Congressional Republicans With No Strategy On Pandemic, Healthcare, Societal Problems... Have Decided That The Internet Is The Real Problem

from the culture-wars dept

We've pointed out just how ridiculous it is that Congress seems wholly focused on destroying the open internet by gutting the Section 230 protections that enable the open internet to exist in its present form. We're in the midst of a variety of pretty major issues, and yet Congress is introducing new anti-internet and anti-tech bills like it's last call before the bar shuts down.

The reason for this is not that hard to grasp, really. As Politico reports, the Trump administration has decided that a culture war against the internet is the best election strategy right now:

The Trump administration is pressuring Senate Republicans to ratchet up scrutiny of social media companies it sees as biased against conservatives in the run-up to the November election, people familiar with the conversations say. And the effort appears to be paying off.

In recent weeks, the White House has pressed Senate Republican leaders on key committees to hold public hearings on the law that protects Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies from lawsuits over how they treat user posts, three Senate staffers told POLITICO. They requested anonymity to discuss private communications.

As the article notes, most of these new anti-internet bills are coming from Republican Senators who are engaged in big political fights and want to retain the backing of the President. The focus on "big bad tech" serves to accomplish multiple goals:

  1. Culture war: These are always popular during election seasons. Politicians need to get people riled up while pretending that they're "doing something." So starting culture wars is a common past time during election seasons.
  2. Distraction: We're still in the middle of a pandemic in which thousands of people are dying. We're still in the middle of an economic crisis with record unemployment, and massive impacts to people all around the country. We're still in the middle of a social upheaval as more and more people are speaking out against police brutality. We're still in the middle of huge climate issues, including devastating wild fires up and down the west coast and devastating hurricanes in the south. Fighting with internet dweebs is a distraction.
  3. Fundraising: It's common knowledge in DC for politicians that if you need to bump up your coffers, you introduce important legislation about an industry that is doing well, because it leads them to suddenly start throwing money into the campaign funds of folks on all sides of the issue. Tech is an industry that has been doing well, so why the fuck not?
  4. Working the refs: A key strategy of Republicans lately has been to try to use this "oh, poor us, we're the victims" snowflake mentality to pressure social media companies to treat them with kid gloves when it comes to handling the propaganda and misinformation they're posting on social media. Continually attacking tech companies has worked so far, in at least getting Facebook to give Trump and friends more leeway to post nonsense, so why not keep pushing that button over and over again.
Note, of course, that none of this actually helps the public even slightly. Apparently, that's not what's important to the White House or folks in Congress.

Indeed, at a time when technology and the internet has become that much more important due to the pandemic that the President seems to want to ignore, it seems that much more damaging to focus on destroying and hammering the open internet. It's positively backwards. Sure, let's attack the one sector that is helping to keep a bunch of stuff afloat, and helping to keep people at home, rather sending them out to risk their lives in the midst of a pandemic.

And, of course, all of this seems to be coming directly at the request of the President himself who is desperately looking for any issue to draw focus to other than all of the things that make him look bad:

“There’s hardly a conversation I have with the president where this doesn’t come up, where Section 230 does not come up, usually raised by him,” Hawley said in an interview. “It is much on his mind and I think his strong stance on this issue has had a big effect in opening the eyes of some of my Republican colleagues to realize this is a major issue.”

Spoiler alert: it's not "a major issue." It's a half-baked, made up, hyped up issue for all of the reasons above, having nothing to do with actual problems in the world.

I get that culture wars are the way politics is done. I get that demonizing successful industries is something that lots of politicians do for political reasons. But it seems kind of batshit crazy that in a time when literally hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake, we're still seeing Congress and the White House play political games rather than focusing on actual issues.

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Filed Under: congress, donald trump, gop, internet, josh hawley, open internet, pandemic, republicans, section 230
Companies: facebook, google, twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:31am

    Apparently, that's not what's important to the White House or folks in Congress.

    That might change, given that Donald and Melania now have covid19.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:15am

      Re:

      "Donald and Melania now have covid19"

      I read it is a hoax perpetrated by China to mess up our economy.

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

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 12:10pm

        POTUS infection a false rumor

        One of my conspiracy-theory minded friends noted that feigning a COVID-19 infection and quarantining for two weeks would be a plausibly deniable way to bow out of the second and third debates without admitting the first one was an deep-water oil-rig explosion.

        I personally don't think that's what's going on, but that's because Trump wouldn't be able to sustain the deception.

        I wonder if he's going to try to continue campaigning and debating while infected.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 12:55pm

          Re: POTUS infection a false rumor

          and then he would want to delay the election because he was unable to campaign and we all know that is not the way it works.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Oct 2020 @ 12:42am

          Re: POTUS infection a false rumor

          "I personally don't think that's what's going on, but that's because Trump wouldn't be able to sustain the deception."

          It would make him, in Trump's own perception, look "weak". Say what you like about Trump - and I think we've unpacked only the tip of the iceberg there - he'll eat broken glass or at least pretend he does, if it'll make him look like a "killer", the way his daddy raised him to do.

          What is by far more disturbing is that the alt-right is already churning out the conspiracy theory that the democrats infected Trump and Melania during the debate. Not sure how they swing that without insisting it was Biden taking one for the team and infected Trump with pin-point accuracy from his podium.

          Alt-right nutcase: *"Biden infected Trump. And Melania. The monster!!

          Bystander: "Biden would have to take one for the team, infect himself, then try to spit across 10-12 feet and try to hit Trump. From what I saw he was looking the other way most of the time, holding his head. He'd also have to be actively evil which I doubt he is. Why would he take the risk when Trump's so manifestly self-destructing?"

          Alt-right nutcase: "You don't understand the EVIL of the liberals and leftists! They hung that hammer-and-sickle in front of the sun just because! EVIL I tell you!!"

          Bystander: "Hammer and sickle? In front of the sun? That's just...I mean, I can see the sun right there! There's nothing in front of it..."

          Alt-right nutcase: "LEFTIST! LIBERAL!! BUT OBAMA!!! One of these days YoU wILl bE PuNisHed!! GNAAHRGhrghg..."

          I have to say my faith in humanity takes a steep nosedive every time I discover just how many americans have become carbon-copies of the Baghdad Bob we see so frequently trying to troll Techdirt here.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:37am

      Re:

      Unless the plan is to "pull a sickie" to avoid further debates, then re-appear untouched saying "see - it's not as bad as claimed, who needs masks" whilst reaping the sympathy vote.

      Hope I'm wrong. I'm really not happy that someone's behaviour leads me to feel cynicism as a first response rather than concern for their health.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 2 Oct 2020 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re:

        What's really awful is your reasoning that there is a ulterior motive behind the announcement. Awful in the sense that you and others could even contemplate that a president would stoop to such actions because of said presidents prior behavior and actions. If that isn't a wake-up call how bad it has gotten, I don't what is.

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 12:15pm

          "If that isn't a wake-up call"

          We've been experiencing a national epidemic of wake-up calls, only one of which is the recent 20,000 falsehoods or misleading statements according to Trump lie counters that have been tracking since inauguration.

          Whats worse is seeing our Republican officials toe the line behind almost every single one, and watching their grimaced dissents (and no further response) get extincted out.

          We've been watching in slow motion Hamiltons concerns manifest that mere mortals are unable to govern themselves without decay into corruption.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Oct 2020 @ 12:51am

            Re: "If that isn't a wake-up call"

            "We've been watching in slow motion Hamiltons concerns manifest that mere mortals are unable to govern themselves without decay into corruption."

            Not really slow-motion, I have to say. This shit was germinating since the unfinished civil war, true, but it was kept relatively suppressed until Reagan when the weird concoction of libertarians, racists, bigots, doom cult evangelicals and "america über alles" crowd came together and started pushing roughly in the same direction.

            It's not as weird a recipe as it sounds as the notion of "One white fatherland under God where men are free and white, women are in the kitchen, and the lesser races are elsewhere" isn't exactly a new one.

            This is less Hamilton's concern and more Jeffersson's. Liberals, democrats, and every laissez-faire american has sat back and enjoyed the fruits the greatest generation gave them with usually not a single thought wasted on the fact that it was up to them to keep it. The wolves came to an unlocked paddock with fat narcoleptic sheep milling around in confusion.

            This shit is what happens when the price of liberty is not persistently paid.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 7:44am

        Re: Re:

        You and I have had the same thought on this being a possible fake infection.

        This administration has manipulated the press and the public so often, that we know the liar can't be believed and often doubt what public officials and public office spokespersons say and claim.

        In itself that's pretty damning.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 8:04am

        Re: Re:

        Nonsense, what possible reason could you have to think that Trump would be dishonest enough to fake being sick in order to garner sympathy and/or try to bolster his alternative facts about how harmless the infection he's spent months downplaying is, it's not like he has a demonstrable history of lying or anything.

        Snark aside even if he is actually infected(and given his penchant for holding massive rallies with hundreds/thousands of people in enclosed spaces that's a high possibility), then fuck him. He spent months dismissing covid as no big deal despite the fact that he knew it was deadly and even as it killed hundreds if not thousands on a regular basis, if he ends up being added to the death toll or suffering major complications that he has to deal with long term or even for the rest of his life then I'd say he would deserve just as much sympathy and concern for his well-being as he has shown for anyone else who's had to deal with it, that being none.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Oct 2020 @ 12:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm sure it makes me a lesser man for thinking, yet alone saying it but...should Trump die to covid he might even be pleased to go out paying for a 150k+ needlessly dead americans in true Trump fashion - at the massive five-finger discount of One(1).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:36am

    We're still in the middle of a pandemic

    Wait, we're still in the middle of a pandemic? But our president told us it was a hoax, that it will magically disappear, that it affects almost nobody.

    Oh wait, what, POSTUS and FLOTUS have both tested positive? Wow, what a hoax.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 5:53am

    Since the screwed up the covid crisis ,ignored the climate crisis, maybe in an insane twisted way it makes sense,
    we can screw up the internet,
    its ok if it allows us to publish racist hate speech and conspiracy theorys.
    maybe the best thing the usa invented in the last 100 years .
    the premier method used by young and old to communicate and express opinions
    and make art .
    Meanwhile the eu is pasing laws to pass control of the internet to old legacy corporations and publishers by filtering out anything not owned by big media
    companys .

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 5:03pm

      Re:

      They is the EU law are likely to be taken to court and struck down before they even go into force meaning they will not be able to pass control of the internet to old legacy corporations and publishers and filtering out anything will not work and will likely fail.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:17am

    Brilliant!

    If you are unaware of all the problems in the world then those problems do not exist.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:47am

    Congress & White House play political games

    Political Games have always been the fundamental nature and activity of the endless rotation of politicians in WashDC -- that's how our sacred political system has always operated no matter who is in office.

    Hand-wringing changes nothing.
    How 'bout a viable solution to the whole mess -- not just the tiny 230 issue ?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    David Longfellow, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:52am

    The real problem...

    ... is the democratic party and their sycophants.

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

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:55am

    They won't be happy until the entire internet is forced to become as conservative dominated as talk radio, and the only way they can do that is by turning every site into the same kind of right wing lunatic petrie dish as facebook.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 7:16am

    'Stop pointing out our lack of clothes!'

    Of course Trump's GOP hates the internet, unlike those lovely people on Fox and Friends the internet keeps pointing out when Trump lies and/or gets something wrong, as well as pointing out that the GOP seems to have have no plan beyond 'play victim, blame someone else for everything bad'.

    When your ability to mislead and manipulate people depends on their their ignorance and the absence of people willing and able to call you out on your actions then sources of education and people willing to call you on your lies are huge threats to your power and authority.

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

  • identicon
    Shadow-Slider, 2 Oct 2020 @ 8:25am

    The internet has been the real problem for the last 26 year according to congress.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 11:17am

    Very little justification

    What is it?
    That the internet corps arent paying to have the gov. protect them?
    Newspaper vs Internet? Information control?
    Control over the internet? with threats?
    the corps have tons of backdoors if anything bad happens? Love LLC. and Lawyers.
    Rather go after those with money then those posting comments?
    But as both sides in politics, LEAN hard on the 1st amendment does much of this do anything?

    How many internet companies would love to get rid of monitors for their sites. Because the corps Love suing Bigger corps. How many corps would love to sue Google Directly for Sharing? video, Pictures, music is a large range. And why change Laws when you can make the OWNER liable? As well as control the forums and Chats.
    But if a Chat/forum, Keeps everything or Monitors, there is a fault. As in the Owner becomes the one responsible for idiots. And that spammer or Bias SOB, is going to sue you for not keeping his post. Just to get the money.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 12:26pm

    You Can't Stop The Signal, Mal.

    The nice thing about before the internet was that only a few pro-establishment people controlled the flow of current information to the public.

    ICE operating in New Zealand? That wouldn't make the news. Policeman shoots a non-resisting non-running black man in the back seven times? Might be a local matter, but wouldn't even make the state news.

    Suddenly people can talk, and Israelis and Iraqis realize they don't really have all that many beefs with each other. It's their governments who bicker.

    Suddenly everyone has cameras, and every police-involved assault, heck, every temperamental child-abusing teacher is on the internet showing the world the myriad of horrible realities we have to deal with.

    Now we know if it's better to live in France, or Denmark, or Saudi Arabia. Now we know that those people who live in squalor or pre-industrial conditions are people with feelings and families and, OMG THEY'RE JUST LIKE US!

    So yeah, the internet is a threat against establishment, much the way the enlightenment and an educated middle class challenged the threat of Hellfire and the promise of heaven that kept the serfs in line. (The failure of the Church to keep its hands clean from extreme abuses of power, even after reformations -- plural -- also seems to have shaken things up.)

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 4:22pm

      Re: You Can't Stop The Signal, Mal.

      over how many years??
      After we took advantage of the Irish, after they came here from a famine?
      After the Chinese came here for the same reason??
      And built the Intercontinental railway??
      After the Russian revolution?
      BEFORE WWI, and WWII, when many came here because THERE WAS NO WAR.
      MOST Americans came tot he USA, because they didnt like the persecution or the wars in the EU and other locations.
      WE were the promised land.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 3 Oct 2020 @ 2:30pm

      Re: You Can't Stop The Signal, Mal.

      You Can't Stop The Signal, Mal

      Nice ref there... Was a couple of years ago I watched it, perhaps I'll dig out the DVD and watch it tonight. :)

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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