Guy Pushing Hawley's 'Viewpoint Neutrality' Concept In The Media Used To Write For White Supremacist Site

from the the-must-host-nazi-content-law? dept

Senator Josh Hawley's law to wipe out CDA 230 protections for internet platforms unless they apply to the FTC for a special certificate, which they can only get if they show 'clear and convincing evidence" that their moderation practices are "politically neutral," is dumb in many, many ways. But one of the most ridiculous parts is that it literally requires internet platforms to give extra weight to Nazis, and to punish any site that does not give the Nazis a platform. NetChoice made this point with its statement on the bill:

Sen. Hawley’s “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” would force online platforms to host politically extreme content that most of us would prefer to avoid online, such as views and videos produced by the KKK.

The bill itself does this by saying that you could not receive such a certification (to get Section 230 protections) if you had a policy that would:

"... negatively affect a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint."

That, of course, would include things like the American Nazi party. Or politicians espousing blatantly racist positions. Some have suggested that this was done on purpose by Hawley, though I'd hoped to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Still, in a bit of inauspicious timing, just about the time that Hawley was releasing his bill, Buzzfeed published an article about a former Republican operative with close ties to a bunch of white nationalists, who has been publishing anti-tech opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. One of those WSJ opinion pieces? It was entitled Keep Twitter Accountable Without Censorship with the subhed: "Social-media companies should lose their liability exemption if their rules aren’t viewpoint-neutral." Sound familiar?

The co-author of that WSJ piece is Mark Epstein. As Buzzfeed notes:

But Epstein, who worked for the conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, was a key figure in nativist and white nationalist political circles from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s. In 2006, he founded the now-defunct Robert A. Taft Club alongside [noted white nationalist Richard] Spencer and Kevin DeAnna, another leading white nationalist. Invited speakers to that club included influential white supremacist Jared Taylor and the journalist John Derbyshire, who would eventually be fired from the National Review in 2012 for a racist column.

Epstein also helped run Youth for Western Civilization, a far-right student group, founded by DeAnna and Taylor, whose members included white separatist and neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach. From 2004 to 2009, Epstein, under his full name, wrote for VDare, where his posts came with provocative headlines like “[Howard] Dean Is Right - GOP Is "The White Party." So?”; “It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Jim Crow" Is”; and “White Refugees And Culture.”

Epstein, for what it's worth, denies being a white nationalist or even having white nationalist beliefs, though you can read what he wrote and make up your own mind about his positions.

So, yeah, it's not the greatest look for Hawley's bill that the intellectual underpinnings supporting it come from someone at least closely associated with white nationalists, even as he denies being one, and one of the main impacts of the bill would be effectively forcing social media platforms to host Nazi content. And, yes, as some will point out, Nazis have free speech rights too. But no private platform has any obligation to host their deranged ideology and propaganda.

Filed Under: content moderation cda 230, josh hawley, macus epstein, mark epstein, politically neutral, viewpoint neutrality, white nationalists

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  1. icon
    Stan (profile), 21 Jun 2019 @ 3:37pm

    Ans a big fan of this bill would be...

    ... the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

    I'd love to see the Senator's reaction to this.

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