Why Are Senate Democrats Helping Move Forward Trump's Strategy Of Attacking The Internet?

from the this-makes-no-sense dept

We've detailed for a while now how both Republicans and Democrats are mad online about how the internet works -- though often for reasons that directly conflict with each other. We've also highlighted how Donald Trump and his administration are actively encouraging Republicans to focus all of their legislative and grandstanding firepower on attacking the internet.

What I cannot understand is... why are the Democrats helping?

In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday, Democrats initially seemed to recognize that plans to subpoena various internet CEOs (AGAIN) were little more than a dog and pony show for Republicans working on their Trump-directed culture war against the internet. Senators Cantwell and Blumenthal both stated that they knew this was all a grandstanding ruse to pressure social media companies to leave up their misinformation and propaganda:

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on Wicker’s panel, said she resisted his initial subpoena request over fears that such a move would chill the companies’ efforts to tackle “lies, harassment and intimidation” ahead of the election.

“I am not interested in using our subpoena power to try to play or game the refs days before an election, which is clearly what Republicans are doing,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said this week. “The timing shows that these subpoenas are clearly calculated to chill efforts to get misinformation or falsehoods from abroad or domestic groups [removed].”

But take a wild guess what came next? You got it. They ended up supporting the subpoenas unanimously. Why? Because Republicans told the Democrats that while everything they feared about this nonsense was true, the Democrats can also grandstand over their own bullshit misleading culture war issues. It's a win-win for politicians on both sides of the aisle and a lose-lose for the public and the internet we rely on. I mean come on:

Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the panel, urged caution amid her colleagues' complaints of anti-conservative bias. Last week, as Wicker had been pushing internally for the subpoenas, Cantwell said she feared Republicans sought to "chill the efforts of these companies to remove lies, harassment, and intimidation from their platforms."

On Thursday, Cantwell said she was pleased to move forward with the subpoenas after Wicker agreed to include the topics of Big Tech's impact on media and privacy as issues of concern.

"What I don't want to see is a chilling effect on individuals who are in a process of trying to crack down on hate speech or misinformation about Covid during a pandemic," she said at Thursday's markup.

Neither party seems interested in dealing with real problems. Both parties seem to want to waste time focusing on the internet rather than any of the actual problems facing the country and the world these days. What a waste.

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Filed Under: congress, democrats, donald trump, grandstanding, intermediary liability, maria cantwell, privacy, republicans, richard blumenthal, section 230


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 1:49pm

    Scapegoat hunting seems to be the main reason why - pushed by legacy media quite hard. Remember the mythical "techlash"? Plus politicians always look for excuses to do away with pesky oversight - see the Murdoch Tabloid Phone Hacking scandal turning into an expedition for muzzling journalists. They also project like IMAX talking about holding others "accountable" with a definition of accountable meaning "you are already guilty, do what we want or else - and what we want is never set out ahead of time".

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 2:54pm

    Ugly

    Because the core concept of tech companies manipulating the free speech in the United States is morally ugly. The bias of social media companies has gained them the public popularity of Microsoft circa 2005, and the Democrats do not want to hitch their wagon.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:03pm

      Re: Ugly

      Please provide examples of tech companies manipulating free speech.

      Of course, that hinges on that you actually understand what the 1A is.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:12pm

      Re: Ugly

      Tech companies use user data to decide what to promote, and what to remove. Therefore if they are not pushing the politics you desire, it is an indication of how popular those politics are. Social media does much less to steer public opinion than the obviously biased news companies.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Ugly

      90% of people surveyed by the Verge have a favorable opinion of Google.

      https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/2/21144680/verge-tech-survey-2020-trust-privacy-security-fac ebook-amazon-google-apple

      72% think Google has a favorable impact on society. Only 4% say negative.

      Even the "worst" companies (Twitter and Facebook) show only 25% think they have a negative impact on society.

      If you find yourself in that camp, Koby, you might just be in a bubble. Like I keep telling you.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Koby (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 5:08pm

        Re: Re: Ugly

        That same poll that you linked says "72 percent said that Facebook has too much power", and "51 percent said Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies". I don't put a lot of faith in polls after the 2016 election. But even this one indicates that social media corporations have a high degree of toxicity.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 1:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Ugly

          I don't put a lot of faith in polls after the 2016 election

          But you'll snap your back in two just to carry water for the team that won, won't you?

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 12:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ugly

            What he means is that he's too stupid to understand that the polls were accurate but the electoral college made the popular vote they reflected irrelevant. +Cut him some slack, I'm sure he's confused now that the orange messiah who was immune to covid is resting in a hospital with a treatment he denied to ordinary people, since it's a hoax and all.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 12:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Ugly

          "51 percent said Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies".

          Does anyone want to tell them that this is already the case, technically?

          "But even this one indicates that social media corporations have a high degree of toxicity."

          Yet, were you and your klan buddies allowed to run free, they would seem mild in comparison.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 4:06pm

      Yes or no, Koby: Should the law force Twitter to host legally protected speech that Twitter’s admins don’t want hosted on Twitter?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 12:19am

      Re: Ugly

      "Because the core concept of tech companies manipulating the free speech in the United States is morally ugly"

      Yet, nowhere near as morally ugly as the people you wish to promote. Think about this Koby, nobody's saying it's not a problem, we're saying that the people you associate with are far worse for society.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:05pm

    Statists gotta state.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 3:27pm

    'X is terrible... if we don't get to do it too.'

    Cantwell: 'I have no interest in assisting you in a grossly dishonst PR stunt and an abuse of power.'

    GOP: 'We'll let you abuse your power for a grossly dishonest PR stunt too.'

    Cantwell: 'I'm in.'

    Way to stick to your guns and show that your original objection wasn't just an empty political move rather than a real objection to a grossly dishonst PR stunt/distraction there Cantwell, you sure showed them(how easy you are to manipulate).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 4:07pm

    This seems like election PR then nothing else, will anything come from this?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 4:12pm

    Just to ask.

    WHO THE HELL IS GOING TO REGULATE THIS?
    NOT THE FCC.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 4:52pm

    "Neither party seems interested in dealing with real problems."

    Because it's easier to blame the internet.

    Your kid gets learns "bad" stuff? Blame the Internet, even if he watches TV for way longer hours.

    Milk goes bad? The internet.
    Car breaks? The internet.
    Your team loses? The internet.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:09pm

      Re:

      Car breaks? The internet.

      Considering the Internet of Things, er shit, and that cars are "smart" (well, dumb), I think you actually can blame the internet when your car is stranded in the middle of nowhere!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2020 @ 9:40pm

        Re: Re:

        You can certainly blame unnecessary and egregious uses of badly designed information technology.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2020 @ 3:05am

        Re: Re:

        "I think you actually can blame the internet when your car is stranded in the middle of nowhere!"

        Crash victim: "It's not my fault, officer, the car just rebooted after installing the mandatory security patch...while I was going 110 mph down I-95..."

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 2 Oct 2020 @ 6:38pm

    As always...

    Follow the money.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 7:35pm

    Why are the Democrats helping?

    What I cannot understand is... why are the Democrats helping?

    Democrats are not leftist liberals. They're interested in preserving the oligarchic establishment. The internet gives the people too much power to report on how they are governed.

    Where the Republican deal is to protect us from monsters (mostly made-up ones), the Democratic deal is to pretend they are public serving, all the while letting plutocrats call the shots. And that worked when the press was in the hands of plutocratic moguls.

    Now the press is in the hands of anyone with a camera at an incident.

    And that just won't do. Case in point, the Arab Spring

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Oct 2020 @ 7:39pm

    Once again, whatever they criminalize...

    ...will only move underground. They're not going to be able to stop all of us from going to the darknet and doing our research, transactions, communication, news exchange etc. etc.

    And in the darknet terrorists and child pornographers are princes.

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

    • identicon
      Pixelation, 2 Oct 2020 @ 9:53pm

      Re: Once again, whatever they criminalize...

      When speech is criminalized, only criminals will speak.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 9:49am

        Re: Re: Once again, whatever they criminalize...

        Or worded another way:

        When speech is criminalized, all speakers become criminals

        Pass all the laws you like, people will not stop speaking their minds no matter how wrong or terrible the output. That cat is already long out of the bag.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 4:10am

      Re: Once again, whatever they criminalize...

      Activists will go on the dark net, while the majority of people will not. That is a recipe for the activists to become extremist, as they become a small group outside of society, which is a common characteristic of all extremist groups..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 6:45am

    We are trillions of dollar in debt, covid 19 out of control,california is burning,
    we need a distraction , ok lets attack the internet,
    the one thing that is working to keep the american economy from collapsing and allowing people to work from home,
    THE sheer stupidity of american politicians is astounding .
    democrats span a wide range some are conservative, some are stupid, some
    are just looking for publicity .
    AOC cortez represents a small part of the democratic party.
    this could be a very close election,
    republicans maybe think attacking big tech will get em a few more votes.

    Meanwhile all parts use social media and facebook twitter to communicate with voters and supporters in a time where meeting
    people face to face is close to impossible .

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 8:03am

    Because it's a shit show?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 3:32pm

    Easily Answered

    While the end goal of the Republicans and Democrats with regard to the internet are (somewhat) different, the tools they need to achieve their respective goals are nearly identical. So of course they're supporting any efforts to acquire said tools.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2020 @ 1:17am

    Because both political parties have the same paymasters.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 1:32am

      Re:

      I love this naive defeatism. Because even if this is true, the social and fiscal policies of one party are so vastly different from the other in practice that you have to be quite foolish not to make a choice, even if you think they're in service of the same thing.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 2:25am

        Seriously, for all the cowardly conservatism of the Democratic Party, I’ll take them over the far-right Republican Party, whose sole defining ethos of governance (if you can call what they do “governance”) is “fuck you, got mine” and whose largest support base is racist White people.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 8:42am

          Re:

          I'm not even sure that their position is still as 'mature' as 'fuck you, got mine', as these days it seems to have devolved into 'I don't care if I get fucked over me, so long as you get fucked them over too'.

          From self-centered sociopaths only caring about themselves to spiteful sadism, where the goal is less what's good for them and more whatever makes whichever group(s) they hate suffer the most.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2020 @ 9:42am

            Re: Re:

            I heard it described as;
            They would eat a shit sandwich just so you would have to smell it.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2020 @ 3:09am

            Re: Re:

            "...these days it seems to have devolved into 'I don't care if I get fucked over me, so long as you get fucked them over too'."

            Yeah, "Fuck you, got mine!" was actual once libertarianism -briefly - held sway over the GOP, but it's way too complex for the hardcore GOP voter base these days.

            Which is why "Fuck liberals" is what they're currently running with. And that one has, among the crowd it concerns, real staying power.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2020 @ 8:47am

          Re:

          Freaking writer's blindness, that's what I get for trying to swap words out instead of just rewriting the sentence... Let's try this again shall we?

          I'm not even sure that their position is still as 'mature' as 'fuck you, got mine', as these days it seems to have devolved into 'I don't care if I get fucked over so long as you get fucked over too'.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2020 @ 5:00pm

    "Why are the democrats helping?"

    If there's one truly bipartisan effort going on, not just in the US, but in the western world in general, it's the effort to increase surveillance and ruin the internet. From what I can see, there is precious few western politicians who don't eye Russian and China with envy. Of course they are helping. Come next election, the democrats may be the very people enjoying the new landscape - and they'll even be able to blame the republicans for it.

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


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