Congressman Who Was Sued For Blocking Constituents On Social Media Now Also Wants To Undermine Section 230

from the it's-open-season dept

It's open season on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and everyone's got ideas. Not good ones, mind you. But ideas. The latest comes from Rep. Paul Gosar whose claim to fame is that six of his own siblings took out an ad to his constituents, telling them not to re-elect their brother. Gosar also has a bit of a checkered history of his own in terms of tolerating "free speech" online. Last year, he was sued for blocking constituents on social media -- leading him to agree to stop the practice in order to settle the lawsuit.

He's now introduced HR 4027, which is entitled the "Stop Censorship Act" (as opposed to Josh Hawley's Stop Internet Censorship Act). The full text of the bill is not yet up, but Gosar has put up a press release and Twitter thread about the bill, saying that it will revoke what he (incorrectly) says is the "unprecedented and unwarranted immunities given to Big Tech" and replacing it with an immunity only to remove "unlawful activity" and some sort of mandate to provide end users their own filter tools.

Rep. Gosar’s legislation would revoke the unprecedented and unwarranted immunities given to Big Tech for the censorship of ‘objectionable’ content but retains immunities when acting in good faith to remove unlawful material or when providing users the option to filter: i.e, Google SafeSearch, Twitter Quality Filter or YouTube Restricted Mode.

Big Tech has been given blanket immunity by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They claim ‘platform’s discretion for removing content but claim ‘publishers’ aren’t liable when they monetize their users’ content. Despite their claims, Big Tech does not always foreclose on violent or obscene behavior; in fact, they often monetize it- but they do police political speech. Therefore, Big Tech’s immunity should strictly be for good faith efforts to remove actual unlawful content.

First off, the description of Section 230 and what it does is simply wrong. It is neither unprecedented, nor is it unique to "Big Tech." Section 230 applies to everyone who hosts third party content. Second, the 1st Amendment would almost certainly bar Gosar's bill, as it appears to force companies to host content they might find objectionable (again, I find it incredible that the same party that insists bakers shouldn't be made to bake cakes for people they don't like is now insisting that internet companies must host speech that they disagree with).

While I actually like (and have repeatedly advocated for!) internet platforms to provide end users with tools to moderate their own content experience, to add that as a condition of granting immunity is ludicrous for a number of reasons -- not the least of which is most platforms (especially smaller ones) are unlikely to be able to afford such tools.

Either way, as with Hawley's bill, it's difficult to see this bill going anywhere or, if it does, passing even the most basic of Constitutional scrutiny. It's also hilarious, given that the original point of Section 230, written by Republican Rep. Chris Cox, was to encourage more platforms to choose to moderate their platforms to create "family friendly" spaces online. Now that same party is actively saying that platforms should never be able to moderate at all. Odd.

Filed Under: cda 230, paul gosar, section 230, social media, user tools


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 8:23am

    Finally

    I am glad someone is standing up to those folks at InfoWars and StormFront. Now I'll be able to post there without fear of getting blocked or banned. And if they try to stop me, armed Federal agents will shut them down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 9:32am

      Re: Finally

      Gosar probably thinks StormFront is a liberal false-flag operation. That's what he said about the nazis in Charlottesville.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 9:45am

        Re: Re: Finally

        Some far-right history revisionists are now posting claims that Democrats defend slavery, created the KKK and other racist themes. What they leave out of their claims is that, while partly true, the Democratic party of the time has become the Republican party and vice versa. Literally. The politicians in power leading up to the civil war traded sides after the war leaving those with a weak grasp on history with the impression that racism is a Democratic foundational element when, in fact, it was from those we now call Republicans.

        I'm beginning to think that Republicans in general are a false-flag operation. It's become impossible for any critical thinker to align with either party.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 9:48am

          The parties switching alignments and ideologies happened closer to (and partly because of) the Civil Rights Movement. The “Southern Strategy” is a relatively modern political strategy, after all.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:31am

      Re: Finally

      "I am glad someone is standing up to those folks at InfoWars and StormFront. Now I'll be able to post there without fear of getting blocked or banned."

      I don't know about Infowars, but Stormfront has this "Opposing Views Forum" where people are supposedly allowed to express their left-wing ideologies and criticism of the far-right (hopefully Twitter will someday adopt something similar) .

      https://www.stormfront.org/forum/f14/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:37am

        Re: Re:

        I think you missed the sarcasm in Gary's post there.

        hopefully Twitter will someday adopt something similar

        Why? Unlike Stormfront they don't ban random political viewpoints, they only ban viewpoints that say that some humans have less worth than other humans. You know, those viewpoints that generally lead to oppression and persecution of subsets of humanity.

        If you want to force Twitter to let people degrade and de-humanize other humans, then I have no sympathy for you.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re: Finally

        Stormfront and the like are forums for a particular viewpoint, so why do they think they should be able to force their way onto the likes of Facebook?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:48am

          why do they think they should be able to force their way onto the likes of Facebook?

          The First Amendment, sadly enough.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 11:15am

            Re:

            But, of course, it does not work that way.
            The first amendment protects the business from government censoring but does nothing to force citizens to listen.
            Not sure why some think the 1st means that everyone has to listen to their bullshit.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 1 Aug 2019 @ 12:50am

              Not so much 'think' as 'really want to be true'

              Not sure why some think the 1st means that everyone has to listen to their bullshit.

              Because they know full well that given the choice the majority of people would not listen to them and/or jump to a platform to do so, and as such want to force others to provide that platform and access to the already established user-base.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 11:27am

        Re: Re: Finally

        "hopefully Twitter will someday adopt something similar"

        Is this a suggestion for an M&A strategy of buying Gab?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 9:45am

    [T]he original point of Section 230, written by Republican Rep. Chris Cox, was to encourage more platforms to choose to moderate their platforms to create "family friendly" spaces online. Now that same party is actively saying that platforms should never be able to moderate at all. Odd.

    It’s not odd when you realize that a not-zero number of Republican/right wing talking points are often linked to (if not directly lifted from) White nationalist talking points. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter don’t want that shit on their platforms. Republicans such as Gosar see platforms saying “we don’t do that here” and booting such speech as an infringement of their free speech rights (it isn’t).

    What do Gosar and like-minded Republicans/right wingers want? It isn’t “viewpoint neutrality”, that’s for sure. What they want — and believe they are entitled to — is an audience. They think getting rid of Section 230 will magically give them an audience, if only because Twitter, Facebook, etc. can no longer stop them from reaching that audience. What they fail to realize is that without Section 230, those platforms would likely shut down all UGC operations, thus denying those politicians the audience to which they believe they’re entitled.

    I’d say assholes like Gosar can’t see the forest for the trees, but those assholes can barely see the trees right in front of their faces.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:00am

      Re:

      Would shoving the trees up their butts help them realize the trees exist or are they already too big of buttholes for them to notice?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re:

        My guess is that their buttholes are already occupied shitting on their constituents leaving little room for something to be shoved up it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:09am

    Yet another politician...

    wants to control speech on the internet. I wonder why there is a constitutional amendment against it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 10:35am

    Once again, Uncle Sam wears the mask of Autie Constitutional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 3:40pm

    He still fails

    Sweet.
    I will be able to tell this guy to ##### himself on his own account as many times as I want and he still won’t be able to do anything without breaking his own law.

    I love democracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 8:02pm

    Anyone??

    Want to give this person an ear full??
    PLEASE...
    First you have to gain his respect, because HE WONT listen to you unless,,
    Then SLOWLY leas him threw the ideas that MOST of the same laws of the Land, are about the same on the net..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 31 Jul 2019 @ 9:37pm

    "again, I find it incredible that the same party that insists bakers shouldn't be made to bake cakes for people they don't like is now insisting that internet companies must host speech that they disagree with"

    Based on religious dogma no less!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Aug 2019 @ 12:44am

      'No, but see, OUR beliefs deserve upholding, thiers don't...'

      Now there's an angle that could be fun to use...

      'Our deeply held religious beliefs are strongly against discrimination against traits such as gender, sexual orientation and race that are not chosen by those they apply to. As such our deeply held religious beliefs require us to remove people displaying such discrimination from out platforms and services, and as religious-based motivation has been found to be entirely justifiable by the courts it would be a violation of those beliefs to attempt to force us to keep such people on our platforms.'

      Watching what would probably devolve into 'that's nor your real belief, you're just saying that because it benefits you!' argument would be golden.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2019 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      I think some people are incapable of seeing their own hypocrisy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TDR, 1 Aug 2019 @ 9:18am

    And that goes for both sides. You decry the incident with the cake, but you never say whether you would want to be forced to act against your own beliefs. From your perspective, it's okay if it goes in one direction, against the people you disagree with, but not if it goes the other way, toward people you agree with. Now who's the hypocrite?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2019 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      You, actually.

      If your religion tells you that you should refuse service to people based on who they are because of something they had no choice in, then your religion is the problem, not the people you "disagree" with.

      The Constitution is perfectly fine with people refusing service to other people based on things that they have a choice in (how they do/don't dress, words they speak, political views, etc...). It's not ok with refusing service to people based on things they don't have a choice in (who their parents were, color of their skin, gender, etc...) One dehumanizes people and says they are inferior to other human beings, the other is merely a difference of opinion. See the difference?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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