, anybody that pushes back, maybe they come after it on speech grounds, freedom of speech or things like this, that it certainly seems as if there is a growing virus on the far right here that is spreading dangerously.

So, now you admit that the 1st Amendment is, indeed, what prevents people or companies from being held liable for propaganda (but you still got your false dig in at the internet). But Hochul then pulls out basically all the ridiculous 1st Amendment tropes, including “I support the 1st Amendment, but…” and “fire in a crowded theater.”

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL: And they need to be held accountable as well. And any government leader that does not condemn this and condemn it today is a coward, and they’re also partially responsible. So let’s just be real honest about the role of elected leaders. And what they need to be doing is calling this out and not coddling this behavior and saying that, “Well, that’s just young people and they’re sharing their ideas.” Yeah, I’ll protect the First Amendment any day of the week. But you don’t protect hate speech. You don’t protect incendiary speech. You’re not allowed to scream “fire” in a crowded theater. There are limitations on speech. And right now, we have seen this run rampant. And as a result, I have ten dead neighbors in this community. And it hurts. And we’re going to do something about it.

Whether you like it or not, hate speech is absolutely protected under the 1st Amendment. And that’s probably for a good reason, because elsewhere we see time and time again how hate speech laws are abused to silence people criticizing the government or the police.

If you want to do something about this, focus on things you actually can do: mental health, education, social safety nets so people don’t feel abandoned. These are the things you’re supposed to be doing as government officials. Helping society. Not blaming speech you don’t like.

And it’s not just Kathy Hochul trying to deflect and point the blame finger elsewhere. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s first instinct was to blame Section 230:

Same with Senator Tim Kaine who blamed… “Big Tech” even though the shooter himself said he was radicalized on 4chan, which I don’t recall being included with the big tech companies in any listing.

Again, all of this is deflection. Big tech is an easy punching bag, even if there is no evidence it has anything to do with anything. And, it ignores that the 1st Amendment protects even speech we dislike.

These politicians have failed us, more broadly, by failing to protect the most vulnerable in society. They’ve failed to put in place the kind of educational resources, mental health care, and societal safety nets to help those who most need it. And, now, when the results of those failures explode like this, they want to blame social media, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than looking at their own failings.

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Comments on “Blaming Social Media And Section 230 For Mass Shootings Is Ridiculous; Stop It”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
jojo_36 (profile) says:

This is ridiculous

So the first instinct of a politician in reaction to a mass shooter posting their stuff on an website… is to blame the law that allows said website to moderate in the first place. This is like first instinct of rebuking a DUI incident is to call for a second prohibition.

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

Elise Stefanik, who has knowingly and provably pushed the “Great Replacement” myth, kept pushing the myth on Twitter even after the shooting (and after she had issued the press release equivalent of “thoughts and prayers”). And that bullshit is both darkly hilarious and depressing in equal amounts for the same reason: She seems to lack the sense of shame that would make the average person recoil in horror at themselves.

Can’t wait to see how Tucker Carlson says he isn’t responsible for his stochastic terrorism by way of his advocacy for that racist myth. That ought to be similarly hilarous/depressing.

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

Re: Re: Re:

This kind of radicalization started well before Old 45 even thought about running for office. The election of Barack Obama brought a shitload of racists out of the woodwork, after all. Trump only made their extremist thinking and racist rhetoric more acceptable, more normalized, more…oh, let’s say mainstream.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Adam Twine says:

Re: Re: Re: MSM & Democrats to blame

when will democrats stop lying?
when will main stream media stop amplifying those lies?

Russian collusion with Trump…lies
Ukraine phone with Trump was insurrection…lies
Hillary campaign wasn’t involved is making up Russian story…lies
Trump is a racist…lies
Jan 6th was an insurrection…lies
Biden is mentally competent…lies
Russian invasion of Ukraine has nothing to do with Biden…lies
Riots were mostly peaceful…lies
All white people are racist (unless a democrat)…lies
Hunter Biden laptop was Russian op…lies
Joe Biden is a honest person that hasn’t stolen millions…lies
Lockdowns worked & saved lives…lies
CRT is good to teach kids in elementary & HS…lies
BLM helps poor black people, not the few running the organization…lies
Democrats’ policies in cities are helping black people…lies
Democrats want to unite the country, not divide it…lies
The border is secure & no terrorists/drugs are coming in daily…lies
Inflation in USA is Russian’s fault…lies
Biden got vaccine done & responsible for quick response…lies
KKK is a major force in USA today…lies
Democrats didn’t create the KKK…lies
on and on and on………

You got to be living under a rock if you believe anything coming out the democrats or MSM mouths…no wonder no one watches those channels anymore…fact

Anonymous Coward says:


It seems Kaine still believes it’s sensible to divide humans into categories like “Black” and “Caucasian”—a concept that was invented to oppress and never had any scientific basis or support. In fact, it remains a mainstream belief even in groups claiming to oppose racism.

That’s gotta be part of the problem. We should be admitting that the whole idea of dividing people into “races” is offensive and harmful. Studies have shown that all it takes to get people to turn against each other is to divide them into two or more groups—even if they’re formed by nothing more than a coinflip, people will invent reasons why their group is great and the other is flawed. It’s like the caste system in India—supposedly disbanded, but every kid knows what caste they and their associates are “part of”, government papers still ask about it for “affirmative action” purposes, and how can an idea go away when people keep mentioning how much it doesn’t matter? (“Don’t think about the elephant!”)

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

Re: Re:

We should be admitting that the whole idea of dividing people into “races” is offensive and harmful.

Admitting that truth is one thing. Dismantling the systems made by people who believe in racial separation⁠—and the institutions which prop up those systems and those beliefs⁠—will prove a far harder task. Those who benefit from those systems and institutions will resist change that could take away power and privileges they’ve held for God knows how long.

Hell, one of the reasons you see certain people pushing the “Great Replacement” myth is because a lot of conservative white folks can see how their power might diminish in the face of an increasingly diversifying American population. Diluting the power of that diversity by any means necessary⁠—from the political attacks on voting rights to the lethal physical attacks on actual people⁠—has become the Republican cause. In that sense, the Republican party has become one of the institutions that prop up white supremacist beliefs.

(And before anyone goes there: No, Democrats aren’t angels. But at least they try to at least pay lip service to diversity, even if they don’t follow through by delivering major policy wins to the diverse Democrat voter base.)

Within your lifetime, you will likely never dismantle the systems that create racial. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try⁠—but you would do well to be honest with yourself about how much progress you can make.

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

Re: Re: Re:

I’m reminded of Jane Elliot’s famous (infamous?) Blue eyes/Brown eyes exercise which showed that the mere act of dividing people up in groups and telling the group with blue eyes that they are inferior to the other group with brown eyes causes psychological damage.

Now, apply that finding to racism which incidentally was the whole point since Jane Elliot was motivated by the killing of MLK Jr.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Psychological damage from division occurs because of the words and actions motivated by the division, not by the existence of the groups themselves. Splitting people into groups of “blue-eyed” and “brown-eyed” is not the source of the harm. We already have those groups, but we don’t talk about them because society as a whole doesn’t consider eye color alone to be worth talking about. The harm in the study is due to the poisonous idea associated with the division: “blue-eyed people are inferior to brown-eyed people”. There would be even more harm if the government were to reinforce and instill this thinking over several years. American society has been steeped in the idea of “these races are inferior to this race” for over 200 years. The poison which permeates our social institutions and our system of government won’t go away if we suddenly reject the existence of races.

If we were to stop using words to describe race, racist people would continue to harass, hurt, and kill those whom they perceive to be different from them. The problem will still be there, and we will be unable to solve the problem without the words necessary to talk about it. Race has no biological basis but exists in the social realm and has real consequences. Race in the US exists because for centuries white people turned their in-group/out-group thinking into physical violence, spoken words, and written law. In other words, races exist because of racism. We cannot get rid of racism if we get rid of race. Getting rid of racism requires changing our laws and institutions to address disparities correlated with race.

I highly recommend that anyone who thinks that we should stop talking in terms of race read a few pages of Ian Haney López’s paper “The Social Construction of Race: Some Observations on Illusion, Fabrication, and Choice“. Key quotes from page 20:

Taking all too seriously the assertion that races are illusory, Killian argues that the word “race” should be banished from our lexicon since it reflects “‘bad thinking.”‘ More importantly, he argues that since races do not exist, neither should legal schemes of racial remediation, like affirmative action or employer set-asides. Killian avoids debating the real merit of these efforts by seizing on the non-existence of race. Whatever one thinks about these programs, their demise should not come about because race is pronounced a non-word.

To cease speaking of races in order to hide from the racists would hinder our understanding of the way people think about their daily lives and obfuscate the very real connection between who we are and what we look like. Nevertheless, we must prepare for the racist appropriation of our arguments. Accepting the risk that describing social race facilitates cultural racism does not absolve us from the responsibility of combating that usurpation.

ECA (profile) says:


“inability of the government to actually deal with underlying societal issues around mental health, social safety nets, criminal law… that then bubble up elsewhere.”

Funny thing in all of that, that there are those that TRIED to change things. for the better, with understanding and compassion.
But PART and PARCEL of the problem is that SOMEONE dont like it, so they set you up to fail.
Say you have this GREAT prison. and it REALLY helps and teaches those inside, Something that SHOULD HAVE, been done outside. But you are a prison. And they dont like complications, and they send a few inside to MESS things up.
1 prison doing it, dont work, getting ALL of them to MAKE things better Helps. But if a group/person thinks it shouldnt be that way, can F’ all of this up with a few inmates, that SHOULD NOT BE THERE.

But it would be nice to place those Special people that have NOWHERE’ that wont conform, into places that they can do little to affect the REST of those that CAN BE HELPED.

NOW to the corps that keep screwing with the economy.

Anonymous Coward says:

We need to start making a list...

Showing that everything they hate about Section 230 has to do with the 1st and 4th Amendments.

I don’t think they care enough to understand but all 230 does is get fivious lawsuits dismissed faster without the defense having to invest lots of money just to reach the same end result.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“says to me that there is a responsibility out there”

Well then, by all fucking means why don’t you show us your solution that is faster & better than what Twitch is doing.
Be fucking specific or just admit you’re a pandering fuckwit who wants to shift the conversation away from how someone referred for psych eval after making threats was still able to get a gun in your state.

Dearest Debbie,
They are already screaming they are being censored online, perhaps have a chat with your fellow members about how fucking wrong it is to keep promoting the big lie, jan 6 was peaceful, Rand Paul isn’t a nitwit, & so many other things.
The platforms aren’t creating the message, the people sitting aroudn you doing fuck all to stop the endless pray, grieve, repeat cycle by sending thoughts & prayers and not mental health cash or a single fucking thing to stop someone who told people he wants to kill other people from getting a weapon without even an eyebrow being raised.
Fuck you, fuck your party, fuck the members.
You all have FAILED to make the nation better, instead trying to blame ‘big tech’ for your inability to even pass a fucking budget without running the nation to a cliff over and over.

Fuck you, fuck your ilk. Own your failure & stop demanding that others do the hard things you can’t even be bothered to try to solve but are sure a private corporation can do better than the government… to be fair, a troop of girl scouts could run the nation better than any of you have for a very long time… perhaps y’all should just fuck off & let others have a turn… its hard to believe they could do any worse than the 1mm high bar y’all have set.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately in a free open society some people will use that freedom to spread hate speech and fake news conspiracy theory’s but its easy to go on tv blame Big tech for every problem , why is there not mass shootings in France Italy Germany , outside America, one reason is they have strict gun control laws, you cannot go to a supermarket and buy rifles and automatic weapons, only certain people can get a gun licence.
Texas has new laws to make it easy to buy a gun unless you have a criminal record.
There are 1000s of people streaming on twitch, some have only a few viewers, I think twitch did well to remove the stream in 2 minutes. Maybe the fbi should be seeking out extremists on discord or other forums to try and stop these shootings before they happen

Cattress (profile) says:


Let’s be careful here when talking about gun laws. First, buying a fully automatic gun is nearly impossible for the vast majority of citizens. Yes some people have them, legally and not, and there are modifiers than can make a semi operate the same or nearly as automatic. Walmart has a sporting goods section, some that sell hunting rifles and pellet guns of sorts. No one is going to the local Kroger’s or Acme and picking up a Bushmaster, Glock 17 or Browning with their frozen peas and bacon.
NY actually has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, including background checks, & red flag laws that have a tendency to get the disabled killed by cops disproportionately. But you are dead on about authorities not acting when there is a credible threat.
This kid, just like Cruz in FL, the TX church shooter, the kid in Michigan, all had red flags. I’m not saying that any of these attacks could have been prevented absolutely, just that there was plenty of publicly known reason and at least one contact with authorities for them to be on the radar of cops, FBI or even homeland security. Why didn’t this kid get regular follow ups after the threat to school that landed him in the psych ward for an exam? I’m not saying harassment, or invading his privacy. I’m talking about continued mental health services, involving his family, and examining his publicly available social media. Flag him for gun purchases for a temporary period, talk to the family about making sure they don’t have any guns he could get. He might still get one illegally, but the easiest routes would be shut down temporarily. This is just like blaming social media for CSAM, but not using the law to go after the purveyors.

Troy Conder says:

Re: hmmmm

first, you can’t buy automatic weapons legally in USA. more people are killed by knives each year in USA than guns.

Mexico has stricter gun laws than the European countries you mentioned but that country is overrun by cartels. Canada meanwhile is mostly safe. Than again, big USA cities (NYC, DC, LA, Chicago, etc) make legal gun possession nearly impossible and yet those cities are some of the most unsafe places in the world. Making guns illegal is not the solution for USA. The big cities & Mexico have shown this doesn’t work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

they just go after Muslim terrorists

You mean they turn ordinary people who happen to have brown skin into terrorists.

Over the last couple of decades, has the FBI foiled a single terrorism case that they didn’t contrive themselves by duping gullible people into agreeing to commit crimes?

Sabroni says:

Re: All the people yammering about gun control law

Live in countries with more restrictive laws which don’t have the problems with citizens massacring each other that you do.
You compare knife crime to gun crime like that fucker in a las vegas hotel could’ve done that damage with throwing knives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Their attitude to guns is very different to the US. Carrying a loaded gun of the range is illegal, and when not in use, the gun is in a locked cabinet, with ammunition is a different locked safe. It is much harder to shoot someone in anger, when you have to unlock safes to get the gun and ammunition, and load the gun first. That is, for everyday life, Switzerland is an unarmed society.

Shaun says:

I think the reflexive defense ignores that there continues to be legitimate concerns in society about the spread of hate speech, disinformation, and its connection to violence and its ability to enable violence. While it is clear that other countries do many of the things the author of this post suggested (better social support, mental health care, stricter gun laws) it is also the case that many of these countries also don’t hold to the same absolutist position on free speech we do either.

At some point a society has to ask itself how and in what ways it wants to bind the people within it to rules and norms that allow society to exist and not be constantly under threat from violence. For myself the argument that “more speech equals better speech” is obviously not working, and there has to be some discussion about what we as a society want to change about that, or resign ourselves to these cycles of violence.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Next time, quit beating around the bush and say what you want to say: “I want to ban hate speeech.” Then tell us how to define “hate speech” in such a way that you can make a legal distinction between what is and isn’t “hate speech”. Then tell us how you plan to get around every bit of First Amendment jurisprudence that has held how what people colloquially refer to as “hate speech” is legally protected speech.

Once you do that, we can have a real conversation about your bullshit. Until then, I leave you with a lesson: Implying you want to censor speech is no better than outright saying you want to censor speech.

Shaun says:

Re: Re:

And this folks is why we can’t have nice things. Would anyone talking to another person in real life tell them that what they said is “bullshit” when the other person has not used any invective or called the original post “bullshit.” Jesus. Debord was right when he said in the future we all would be able to air opinions but have it mean nothing and no real dialogue.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Would anyone talking to another person in real life tell them that what they said is “bullshit” when the other person has not used any invective or called the original post “bullshit.”

You can be as polite as you want with all your speech. But you deserve to have your point called bullshit if your point is indeed bullshit.

You have a right to speak your mind. You don’t have a right to make everyone be polite or act as if your arguments are credibile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Would anyone talking to another person in real life tell them that what they said is “bullshit” when the other person has not used any invective or called the original post “bullshit.”

They may well do.


And some of those same people happy to use “bullshit” may take great offence at perceived blasphemy.

Shaun says:

Re: Re:

I’ve only recently found this site and have appreciated many of the thoughtful even handed posts about Twitter, content moderation, etc and have shared them with others in discussions about Musk buying Twitter etc. I was hopeful due to that I could post and engage people around these conversations. I was wrong. Just like was mentioned in the recent Twitter/Musk posts you can allow any and all sorts of speech and behavior but people don’t have to engage your platform. Well good job sir, you’ve proven that point. Sayonara!

Anonymous Coward says:


and there has to be some discussion about what we as a society

Propose some solution that does not involve appointing someone as the arbiter as to what is acceptable. And by the way. As soon as you empower some people as arbiters of social norms, you have created an authoritarian state, and those are not free from violence, but are rather better at hiding it. Indeed, under such regimes the governments becomes quite violent towards their own citizens.

David says:

Re: Re:

As soon as you empower some people as arbiters of social norms, you have created an authoritarian state, and those are not free from violence, but are rather better at hiding it. Indeed, under such regimes the governments becomes quite violent towards their own citizens.

That’s a lot of projection and absolutist claims. The history of democracy is full of derailings and failures. And nobody has been able to find the silver bullet so far that keeps it working well. And part of the reason is that expertise requires dedication, so the voters as decision-makers are unqualified. Representative democracy is the band-aid and still requires making a leap of faith regarding the choice of experts. Or rather the choice of executives since they rely on the input of full-time experts for their decision-making.

It’s all a precarious setup and yet the best we can manage in respect of making people a responsible part of the decision-making affecting them.

Your simple recipes are just too simple.

Rocky says:


While it is clear that other countries do many of the things the author of this post suggested (better social support, mental health care, stricter gun laws) it is also the case that many of these countries also don’t hold to the same absolutist position on free speech we do either.

Most other countries that doesn’t have an absolutist position on free speech haven’t either a politicized court system and a population that are feeling like victims that must sue for every little perceived slight. A system which appoint judges by popular vote or political nominations will soon be gamed into the ground – and the US legal system has been heading that way since its inception.

David says:

See? Deflection works!

In the past, we’ve talked about how much of politicians’ obsession with regulating internet companies seems to stem from it being an easy way to deflect attention from their own policy failings.

You fell for it. They successfully deflected attention from their own policy successes. Labeling the result a failure lets them have their cake and eat it, too.

Tangentially, I’d really like to perform a zombie popup quiz on Abraham Lincoln of the kind “half of those candidates are seen as “Republicans in name only” and half are considered party namestream. We’ll run their political speeches and you’ll hit the buzzer when you think you know who’s who.” It would probably not take all too long for him to ask “are you sure it’s my brain that has been eaten by worms?”

Yes says:

Gaslighting and denial

The author’s mindset is akin to the pro-gun movement. We can see our society falling apart with extremist opinions and false or misleading information being transmitted via social media. Everyone wants to be seen and popular.

Society is regressing to medieval and barbaric times except with technology. Gotta love the influencers and those who’s only source of “facts” is from social media and forums.

nerdrage (profile) says:

we have all the evidence we need

The way to stop gun deaths is through stronger gun control laws. There is evidence from all over the world for this, including countries with abundant social media use and violent pop culture, including video games, that have much less or no gun deaths to speak of. Because they have strong gun control laws. The correlation is obvious and clear. If people continue to block gun control laws, then the deaths are on them.

David says:


Interestingly, this includes Switzerland where there are laws for keeping military-issued (and checked) guns and ammunition in a plentitude of households. Sort of what the “well-regulated militia” bit of the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. constitution is actually about, while the “2ns Amendment advocates” interpret this more as “self-entitled militia”.

Anonymous Coward says:

threats of violence and acts of hatred towards marginalized groups, or anyone, are not protected by free speech. Big difference between hate speech and PLANS TO EXECUTE A MASS ACT OF VIOLENCE. All of these shooters are yt men who hate women and announced their plans online. Section 230 also allows people to get away with revenge porn, and targeted harassment. It absolutely needs to be reformed.

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