Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie About Section 230?

from the it's-a-bad-trait dept

Richard Blumenthal has spent years trying to undermine Section 230 of the CDA. Unlike some Senators who have only just jumped onto the silly, counterproductive bandwagon, Blumenthal has been mad about 230 since long before he was even a Senator. Back in 2008, when he was Connecticut's ambitious grandstanding Attorney General, he attacked Craigslist because people had found some ads for sex work on the site. Again, this was protected by Section 230, so Blumenthal just kept threatening Craigslist until it finally made a change: rather than allowing its adult ads to be placed for free (as it had in the past), it required payment with a credit card, which Craigslist (quite reasonably) said would likely discourage more sketchy ads, and would leave a paper trail for law enforcement for any illegal activity. Blumenthal initially celebrated this victory... before turning around and grandstanding again two years later... that Craigslist was now "profiting" off of sex work because it was charging for those ads (ignoring that it only did so because he pressured them, even though he knew he was limited by 230).

Since getting elected to the Senate, Blumenthal has kept up this weird infatuation with hating the internet. He was also the lead Democratic sponsor on SESTA (which became FOSTA), the bill to chip away at Section 230, which has now been seen to make it more difficult for law enforcement to track down sex traffickers, and has put many women at risk.

Indeed, in the run-up to that bill passing, perhaps the most frustrating thing was that Blumenthal has a weird penchant to simply lie about Section 230 and what it did and how it worked. And then after the bill was passed, he flat out lied about what his own bill actually did. In a normal society, you might think that maybe journalists should call him on that.

Now, with his dangerous EARN IT Act being voted out of committee, Blumenthal is back to his old tricks. As reported by Newsweek, during last week's markup, Blumenthal made some statements about Section 230 that are simply untrue. Indeed, they're part of my omnibus post on wrong things people say about Section 230:

Blumenthal stood by the Act's design, saying: "There is no reason for these platforms to have blanket immunity, a shield against any accountability that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way."

Pretty much all of that is wrong. They do not have "blanket immunity." They have a narrowly limited immunity for (1) content they didn't create, and (2) for moderation choices they make -- not including any violations of federal law (which is what the EARN IT Act covers) or intellectual property. In other words, whatever immunity Section 230 does cover, it doesn't even cover the very thing that the Act Blumenthal is praising is focused on.

Second, the line about 230 being a shield "that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way" is also nonsense. Section 230 applies to every website. And these days, pretty much every industry is online and everyone has a website. Section 230 protects them all. It is not a special protection for one industry. And, since most of Section 230 is really just a procedural out for bogus litigation that would be barred under the 1st Amendment, I might want to remind Senator Blumenthal that everyone is also protected by the 1st Amendment.

But it really does raise the question: why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230. I get that it helped him jump up from Attorney General to Senator by falsely attacking a website that was protected by 230 and lying about it, but dude, leave well enough alone. You've done enough damage already.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: blanket immunity, csam, earn it, fosta, immunity, richard blumenthal, section 230, sesta


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 11:51am

    To answer your question:

    But it really does raise the question: why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230[?]

    Because it provided him PTSD from all the things people are saying against him in Connecticut and on this Website. 😛

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:10pm

    But it really does raise the question: why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230.

    So that he can get rid of i, and then use legal bullying tactics to control the contents of web sites.

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:20pm

    why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230

    Because lying about something he dislikes beats having to admit the truth — in this case, that 230 protects services from liability for speech he doesn’t like (e.g., criticism of him) that shows up on his social media feeds.

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

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:28pm

    Second, the line about 230 being a shield "that is not enjoyed by any other industry in the same way" is also nonsense.

    Oh come on, if every industry was liable for what others did, then road builders couldn't build roads, car builders couldn't build cars; just in case somebody else did something bad with them. Knife makers, gun makers, all sorts of explosives makers would be liable if others did something bad with the things they made. AND, all the different companies involved in communications (phones, equipment, backhaul, towers, even the people leasing the ground used for towers) would not do any of it if they could be sued because someone used a phone call to do something bad. When will the idiocy of correctly assigning blame to the wrong-doers be firmly established. The idea of suing Twitter, Facebook or other providers because one of their users did something illegal on the platform is just stupid. Instead of changing 230, we need a smart politician to put in place a law that immediately does a treble legal fee back-charge (plus a $100K nuisance charge) to anyone who files the frivolous lawsuits against the platforms when they are found innocent of any violations because they were protected by 230 (or let's throw in the 1st Amendment as well).

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:48pm

      Re:

      Instead of changing 230, we need a smart politician to put in place a law that immediately does a treble legal fee back-charge (plus a $100K nuisance charge) to anyone who files the frivolous lawsuits against the platforms when they are found innocent of any violations because they were protected by 230 (or let's throw in the 1st Amendment as well).

      I think what you're asking for is an anti-SLAPP law. I (and Mike Masnick) agree with you if that's what you're saying.

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 1:24pm

      Re:

      we need a smart politician

      Ohhh, I love it, an oxymoron describing a senatorial moron. ;)

      But as to the Federal anti-SLAPP business, I don't agree quite so much. Instead, I'd propose the following scenario:

      • Lawyers must take, and pass, a Continuing Education class focused solely on Sections 230 and 1A. A test of no small effort must be passed before a lawyer can present a case in court, showing that he's not acting friviously out of ignorance.

      Further:

      • Judges must also take and pass that same course, so as to be cognizant of what law is applicable, and to readily understand if the attorney(s) is/are properly presenting the case. This also works to let attorneys know that they won't be able to easily baffle a judge with bullshit.

      Lacking either of those two qualifications, no case can be brought to bar, period. That will bring most actions to a screeching halt, trust me.

      Finally, it is my sad duty to inform you that a legislative body full of lawyers is not going to make a law that penalizes one of their own brethren. Any forthecoming anti-SLAPP law will perforce have penalties, but they will of course devolve onto the plaintiff, not the representing attorney. I'd bet next year's paycheck that judges will not be required to sanction an attorney for being ignorant, nor even for being abusive of the law. Which is why my proposal above might be the better solution. (Predicated on a tough course, written by a small committee of highly-regarded law professors, and vetted by the ABA, and then passed into statutory law.)

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 10:49pm

      Re:

      No need to specify - nothing would be legal if the same liability were to be found. I could fashion any piece of clothing into something fit to strangle someone. I could bludgeon anyone to death with the majority of kitchen utensils. People die from falling over in bathtubs every year.

      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, 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:54pm

    Lemming, Lemming, Lemming of the CDA
    Lemming, Lemming, Lemming of the CD, Lemming of the CD, CDCD CDA.

    It's a man's life in the ... Canadian Dental Association(?)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:59pm

    The general rule us that when you're as thick as they come and unable to understand something, criticise and condemn it as much as possible, in as many ways as possible, for as long as possible, until more people become similarly as stupid and give the something up! Bullshit baffles brains so many more times than not!

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

  • icon
    Crazy Hong Kong Monkey (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 1:00pm

    Because he is a Dick?

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

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 1:07pm

    • all the above quotes*

    Oh come on, Mike - what's the first thing out of your mouth (well, out of your fingers at the keyboard).... it's always a variation of "follow the money". Blumenthal is being paid to raise a ruckus, that's all. The only thing that baffles me is, why isn't 4chan or Anonymous doxing the 'good senator', exposing his financials to the world at large.

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

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 1:47pm

    Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie?

    Because he is a politician? Because he is a pathological liar? Oops, I'm being redundant, sorry.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 2:35pm

      Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie?

      Oops, I'm being redundant

      Yes, you are; your tired "all politicians are the same" joke is identical to the one sumgai made twenty minutes earlier.

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

      • icon
        Upstream (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 3:43pm

        Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie?

        Yes, it is a tired joke, but one also tires of having to explain why it is unfortunately very close to the literal truth: Few people that are not serial, facile liars (as well as having various other psychological disorders) even attempt to enter the political sphere. Of those that do, most are not particularly successful and do not last very long. And most of the rest become serial, facile liars. Unfortunately, these liars tend to remain in politics because many people are gullible enough to believe the lies, or because they have no alternatives to vote for (see above). Of course, there are some (limited) exceptions: politicians who tend to be at least somewhat honest, at least about a certain range of topics. But one would do well not to examine even these too closely, lest one find things that one would rather not find.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 4:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To

          I see both points here. Well, after the responses. Then there was something a bit more insightful, as opposed to serial, facile tropes.

          I will certainly point out that some others are consistently involved with nothing but repeated tropes, that isn't necessarily your go-to gig, iirc.

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

          • icon
            Upstream (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 4:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need

            Yeah, I try not to do the trope thing, but sometimes the setup is so on-the-nose that one slips out, particularly when one is tired. There are many things that can tire one out: One tires of living in a country and a world where one's rights are continually violated and one's opportunities are constantly restricted by these lying control freaks who maintain their grip on power for countless generations. One tires of constantly hearing people say "We cannot change anything, so why bother even trying." One tires of people who lack the foresight to even make an effort to merely attempt to nudge the Overton window on good governance in the right direction, in the hope that someday, eventually, their society might be improved.

            Better?

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 5:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To

          Unfortunately, these liars tend to remain in politics because many people are gullible enough to believe the lies, or because they have no alternatives to vote for (see above).

          Politician 1 says something that sounds good to you. It will get you something you like without a cost to you. Politician 2 tells you there is no easy solution, and the thing you like is going to come at a cost, because everything valuable does. Number 1 is going to get the votes of a lot of people who would just rather believe what he is saying because it's easier and more pleasant than facing the truth. Is that gullibility, or a lack of critical thinking? Or both?

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 6:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need

            Both. They lack critical thinking because they don't understand the complexity and difficulty of the problems being discussed. They're gullible because they believe the easy lie over the hard truth.

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

          • icon
            Upstream (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 6:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need

            Gullibility v. lack of critical thinking

            You may be trying to make a distinction where there isn't any real, practical, significant difference. Semantic technicalities that do not matter to the point being made. Kind of like the "to-may-to versus to-mah-to" or "po-tay-to versus po-tah-to" things (I know these are aural and pronunciation distinctions, but I tried to write them out to illustrate the point).

            In any case, the problem of widespread gullibility / lack of critical thinking ability can generally be traced to an abysmal education system, where critical thinking is actively and aggressively discouraged.

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

            • icon
              sumgai (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 11:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The

              In any case, the problem of widespread gullibility / lack of critical thinking ability can generally be traced to an abysmal education system, where critical thinking is actively and aggressively discouraged.

              This!! I am indeed mortified at what the past several decades of the American education system has done to our country. Shameful, that's all I can say (politely).

              Oh, and I like 'critical thinking' more than my previous use of 'rational thinking'. To bad for me that I can't go back and edit my earlier post. Thanks for that. ;)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 2:37pm

    Why does he want to pull down 230?

    So why is he not a fan of 230? Check out who is donors are.
    https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/summary?cid=N00031685

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 3:38pm

    When the truth is not on your side, lie like a rug

    But it really does raise the question: why does Blumenthal always need to misrepresent Section 230.

    Because even he knows that his arguments are full of shit and can't be defended honestly?

    It's one thing to simply be wrong on a subject, that is perfectly understandable and excusable, but when someone is presented with new information to correct their previous incorrect views and refuses to change accordingly then it becomes clear that they aren't interested in an honest argument, and are simply making their argument because they have an axe to grind and/or think doing so will benefit them in some way.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 9:03pm

    Why Does Richard Blumenthal Always Feel The Need To Lie About Section 230?

    Why does Koby?

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

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 8 Jul 2020 @ 10:41pm

    Look Closer

    Most of the time these grandstanders have something to hide such as Mark Foley, Larry Craig and Eliot Spitzer.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Jul 2020 @ 12:35pm

    Grand standing..

    Ever love a person who grandstands, only to get What they want.
    Leave the Sex trades alone. They have been around since God made 3-4 Eve's..

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.