Confused Critic Of Section 230 Now In Charge Of NTIA

from the well-that's-unfortunate dept

Multiple experts on Section 230 have pointed out that the NTIA's bizarre petition to the FCC to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is complete nonsense. Professor Eric Goldman's analysis is quite thorough in ripping the petition to shreds.

Normally we expect a government agency like NTIA to provide an intellectually honest assessment of the pros/cons of its actions and not engage in brazen partisan advocacy. Not any more. This petition reads like an appellate brief that would get a C- in a 1L legal writing course. It demonstrated a poor understanding of the facts, the law, and the policy considerations; and it ignored obvious counterarguments. The petition is not designed to advance the interests of America; it is designed to burn it all down.

As we mentioned, it seemed likely that the petition was written by Adam Candeub, a lawyer who was only hired a few months ago by the NTIA. Readers may recognize Candeub's name because he represented the white nationalist Jared Taylor in a failed lawsuit against Twitter for kicking him off the platform. At the time of the lawsuit, I engaged in an email discussion with Candeub in which he tried to justify his lawsuit, and it included the same sort of nonsense and debunked legal theories we now see in the NTIA petition. In that email exchange, he told me that "Section 230 doesn't help Twitter" because "if an internet firm starts to edit or curate others' comments -- creating its own content, it loses this immunity." That, of course, is incorrect.

Indeed, the California courts agreed with me (and basically every other court) in ruling that Section 230 protected Twitter's decision to remove Candeub's client.

Of course, in the past couple of years since all of that went down, Candeub has continued his quixotic quest to reimagine Section 230 to say what he wants it to say, rather than what the plain language of the law, and basically every court on record (and the authors of the law) have said that it actually says.

And now he'll get to do that as the guy in charge of NTIA. Axios is reporting that Candeub has been promoted to become the acting head of NTIA. Given Candeub's activism on this issue it's an odd role for him, and, as has happened so often in this particular administration, a destruction of historical norms. NTIA has historically been extremely balanced and avoids direct political advocacy type positions. It certainly appears that it will be taking a different approach under Candeub, and that approach includes a blatant misrepresentation of key laws about the internet. Historically, NTIA has been an important agency in protecting the open internet -- but now it should be seen as hostile to such an open internet. And that's disappointing for its legacy.

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Filed Under: adam candeub, cda 230, executive order, fcc, free speech, intermediary liability, ntia, section 230


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2020 @ 4:21pm

    This is what happens with "acting heads".

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

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 4:28pm

    Not at all sadly

    Given Candeub's activism on this issue it's an odd role for him, and, as has happened so often in this particular administration, a destruction of historical norms.

    It's actually a perfect fit if you're the sort of person who really doesn't like what 230 actually says and want to either get rid of it or otherwise cripple it. Having someone who is grossly dishonest on the subject heading a government agency related to the internet is great and makes perfect sense when looked at through that filter.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2020 @ 4:33pm

    "if an internet firm starts to edit or curate others' ...

    Section 230 basically exists because some judge ruled this way once and even Congress realized that was a really bad idea. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratton_Oakmont,_Inc._v._Prodigy_Services_Co.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2020 @ 5:50pm

    Re:

    This link you posted does not exist.

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

  5. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 5:54pm

    Re: Re:

    That link came from a mobile device. Try removing the 'm' between 'en' and 'wikipedia'.

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

  6. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Aug 2020 @ 6:04pm

    That isn’t the problem. The problem is the link cuts off before the last period, which is necessary for the link to work.

    Working version of the link

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

  7. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 12:54am

    Confused Critic Of Section 230

    ...But you repeat yourself.

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

  8. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 7:25am

    Re:

    ...and for this Administration, all heads are acting heads, by design. No formal approvals, easy discharge when the mood strikes.

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

  9. icon
    dfed (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 2:56pm

    Stop giving "critics" of 230 the benefit of the doubt by calling them confused. These people know exactly what they're doing.

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

  10. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Aug 2020 @ 3:03pm

    Re:

    Depends on who you're talking about. For the average person who only gets their info on the subject by watching news or the occasional article online it's believable that they might very well be honestly confused, given how often people lie about the law.

    For people like politicians and Adam Candeub on the other hand they really have no excuse, as while they may have started out with an incorrect impression of the law when they start arguing it and/or proposing laws relating to it the absolute minimum that can be expected is for them to read up on it to see what it actually says and how it's been applied/interpreted over the years, such that if they're getting it wrong at that point it seems fair to assume that it's deliberate.

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


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