DOJ's Latest Ideas For Section 230 Reform Dumber Than Even I Expected

from the what-the-actual-fuck,-guys? dept

Ever since the DOJ started attacking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it was obvious that it was simply a ploy to attack big tech companies that are (unfairly) seen as being "anti-conservative." Remember, that Section 230 explicitly exempts federal crimes -- the kind of law enforcement the DOJ is engaged in. That is, there is literally nothing in Section 230 stopping the DOJ from doing its job. But as Barr and the DOJ continued to attack 230, it also became clear that this was going to be a wedge issue he could use to undermine encryption -- encryption that keeps us all safe.

Last month, the DOJ hosted a "workshop" regarding Section 230, and again Barr and the DOJ's agenda became quite clear. For all the talk of "dangers" to children online, the DOJ ignored the fact that it has failed to abide by Congressional mandates regarding fighting child sexual exploitation, and Congress itself has failed to fund programs it has put forth to deal with the issue.

At the DOJ's 230 hearing, plenty of speakers highlighted why messing with 230 would create all sorts of problems. Unsurprisingly, the DOJ has ignored all of that, and sent out Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to pitch four changes to Section 230, each one dumber and more counterproductive than even I had expected. The speech starts out with a misleading history of antitrust law -- the other big tool in the DOJ's toolbox to whack at internet companies -- and then gets to 230. If I have a chance I may get back to Rosen's antitrust discussion, but to keep this post from getting too long, we'll just focus on the 230 argument (ignoring the fact that evidence shows that 230 increases competition, rather than diminishes it).

Shifting gears just a little, as we focus on market-leading online platforms, there is another major issue that has come to the forefront: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 has played a role in both the good and the bad of the online world. It has no doubt contributed to new offerings and growth online. At the same time, as DOJ is the agency tasked with protecting the American public through enforcing the law, we are concerned that Section 230 is also enabling some harm.

"Some harm" carries a lot of weight here. Lots of things "enable some harm." Not all of them require massive structural changes. After giving some background on 230 and why it's been useful, he then turns to "the dark side."

But there is a dark side, too. To say the least, the online world has changed a lot in the 25 years since the original drafting of Section 230. The Internet is no longer made up of the rudimentary bulletin boards and chat rooms of AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy, but instead, it is now a vital and ever-present aspect of both personal and professional modern lives. Indeed, it is now quaint to think of the likes of CompuServe hosting online comments. Instead, major online platforms now actively match us with news stories and friends and, whether by algorithm or otherwise, effectively choose much of what our children see, and enable a seemingly limitless number of people to connect with us or with our children. And platforms are often themselves speakers and publishers of their own content, and not mere forums for others to communicate.

It's not that quaint. Many sites -- such as this one -- still rely on 230 daily. And when platforms are speakers and publishers of their own content, that content is not covered by 230. So it's not clear why that matters.

Now, a quarter century after its enactment, there also is recognition that Section 230 immunity has not always been a force for good, particularly in light of some of the extraordinarily broad interpretation given to it by some courts. For example, platforms have been used to connect predators with vulnerable children, to facilitate terrorist activity, and as a tool for extreme online harassment.

And, again, the DOJ has failed to prosecute many of those situations in which that violated federal laws. That's not on 230, that's on the DOJ. It also leaves out that 230 is what allows platforms to put in place programs to protect children, remove terrorist activity, and block "extreme online harassment. Rather than point that out, Rosen falsely suggests that 230 is to blame for it, rather than the reason it can be blocked.

The drafters of Section 230 might be surprised by this development. Remember, Section 230 was but one provision in the much larger Communications Decency Act of 1996. As its name suggests, the primary aim of the Communications Decency Act was to promote decency on the Internet and to create a safe environment for children online.

The drafters -- Chris Cox and Ron Wyden -- are both still with us. And both of them have made it clear in recent days that, no, they are not "surprised by this development." As for why 230 was a part of the Communications Decency Act, well, Rosen should read Jeff Kosseff's book. The CDA was a separate act, and 230 was attached to it by Cox and Wyden to enable platforms to have that moderation capability so that they could moderate, since without it, following the ruling in the Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy case, moderation would have been effectively impossible.

As it turned out, the Supreme Court rejected most of the Communications Decency Act on First Amendment grounds. The most significant piece that survived was Section 230. But rather than furthering the purposes of its underlying bill, some scholars have argued that Section 230 has instead immunized platforms “where they (1) knew about users’ illegal activity, deliberately refused to remove it, and ensured that those responsible could not be identified; (2) solicited users to engage in tortious and illegal activity; and (3) designed their sites to enhance the visibility of illegal activity and to ensure that the perpetrators could not be identified and caught.”

Those scholars are wrong. Nearly every major platforms works hard to remove such content -- and, again, if it violates federal law, nothing has ever stopped the DOJ from enforcing the law.

To address these concerns and the others that have been raised, we see at least four areas that are potentially ripe for engagement. First, as a threshold matter, it would seem relatively uncontroversial that there should be no special statutory immunity for websites that purposefully enable illegality and harm to children. Nor does someone appear to be a “Good Samaritan” if they set up their services in a way that makes it impossible for law enforcement to enforce criminal laws. In these particular situations, why should not the website or platform have to defend and justify the reasonableness of their conduct on the merits just like businesses operating outside the virtual world?

This is the most disingenuous bit in the whole discussion. Rosen and the DOJ are obnoxiously linking two separate issues into a misleading "but think of the children" argument. Separately, the word "purposefully" is carrying a lot of water in this paragraph as well -- especially since the EARN IT act does not say "purposefully" but rather has a "reckless" standard (which is already probably unconstitutional). The second half of the paragraph, about the "Good Samaritan" part is a direct attack on encryption -- basically saying that if you offer end-to-end encrypted services, you should lose 230 protections. This is bizarre and stupid at the same time.

First, messaging communication services rarely need 230 protections anyway, since those communications are private, between users. There's no moderation issues in the first place. Second, framing encryption that keeps everyone safe as setting up a service to make "it impossible for law enforcement to enforce criminal laws" is super misleading. Encryption protects us all, and law enforcement has a ton of other tools to do their jobs. The problem is that the DOJ hasn't used those tools and now just wants to whack tech companies.

Finally, the last line is utter bullshit. It's framed in a manner to suggest that companies offering end-to-end encryption are no different than those (never actually identified) platforms who "purposefully enable illegality and harm to children" and then saying they should have to "justify the reasonableness of their conduct." You shouldn't have to justify protecting your users from getting hacked. It's self-evident to everyone but this DOJ.

Next, Rosen tries to get around the fact that the DOJ has failed to actually do its job by still blaming 230... because it's blocking civil cases.

Second, the Department of Justice is also concerned about Section 230’s impacts on our law enforcement function, and the law enforcement efforts of our partners throughout the executive branch. In our discussions with scholars and members of the public on this topic, many are surprised to learn that Section 230 is increasingly being claimed as a defense against the federal government in civil actions. To be clear, Section 230 has a carve-out for certain federal criminal enforcement. But not all problems can be solved by federal criminal law. Federal civil actions play a very important role in their own right. The increasing invocation of Section 230 in federal civil enforcement actions often goes beyond the purpose of the Communications Decency Act, and can undermine the goals of 230 itself.

Can he point to an actual example of useful, reasonable, non-crazy civil actions blocked by 230? Because the very fact that he doesn't give any examples should give you that answer. 230 protects against frivolous ambulance chasing civil suits -- the kind we're already seeing from the last time we amended 230 -- and not legitimate lawsuits.

Third, we are concerned about expansions of Section 230 into areas that have little connection to the statute’s original purpose. As I mentioned earlier, the core of Section 230 concerns defamation and other speech-related torts. And for good reason: The restaurant review platform, for example, has no idea whether the user is right when he says the soup was cold or when she says the service was poor. Nor does the social media site have any idea whether the nosy neighbor’s online comments about the new person down the block are true or not. Civil immunity from tort litigation for online platforms in these instances makes some sense. The alternative would be a quasi-heckler’s veto, where the restaurant or neighbor could complain about the comments, and the platform would be forced to take them down for fear of civil liability.

But some websites have tried to transform Section 230 into an all-purpose immunity for claims that are far removed from speech. For example, some platforms have argued that Section 230 permits them to circumvent or ignore city ordinances on licensing of rental properties. While these types of arguments have not always succeeded, they demonstrate the potentially overbroad scope that some advocates have given the immunity.

This is a misleading summary of a complex issue. What's at issue is whether or not a service like Airbnb can be held liable for user listings on the site. But user listings are speech. Cities have every right to go after those actually posting the listings -- since they're the ones breaking the law. But many cities are trying to go after Airbnb directly, since it's easier to go after just one player.

And here's the big thing that Rosen absolutely leaves out: so far Airbnb has been losing in court. So for all his concerns that 230 is being used "beyond" what it should cover, the courts have already shut that aspect down (in my view, the courts have gone too far, in fact).

Fourth, we are concerned about the extent to which platforms have expanded the use of Section 230 to immunize taking down content beyond the types listed in the statute. Under the Good Samaritan provision, platforms have the ability to remove content that they have a “good faith” belief is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” We are told that some platforms treat this provision as a blank check, ignoring the “good faith” requirement and relying on the broad term “otherwise objectionable” as carte blanche to selectively remove anything from websites for other reasons and still claim immunity.

Perhaps there needs to be a more clear definition of “good faith,” and the vague term “otherwise objectionable” should be reconsidered. Of course, platforms can choose whether or not to remove any content on their websites. But should they automatically be granted full statutory immunity for removing lawful speech and given carte blanche as a censor if the content that is not “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, or harassing” under the statute?

If the attack on encryption is the most ridiculous, this part is the most frivolous. First of all, having the government determine whether or not moderation choices are made in "good faith" or if they fit outside of "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, or harassing" under the statute would almost certainly violate the 1st Amendment. Second, the removal of "otherwise objectionable" would create a massive problem for online moderation, and would, in fact bring back the "extreme online harassment" he was complaining about just a few paragraphs earlier.

Of course, we all know what is being dog-whistled in this prong: he wants to penalize platforms for "anti-conservative bias" and push for some nonsensical, impossible "neutral" standard for platforms who want 230 protections. But just the fact that this would wipe out the ability to block harassment, while at the same time he's complaining about harassment should show you how brain dead and backwards this proposal is.

This is not a serious proposal, but in this time and place, with the DOJ's backing, it has as serious chance of being put into law. It would devastate large parts of the internet, but that seems like collateral damage for a DOJ who is not focused on what's actually best for society and the economy, but rather what's best for itself.

Filed Under: cda 230, doj, encryption, intermediary liability, jeffrey rosen, section 230, william barr


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:10am

    Playin withnfire

    I’ll start off.

    The republican party has not done any good for anyone since Lincoln died.

    There do something

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:25am

    and to create a safe environment for children online.

    What does that even mean? Does it mean that all sites should be suitable for primary school children? If the site is not child safe, does a mandatory login, with real contact details become a requirement?

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:29am

    Big tech should have stayed away from content moderation period. Being self appointed arbiters of what is or is not hate speech they have embroiled them selves in the politics of the day. What ever they do, however noble, the other side will shout foul.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:43am

    Politics is a circus

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

  5. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 11 Mar 2020 @ 10:55am

    It's as if there are no smart people at the DOJ anymore.
    Not that they didn't do stupid things before. But that there are no smart people anymore.

    Gee, I wonder why.

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

  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 11:08am

    Anti Conservative bias level:orange

    BARRY FOR PREZ!

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 11:47am

    anything that can be done, that screws thye people, gives power to security services and makes money for politicians and the companies giving them 'encouragement', will be done! we need to wise up people! we are being forced into the position where a very few, extremely wealthy people are taking complete control of the planet, ably assisted by certain companies, industries and security heads, along with politicians who are personally gaining out of it! all our rights and freedom are being removed as quickly as possible and we are doing next to nothing about it! we are a sorry lot, really. when it all comes to their fruition, we a re going to deserve all we get and remember, we wont be getting anything back! greed and power is everything they want and they wont relinquish it!!

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    icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 11:58am

    what if'?

    "of people to connect with us or with our children. And platforms are often themselves speakers and publishers of their own content, and not mere forums for others to communicate. "

    Are we not supposed to monitor our own children?? Control things they say and do? Watch over them and protect them. Why in hell would you NOT, while they are on the net? as to speakers and creators, compared to CompuServe and prodigy, and AOL.. its more OPEN and safer NOW.

    " For example, platforms have been used to connect predators with vulnerable children, to facilitate terrorist activity, and as a tool for extreme online harassment. "

    3 parts here. the first is the PARENTS, not watching what the child is doing, esp. younger children. the second is something to do with the FBI and some interesting things they have done, and the 3rd is Back to the parents and school and being able to carry a computer in your pocket.

    " immunized platforms", ummm no. they are MORE liable, as they have to know who is saying what. In the old days they RELALY didnt give a damn.

    "(1) knew about users’ illegal activity, deliberately refused to remove it, and ensured that those responsible could not be identified; (2) solicited users to engage in tortious and illegal activity; and (3) designed their sites to enhance the visibility of illegal activity and to ensure that the perpetrators could not be identified and caught.” ",

    1 NOT their problem, its a tech thing FIRST and many DO get info on users(not in the past). Really sounds like a 3rd world problem, Whistle blower laws?? As with the OLD days, how did you do your job THEN?? It seems allot easier NOW.

    2 A site would do what?? Twisted? and illegal?? Which is Still illegal. (words like Tort, tortious have very interesting meanings)

    3. designed to Show ALL activity? So that we can See what is happening, and its NOT invisible, hidden Deep into a site??

    Only problem iv ever seen, is a group that demands ALL posts must stay. no matter what they are, from trolls to Child molesters to advertisers Spamming the site.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous, 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:04pm

    Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    How about this for a solution to one big problem. For example, some unstable person, Mr. Smith, posts on Yelp that Dr. Jones murdered someone. Dr. Jones complains to Yelp he is being defamed, no such thing ever happened. Yelp sends an email to Mr. Smith asking for the proof of a murder. Smith has none. Yelp removes the post and Dr. Jones life is no longer ruined. Is that so hard?

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous, 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:07pm

    Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    How about this for a solution to one big problem. For example, some unstable person, Mr. Smith, posts on Yelp that Dr. Jones murdered someone. Dr. Jones complains to Yelp he is being defamed, no such thing ever happened. Yelp sends an email to Mr. Smith asking for the proof of a murder. Smith has none. Yelp removes the post and Dr. Jones life is no longer ruined. Is that so hard?

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

  11. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:07pm

    he wants to penalize platforms for "anti-conservative bias" and push for some nonsensical, impossible "neutral" standard for platforms who want 230 protections

    He doesn’t want “neutrality”. He wants special treatment for what he perceives as “suppressed” speech — that is, speech he associates with conservatives. But that speech isn’t being suppressed unless he really wants to associate racist/sexist/xenophobic/anti-queer rhetoric with conservative speech. In that case, the problem lies less with the TOS of social media platforms and more with conservative rhetoric.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Playin withnfire

    Lincoln's republican party and the one today are not the same thing.

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

  13. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:20pm

    For starters, today’s Republican party likely would have kept slavery going.

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

  14. identicon
    rjj, 11 Mar 2020 @ 12:23pm

    Now, more than two centuries after its enactment, there also is recognition that (Section 230 immunity) the Second Amandment has not always been a force for good, particularly in light of some of the extraordinarily broad interpretation given to it by some courts. For example, (platforms) weapons have been used to connect (predators) bullets with vulnerable children, to facilitate terrorist activity, and as a tool for extreme (online) real life harassment.

    When one can easily replace a term in a sentence with another, it usually means there is something wrong with the logic of that sentence.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Counter example,mr. Smith is a scammer, and sends a notice for every bad review, how do people prove that their review is honest?.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    It means nothing but sounds good at a shallow glance. Call out this vapid bullshit and shame it whenever possible.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Yes, it is. Because the DOJ will want to see it forever, and your concerns are irrelevant. You exist to be an additional body that they can count as "on their side" when the war breaks out. Nothing more. Your job is to shut up, be counted in "their" numbers, and increase "their" numbers so they can strive fear into those who would dare question them. Now go on sheep, back to the barn with you. But don't think for a minute that we won't be getting up to the fraction of a second reports on all of your actions and thoughts. They have to prevent enemy uprisings from within too you know.....

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

  18. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    That is not Yelp's job. If true defamation took place, then the defamed can ask Yelp for Mr. Smith's contact information so they can sue Mr. Smith. It might take filing the suit against a John Doe and then getting the court to order Yelp to give up the contact info, but that is the way it should work.

    Also, that process is already in place, so no correction is needed to get it done. If there was no actual defamation then there could be no law suit and Dr. Jones can get some salve for his butt hurt. It is not Yelp's, or any other platforms' job to determine if actual defamation took place, that belongs in a court of law. Someone claiming they were defamed doesn't cut the mustard.

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

  19. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:40pm

    Re:

    People really need to stop assuming stupidity...

    Someone who can put together that much gross dishonesty and cloak it in prose to make it sound good if you don't think about it is not a stupid person, they are a dishonest one.

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    Explains why they like Reagan more...

    ...that was kind of mean...

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

  21. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:44pm

    'No, that is exactly what we meant.'

    With all the 'they didn't mean this', 'they didn't mean for the law to do that' it strikes me that there's a perfect opportunity for those that wrote the gorram law to make a nice public statement to point out that they did in fact mean for the law to do what it is doing, and that if the DOJ wants clarification of what the writers of the bill meant for it to do next time they can just call those people rather than make asses of themselves with assumption after assumption.

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

  22. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 1:49pm

    The DOJ doesn’t want clarification — because it would’ve already done what you said it should do.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 2:06pm

    Not every child needs to have a Smartphone connected to the web,
    its crazy to expect the web to have every website safe for a child,
    on tv theres news program,s . 18 rated films ,.documentarys about serial killers. even educational programs about lgbt relationships ,etc
    Parents have a duty to monitor what kids watch or what apps they use.
    Whats happening is theres some conservatives and legacy companys looking
    to weaken section 230 to reduce competition from startups and companys that innovate .
    similar to the way german publishers lobbied for laws to charge google
    or other tech startups just for using a link.
    or quoting a few words from a headline .
    IF you cannot compete in the market,
    being in laws to cripple or attack tech companys that provide a service that customers want to use.
    Will tv companys only be allowed to broadcast programs that
    are suitable for children to watch ?
    nO.
    the DOJ is looking for an excuse to weaken section 230,
    and maybe force tech companys to stop using encryption
    in messaging app,s .

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

  24. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 4:47pm

    Re:

    Oh absolutely, they want 'clarification' regarding 230 in the same way they want to have a 'discussion' regarding encryption; in both cases they want everyone to just agree with whatever they want and stops disagreeing with them and/or pointing out how utterly wrong they are.

    My suggestion was more aimed at undermining their talking point about how the writers of the bill didn't really mean for it to work as it currently is, a talking point which would be rather neatly torpedoed if the actual authors publicly refuted them. While they are certainly dishonest enough to pretend that the authors didn't say anything it would make it trivial to undercut them any time they tried that argument, forcing them to move on to their next dangerously stupid argument.

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

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re: Playin withnfire

    So basically today's republican party has never done anyone any good.

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

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 5:36pm

    Re: Re:

    Why not both?

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

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    Complete bullshit. You must be republican.

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

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Oh absolutely, they want 'clarification' regarding 230 in the same way they want to have a 'discussion' regarding encryption; in both cases they want everyone to just agree with whatever they want and stops disagreeing with them and/or pointing out how utterly wrong they are.

    We've already had the discussion and proven how wrong they are on both points. They're just going to keep talking nonsense until they get their way. "Discussion" is just a way for them to deny being wrong and keep talking.

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

  29. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 7:21pm

    No, they’ve done some good for some people.

    Mainly themselves, corporate executives, and wealthy people in general, but still.

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

  30. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 11:36pm

    Re:

    "What does that even mean?"

    It means they've had decades of experience of using the words "think of the children!" to deflect criticism of horrible ideas and stop honest debate that might stop them.

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

  31. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 11:37pm

    Re:

    "Big tech should have stayed away from content moderation period. "

    If they'd have done that, the neo-Nazi and other content they've been moderating would long have taken over the platforms and stopped advertisers even considering supporting them.

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

  32. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Playin withnfire

    "Lincoln's republican party and the one today are not the same thing."

    I've described this before but if we want to talk 'before' and 'after' when it comes to the republicans...

    Roughly 1950 the democratic party was traditionally and historically tied to slavery, racism, and wealthy southern magnates. At that point in time the republicans were still all manner and form of conservative - liberal, classic, fossilized, you name it.

    Then came Roosevelt and his post-war "New Deal" which came in two flavors. One part of which was the implementation of heavy federal regulation of industry and corporations, and the other part being an attempt to bring black people into political and government positions.

    The progressive part of the conservatives got on board with the necessary regulation of industry and largely switched to the democratic party. Meanwhile the racist trash almost all migrated wholesale to the republicans.

    And that's basically why todays republicans are anything BUT the "party of Lincoln". Up until sometime around George Bush Senior's presidency they were still a mixed bag of archconservatives, religious fanatics and racists. And then, pretty recently, the archconservatives completely lost their grip, leaving the braying mob of mindless bigots to run the GOP.

    Meanwhile the democrats remain the "concensus" party mortally afraid of anything which might rock the boat too badly. Which is why they keep handing the republicans one victory after the other, because any candidate they present - for anything - is as close to a nonentity as you can get.

    It's not a good set of political options. You've basically got the choice between malice intense enough to be inept at anything other than hatred, or ineptitude taken to the point where it gets real hard to differentiate it from malice.

    It invites comparisons of the young nazi party and the doddering ineffective weimar regime of pre-war Germany.

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

  33. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 7:47am

    Re:

    "When one can easily replace a term in a sentence with another, it usually means there is something wrong with the logic of that sentence."

    The existence of tipp-ex and the "backspace" button doesn't mean any given sentence is using broken logic.

    To whit, there's no workable analogy between 230 and the 2nd amendment, the first being an application of the first amendment, and the second being under what circumstances firearms in private ownership are allowed.

    And I believe that if the pro-gun crowd could get behind the concept of a "properly regulated militia" part of gun ownership the anti-gun crowd might prove accommodating.

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

  34. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Correct. This happened to me; someone made up a stack of lies about me and posted them on various review sites, then tried to get me fired from my job by posting links to the reviews on my employer's Twitter account. I got hauled into the office for it. He failed.

    Years later, resident troll Hamilton decided to post those links here in an effort to discredit me; he failed.

    Why did they fail? Because my own conduct and that described in the fake reviews didn't match up. Defamation claims only stick where there's actual harm. A bit of brown trousers time while waiting for the police to verify that I wasn't being investigated for the crimes the troll accused me of isn't actual harm; it wouldn't get past GO in a court of law and I wouldn't get £200.

    Why does this dead horse keep getting flogged? At this point it's just bits of bone and tattered, dried out skin. Give it up!

    Once more, for the hard of thinking:

    1. Defamation charges only stick if actual, measurable harm is done.
    2. Wild allegations about any individual tend to cause other people to check them out.
    3. Your good name can only be tarnished if people actually believe the things being said about you.
    4. People are less likely to believe histrionic allegations about you if your general conduct is good, so don't behave badly.

    This is why those commenters who name-call and make nasty comments about Mike and the team tend to get flagged as a matter of course, even if they make reasonable comments; we have come to expect them to behave badly, then whine about their comments being flagged. If people have come to expect you to be reasonable or at least well-behaved, that is less likely. When people check you out online, they build a mental picture of you, i.e. your story. If your message, i.e. the things you say online, contradict your story they won't take you seriously, e.g. that girl who called herself a badass for tracking down people who make mean comments about her being chubby and DMCA'd them. That is not badass, it's butthurt.

    So, then, if someone posts fake reviews about a generally good dentist, etc., few people will believe them, ergo, no defamation. If someone posts bad reviews about a generally bad dentist and people believe it, tough. No defamation because it's true.

    If bad reviews or unsavoury comments show up in the Google search results on a person's name, people will click on the links and take a closer look. If the person has contested the comments, the one looking him up will take a closer look to find out more and make a decision based on how the person conducts himself. If the conduct doesn't match the claims, no harm done. Better still, reputable review sites will remove false reviews if you can prove the posts were made by a troll, as I did.

    Why is this hard?

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

  35. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous, 12 Mar 2020 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Many people who post this type of defamation on the world's billboard owned by Yelp are looking for the notoriety, attention and money which could come with being sued. They don't have any assets to worry about and can keep posting and building pressure on the professional being defamed to pay them to stop. Each new day of the lawsuit gives them more to spew about. Now the professional has to bring more suits to deal with the continuing falsehoods. Yelp could easily moderate defamation just as it does hate speech or any other violation of their content guidelines. If someone claims someone else committed a murder you have to back that up with at least the police record, article etc. Yelp has plenty of minions cold calling 24/7, they can do some moderation.

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

  36. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2020 @ 1:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Nice try, John Smith.

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

  37. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 13 Mar 2020 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Simple Solution to most Internet defamation

    Many people who post this type of defamation on the world's billboard owned by Yelp are looking for the notoriety, attention and money which could come with being sued.

    Nonsense! My troll used a .ru email address. There was no way to track or sue him. And who the hell gets a) famouse or b) paid to tell lies on review sites? Stop it!

    They don't have any assets to worry about and can keep posting and building pressure on the professional being defamed to pay them to stop.

    I'm a professional and all I had to do was post a rebuttal, then contact Yelp to ask them to remove the post, which they did.

    Each new day of the lawsuit gives them more to spew about. Now the professional has to bring more suits to deal with the continuing falsehoods.

    Give me just one example of this. You can't, can you?

    Yelp could easily moderate defamation just as it does hate speech or any other violation of their content guidelines.

    They do moderate defamation. They got rid of the claim about me. All I had to do was prove it was a troll post, which I easily did; the troll kindly helped me out by posting similar crap elsewhere using a variety of pseudonyms. His accusations were so ridiculous they couldn't be taken seriously. I mean, if someone breaks the law and costs you money doing it, you go to the cops, not a review site.

    If someone claims someone else committed a murder you have to back that up with at least the police record, article etc.

    And if there's no evidence of even an investigation taking place for crimes like extortion, etc., and the cops are kind enough to put that in writing for you, that helps Yelp, etc., to understand it's a troll post and they take it down.

    Yelp has plenty of minions cold calling 24/7, they can do some moderation.

    Cold calling whom? They already moderate. If you can't rebut the assertions or prove the review is fake, tough tizzy.

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

  38. icon
    blademan9999 (profile), 17 Mar 2020 @ 8:16am

    Re: Playin withnfire

    Theodore Roosevelt?
    Anti trust actions, national parks?

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


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