House Republicans Introduce Ridiculous, Contradictory, Unconstitutional Package Of 32 Bills About Section 230 And Content Moderation

from the performative-nonsense dept

If you read Techdirt, you already know that there have been literally dozens of ridiculous Section 230 reform bills introduced over the last few years. On Wednesday, the House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee decided to not just add to the batch, but to flood the entire zone with a package of thirty-two more Section 230 reform bills. I mean, if you're going to go that far, why not go all the way and write 230 reform bills?

I'm not going to go through every bill. That would be a total waste of everyone's time. These bills are not designed to do anything constructive at all. They are not designed to pass. They are not designed to reform Section 230. They are designed for one reason and one reason only: to act as performative grandstanding for a deliberately ignorant base who are kept in ignorance by politicians pushing bills like this nonsense.

What I will note, however, is how many of the bills in this package clearly contradict one another (and just how many are obviously unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment in that they seek to regulate speech). In some ways, the package of 32 bills shows why all this focus on Section 230 is nonsense in the first place, and the difficulties of content moderation itself. For example, you have the "Preserving Constitutionally Protected Speech" bill from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan. That one would punish websites that remove constitutionally protected speech (which is an unconstitutional attack on those websites' 1st Amendment rights). But, uh, then you have things like bills to require companies to remove cyberbullying and remove doxxing (among a few other things).

Of course, neither cyberbullying nor doxxing are well defined in those bills, but in both cases the speech described is almost certainly protected under the 1st Amendment. So you have some bills saying removing any speech that is protected by the 1st Amendment should lead to punishment, and other bills that say you are required to remove speech that is protected by the 1st Amendment or face massive penalties. Did no one bother to actually look at this collection of bills and realize they don't work together?

There are also a bunch of bills that seem to restate what the law already is. For example, there's one requiring companies to remove child sexual abuse material (though the bill uses the now disfavored term "child porn.") Except, um, that's already the case. Saying it with emphasis in a new law doesn't change that.

Anyway, I'm hard pressed to find anything even remotely sounding like a reasonable idea in all of these bills, but to be fair, I didn't have time to go through all 32 bills in full. Perhaps they can pass a bill to force someone to content moderate these 32 bills to algorithmically show me which ones actually have reasonable ideas, and which ones are just performative nonsense. I fear that the final tally will show that all 32 bills are performative nonsense.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, censorship, congress, content moderation, house, house energy and commerce committee, must carry, republicans, section 230


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2021 @ 9:31am

    Re: Section 230 education

    The original just passed over 1 billion views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ


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