Senator Hawley's Latest Dumb Anti-230 Plan Would Wipe Out The President's Advantage On Facebook

from the how-are-the-dumbest-people-in-charge? dept

After having his little whine fest in the form of a toothless Executive Order about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, it was reported that the President has directly tasked Senator Josh Hawley to introduce a law that attacks 230. This was a fairly obvious choice. Hawley is a big Trump supporter, and Trumpian in his tactics. And, also, Hawley has been confusingly attacking 230 with questionable legislative ideas for quite some time now.

So, with this being put back on his plate, Hawley is apparently working on a new plan that is even dumber than his last plan. Specifically, according to Politico, Hawley's new plan will condition 230 protections on not doing targeted advertising.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is preparing legislation that could require major online platforms like Google and Facebook to stop selling certain targeted ads to keep key legal protections, according to an individual familiar with the plan that would strike the heart of industry giants' business.

This would, at a first pass, almost certainly be unconstitutional. Rewarding certain business models and punishing others based on what speech they allow is all sorts of problematic from a 1st Amendment standpoint. But we can cross that court case when we come to it.

What strikes me as even more notable about this is that... the biggest user of those targeted ads is... the President who asked Hawley to write this bill. Remember, it was just a few months ago that a Facebook exec was explaining that Trump's electoral success was due to his campaign running "the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period." And that was almost all via heavily targeted ads. From that same internal Facebook memo, a key part of the success was the use of Facebook's "custom audiences" tag, which is a key piece to its targeted advertising strategy (with custom audiences an organization uploads an email list and can automatically target "similar" users).

So, if Hawley's plan says that you can only get 230 protections if you don't do that kind of advertising, many companies would stop offering such targeted advertising in order to keep the 230 protections (and, for what it's worth, I think many companies would be better off dropping those ads and focusing on other types of ads -- but I don't think the law should compel them to do so, especially not in this manner). And thus, if that came to pass, it would actually take a weapon away from Trump... because Trump got mad at the platforms for fact checking him. Incredible.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, 230 reform, business models, cda 230, donald trump, free speech, josh hawley, section 230, targeted ads
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2020 @ 11:16am

    Yes...but no. As always, politicians will be entirely exempt from the laws written for us plebs.


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