In Josh Hawley's World, People Should Be Able To Sue Facebook Both For Taking Down Stuff They Don't Like AND Leaving Up Stuff They Don't Like

from the basically-you-should-just-sue-facebook dept

Last year, Josh Hawley introduced one of his many, many pathetic attempts at changing Section 230. That bill, the "Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act" would create a private right of action allowing individuals to sue any social media company if they were unhappy that some of their content was removed, and to seek a payout. The obvious implication, as with a ton of bad faith claims by populists who pretend to be "conservative" is that websites shouldn't do any moderation at all.

However, this week, Hawley introduced another bill to attack Facebook and to create another private right of action against basically any website -- except this time the private right of action is for anyone who feels their "mental health" was harmed by content on that website. Contrary to what Hawley-loving propagandist rag "The Daily Caller" falsely claims, this bill doesn't actually "amend" Section 230, it simply uses the definition of an interactive computer service from 230, and introduces a weird new liability regime that is in total conflict with 230 (and with Hawley's previous bill -- but when you're culture warrioring and trying to be the face of the new insurrectionists, who has time for little things like consistency?). The Federal Big Tech Tort Act is a bunch of silly performative nonsense.

It used to be that Republicans were the party that was dead set against opening up new private rights of action and giving tort lawyers new ways to drag people and companies into court. No longer, I guess. Amusingly, Hawley's bill shares its DNA with Senator Amy Klobuchar's equally silly bill to hold social media companies liable for misinformation. The key part in the Hawley bill:

PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.—An individual who suffers bodily injury or harm to mental health that is attributable, in whole or in part, to the individual’s use of a covered interactive computer service provided by a social media company as described in subsection (b) may bring a civil action against the social media company in an appropriate district court of the United States or a State court of competent jurisdiction

The bill says that the liability applies to individuals who use social media when they are "less than 16 years of age."

So, if someone on social media, like Josh Hawley, contributes to your young teenager's depression by doing incredible dangerous things (like encouraging an insurrection at the Capitol to block the results of a free and fair election), you can now... sue Facebook for the damage to your kid's mental health? Because that makes sense.

Again, this is clearly (1) ridiculous, (2) unconstitutional, (3) completely at odds with Republican philosophy for the past half century, and just (4) an attack on the basic frameworks of how liability works. But none of that matters. The "consistency" for Hawley is that he has to keep attacking "big tech" or the headlines among the Trumpist populists will continue to go to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and that might make them the front runners for the 2024 Republican nomination instead of Josh Hawley.

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: content moderation, federal big tech tort act, intermediary liability, josh hawley, liability, mental health, section 230, tort reform
Companies: facebook


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 9:53am

    We already know what happens under age restricted liability regimes like this. COPPA introduced signifigant liability for children under 13... and the outcome was that substantially every online service bans users under 13.

    Meanwhile, 10 year olds lie about their age.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      I have always thought the same this about all those sites related to alocohol where you need to click to affirm you are over 21. I do not know anyone who is stupid enough to click they are under 21.

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

  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 10:23am

    Isn't it about time that we got some campaign finance reform.

    Bills like this, the florida social media crap etc. can never pass Constitutional muster. So they're performative legislation, performed to act as a campaign advert and not to seriously perform their job.

    So these bills, if passed and found to be unconstitutional, the cost of writing, passing and litigating them, should be passed on to the relevant campaigns as costs.

    It won't be the easiest thing to hammer out detail-wise, but it's long past time for these stump-speech laws to be gone, and stop clogging our legislatures, and our courts as an attempt to chip away at rights as a side-effect of having the public fund their re-election campaign.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:01am

      Re:

      That is a significantly different proposition to the goals of campaign finance reform. Campaign Finance Reform is a move to get the influence of deep pocketed third parties out of campaigns. Your goal is very different - to get campaigns out of politics. Its not a good fit for finance reform. your proposal rather encourages more fundraising to cover costs of outrageous legislation. Reform's biggest goal is eliminating fundraising to reduce the influence. Its a complete perversion of campaign finance to encourage fundraising. And that doesn't cover the host of perverse incentives

      For instance, say I am retiring in 4 years (or facing term limits). If I throw out a ton of virtue signaling legislation that does not pass constitutional muster, who pays? The threat of the lame duck politician is already a serious concern with term limits, you only need look at recent reporting that more vindictive political moves were being planned for a second Trump term. The policy invites strategic campaigns - get a reactionary voted in, have them put up a shit ton of shit legislation, and then retire, allowing their politically aligned governor to appoint a more "moderate" candidate that gets all the benefits of the virtue signaling without the penalties, gets the nod from the predecessor, who gets a job in the National Committe, or a staff position, or an ambassadorship for their sacrifice.

      Sniff test. Use it.

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

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re:

        Ack, I wrote that wrong - campaign finance reform is a goal to get finance out of campaigns, to reduce financial influence in politics. K'Tetch's goal appears to be to get the influence of politics out of campaigns by increasing the financial burden of politics. That's a bit clearer in how ridiculous it is.

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

        • icon
          K`Tetch (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 12:30pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, that's not ALL Campaign Finance reform is about.
          it's also about having to account for things that should count as campaign costs, but which are currently not. It's to get rid of these ways to campaign at our cost and detriment (this is part of what the Hatch Act is about).

          For instance, your thing about running a martyr candidate that runs, gets elected then jumps on the hand grenade of this financial hit. It sounds like a great idea, but it's complex to actual carry through. And there are ways to fix it, like making the candidate personally liable for anything unpaid after... say a year. In your scenario, we get what we have already, but they're having to use twice as many people, and go more convoluted. It's a step in the right direction anyway. Not everything has to be perfect.

          And yeah, lame ducks, again, already liable to happen anyway, so your problem is... that it doesn't address all situations, only most of them?

          Perfect really is the enemy of 'better'.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 11 Oct 2021 @ 12:19am

        Re: Re:

        One way to deal with the screwy US-specific issue of Politicians Bought And Paid For is to adopt the system used in much of Europe;

        1) The parties build the campaigns, not the individual candidates. No one gets hundreds of hours worth of ads painstakingly scripted to portray them as the second coming and their opposition as a horseman of the apocalypse. With personality cult removed from the equation elections become a lot less messy.

        2) No anonymous donations. Super-PACs need to go. Every donation needs to be issued in auditable transparency.

        3) Most importantly, use ranked-choice voting so you finally get accurate proportions in your politics. Most reasons as to why politics is a demented circus in the US and the UK has to do with the bloody "winner takes all" concept of the electoral process.

        Until you manage to land those three criteria any reform is as meaningless as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 9:07pm

      Re:

      Both K'Tetch and JB are pointing the finger in the somewhat wrong direction.

      Instead of going after the campaign warchest, go after the actual congresscritter doing the performative grandstanding. He is not permitted to use campaign funds for personal purposes, so if the legislative body fines him for asshattery, then he has to pay out of his own pocket. Sure, he can whine to his under-100-IQ constituency that he was "robbed", and they can feel sorry for him by ponying up some more moolah, but it can't go to his campaign - it will have to go to a "Personal PAC", as #45 has demonstrated is not only possible, but very highly profitable.

      But to make it all work, the "fine" has to be significant... a $10,000 slap on the wrist is only a couple of weeks of paycheck to them. Instead, make it something like half a year's worth of pay - $85K to $100K, a sting like that starts to get some attention.

      Also, look closely at staffers. Some of them are directly responsible for this bullshit. Or at the very least, they could've warned the douche-bag that this wasn't going to fly. To protect themselves in the latter case, they'd need to file a report with the House Speaker/Senate Majority Leader - failing to do so infers complicity. Fining these jokers might help to put a stop to such outbursts of insanity.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 10:37am

    need to hurry it up

    so all 120 million of us survivors can sue the ass off trump for the mental anguish and debilitating health he' caused over last 5 years

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

  • icon
    TaboToka (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 10:52am

    Republilcans or Republican'ts?

    Completely at odds with Republican philosophy for the past half century

    Perhaps you haven't been paying attention. Ever since St. Raygun, the GOP has been all about power at any costs and satisfying their donors at the expense of everyone else. Citizens United put nitrous in the fuel and turned them even harder at getting all the coins into the rich people's and corporations' pockets.

    They think they can hold on to power by playing to the 21% of Americans who voted for The Great Orange Hope in 2020, and as long as the Dems continue to suck and blow, the GOH will continue to be successful.

    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, 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:44am

      Re: Republilcans or Republican'ts?

      Mike is one of those kinds of people who went “Oh, he can’t do that!” as Trump proceeded to do just this and that which he supposedly wasn’t able to do. The kinds of people who thought that the courts would stop his Muslim travel ban, but he eventually got it through by throwing himself at the courts enough times. Mike is one of the kinds of people who says “I thought that the Republicans were the party of small government?!?” as if that’s a snarky quip that still holds humor, while most other folks that live in reality have moved on to recognizing the Republicans as the fascists they are.

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

      • identicon
        Sabroni, 5 Oct 2021 @ 12:49am

        Re: Mike is one of those kinds of people who

        We don't need you to tell us what Mike thinks, we get to read his posts to work out what he thinks.
        And we can read your posts to work out just how far up yourself you are.

        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, 5 Oct 2021 @ 10:07am

          Re: Re: Mike is one of those kinds of people who

          And we can read your posts to work out how much time you love to spend under Mike’s desk. Make sure to grab a handful of breath mints on your way out the door.

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

  • icon
    radix (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 10:56am

    It's almost like he wants to appoint himself Product Manager of the Internet...

    It must be his dream job, considering he's been chasing it forever.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:04am

    I know, I know. I should be more careful about what my kids access on the internet. I told her not to go there, but my girl just hasn't been the same since she visited joshhawley.com that one time.

    At last, I'll be able to seek recompense for the money I've doled out for psychotherapy sessions.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:26am

    The things unindicted co-conspirators will do trying to distract from an investigation about how deeply he was involved in trying to overthrow the government.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 11:32am

    'Feelings matter when they're mine!'

    Strange, isn't he from the 'fuck your feelings' party? I guess like everything else GQP it's totally different when it's his feelings being hurt and/or hurt feels gives him the chance to screw someone over.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 12:11pm

      Re: 'Feelings matter when they're mine!'

      It's "fuck your feelings", not "fuck my feelings."

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 12:22pm

        Re: Re: 'Feelings matter when they're mine!'

        Ah yes I forgot that important distinction, it's a statement and mindset that only ever goes one way.

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

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 3:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: 'Feelings matter when they're mine!'

          Some twenty years ago, my grandma forwarded me an e-mail, purported to have been written by Charlton Heston, which ranted for several pages about political correctness and how people shouldn't be afraid to tell the truth even if it's offensive to certain demographics.

          It ended by going off on a tangent about how we should boycott Newsweek for depicting Y2K preppers as being predominantly Christian.

          Chuck -- or whoever actually wrote it -- didn't seem to see the contradiction.

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

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 3:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Feelings matter when they're mine!'

            (Still not as good as the one she forwarded me that ranted for several pages about how Hollywood celebrities should just shut up and stay out of politics and then closed with a quote by President Reagan.)

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 12:20pm

    Why do people

    Know MORE about their kids grades then they do about some of these idiots, that Arent thinking things thru?
    Dont deal with problem, DONT solve the problems, POINT fingers and blames anything except What they created.
    Everyone gets programmed into the idea we have to Work oursleves to death, and NOT care about the kids or anyone else. Same mentality of the Male TV person, and the wife stays home with the milk man.
    The only reasont he Spouses dont Jump on them about Common since, is that they are setup for LIFE as long as the head of the house GETS the MONEY.
    I dont care which side in in Congress or President. QUIT voting for them, Vote for your DOG, VOTE GARFIELD, Alfred E. NEWMAN(look it up), ANYONE that has some common since.
    I dont care if they dont want the job, VOTE people in that you would trust. NOT those on the BOOB TUBE.

    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, 4 Oct 2021 @ 12:27pm

      Re: Why do people

      Speaking of grades, have you actually graduated from any school at all when all you do is leave the inebriated rambling zero-grammar shits that you call comments all over the site?

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 12:38am

        Re: Re: Why do people

        well then,
        you get to be my translator.
        As my fingers have a hard time keeping up and have not yet learned to spell all the words my brain wants to us.
        You could of said you LOVE the TV, and vote for anyone on it even when they have more money then you and have hidden even more outside the USA.
        Ever wonder Why a group would gather enough money for 10 people, and give it to 1? They need all the help they can get. Plaster that face anyplace people look.
        Pay $400,000,000 for a job that earns $4 million for 4 years, and Tons of benefits.
        WE let them do it. Over 1000 people ran for office and you probably didnt notice. And didnt take the time to find out of look anyone BETTER up.
        Stick with the TV, and you know what you get. DRAMA. COP SHOWS. And Dumb presidents and congress.

        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, 4 Oct 2021 @ 1:54pm

    Keep guzzling Zuck’s cum, Mike. Maybe one day all the nutrients will let you grow a spine.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 2:31pm

      Pointing out the ridiculousness of Hawley’s bullshit is not equivalent to blindly defending Facebook.

      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, 4 Oct 2021 @ 3:04pm

        Re:

        Mike blindly defends Facebook by pretending they’re this innocent company that’s just making mistakes. You could show him a video of Mark Zuckerberg killing a man and Mike would go “Sure, I understand there are a lot of reasons to be mad, and Mark hasn’t been doing a good job up to this point, but are you sure you’re mad at the right people? Isn’t this all just a big societal problem we need open protocols, not platforms, to solve?”

        By the way, speaking of protocols, how has Snouts been working out for you? Oh, wait, it’s fucking dead.

        Haven’t you told people that they can just switch to federated stuff like Mastodon and discussed the use of open protocols? But it doesn’t seem like you practice what you preach since you haven’t posted shit there in two years.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 5:40pm

          Re: Re:

          You haven't been noticing the Techdirt posts critical of Facebook, haven't you? But I'll note that you've decided to stalk somebody else, because that's not creepy as fuck.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 5:49pm

          Re: 2 4 1 Hot beef injections: since that seems to be your thing

          Sir, as you've been told repeatedly This is an Arbys.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 7:16pm

          Mike blindly defends Facebook by pretending they’re this innocent company that’s just making mistakes.

          [citation needed]

          By the way, speaking of protocols, how has Snouts been working out for you?

          Find someone else to obsess over.

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

        • icon
          JMT (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 4:37pm

          Re: Re:

          "Mike blindly defends Facebook by pretending they’re this innocent company that’s just making mistakes."

          You know that stating the literal opposite of what Mike said is not an effective debating strategy right?

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Ma and Pa Thetic, 4 Oct 2021 @ 7:57pm

        Re: OMG. A. Stephen Stone really is a furry.

        See the avatar on the now hidden link.

        Also likes pro-wrestling, and even worse, showing complete lack of sense, has admitted it publicly here.

        Then pretends that he's authoritative on all matters legal and moral.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Oct 2021 @ 8:19pm

          Find someone else to obsesss over. I’m not going to fuck you.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2021 @ 8:13pm

          Re: Re: OMG. A. Stephen Stone really is a furry.

          OMG. A. Stephen Stone really is a furry.

          I don't know why the fuck even progressive LGBT communities think it's insightful/funny as hell to keep making derogatory references to furries, but as a boring cishet normie that's not my hill to die on.

          What I do think is funny is how you've gone back to the shitty pun-based names, blue, because you've never been able to do anything else noteworthy.

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

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 7 Oct 2021 @ 2:05pm

            I don't know why the fuck even progressive LGBT communities think it's insightful/funny as hell to keep making derogatory references to furries

            It gets weirder when you consider the substantial amount of queer people⁠—and queer content⁠—within the furry community.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2021 @ 2:31pm

      Re:

      Paging Dr. Freud! Paging Dr. Freud!

      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.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • 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.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

Introducing the new Techdirt Insider Chat, now hosted on Discord. If you are an Insider with a membership that includes the chat feature and have not yet been invited to join us on Discord, please reach out here.

Loading...
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.