Now that NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has officially announced
his long-expected campaign to be governor of New York (following in his father's footsteps), it looks like he's back to grandstanding by making very public, if very misleading, threats against tech companies. You may recall that this is Andrew Cuomo's basic blueprint for censoring the internet
. It starts with him releasing an "open letter" to various online services, claiming that they have child porn on their service, and if they don't clean it up, he's going to sue. Of course, he's never actually sued, because he probably wouldn't win. Child porn is very much illegal and a very, very bad thing, but the responsible parties are those who are actually creating, uploading and sharing the content -- not the larger service providers. A Section 230 defense almost certainly protects most of these sites. But... of course, when you have a high profile politician threatening to sue you for child porn, you cave. It's simply not worth the legal battle. Cuomo would gleefully take a legal battle where he gets headlines about how he's "fighting to protect people from child porn" by taking on big evil tech companies -- even if he would lose eventually. He just needs the headlines to get elected.
And so, here he goes again, threatening the social networking site Tagged.com with a lawsuit
for not cleaning up child porn on the site. Apparently, Cuomo's office had people set up accounts and go searching for stuff, which they reported to Tagged, but which the company failed to take down in a timely manner. So he threatens Tagged. But what isn't explained is why he's not doing anything to go after those actually responsible
. Rather than blame Tagged, why not work with them to help find out who's responsible for the content and bring them to justice
Reading between the lines, it looks like Cuomo's way of trying to get around Section 230 with a pretty sneaky tactic. He wants to charge Tagged with false and deceptive advertising
. How's that work? Well, Tagged has said
that it has safety measures in place to deal with inappropriate content. So Cuomo's office is claiming that because those measures don't work very well, that the company is falsely advertising its safety measures. As a way to get around Section 230 safe harbors, it's pretty sneaky.
The really disturbing part of all of this is that, in his blatant move to grab headlines for "fighting child porn," he's actually making the problem a lot worse
. When this stuff is happening on mainstream sites, it's easier to track down and capture those actually responsible. Driving it further underground doesn't stop the activity -- it just makes it that much more difficult
for law enforcement to do its actual job. But Cuomo doesn't really care about that. He just wants to get elected. If it makes the child porn problem worse, no big deal, apparently.