Once Again, I See This Bad Internet Bill From Senators Manchin & Cornyn, And So I’m Saying Something
from the see-nothing,-say-nothing dept
Not this again… a few years ago we wrote a post about Senator Joe Manchin’s very, very, very bad “See Something Say Something” Act. The bill would remove Section 230 for companies that don’t file a shit ton of nonsense busywork filings for anything they see online that might be bad having to do with illegal drug sales. Basically, if a company becomes aware of anything suspicious it would need to file a “suspicious transmission activity report” (STAR).
Last year, Manchin tried and thankfully failed to sneak that bill into the must pass NDAA.
But it’s a new year and a new session, and Manchin (joined by Senator John Cornyn)} are back to reintroduce the bill. Again, it’s being framed in such a weird way:
“Last year alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized enough fentanyl to kill every American, much of it ordered over the Internet and sent by mail from China. The Internet has drastically changed since Section 230 was written in 1996, nearly 30 years ago, and while it keeps us all more connected than ever before, it also makes it easier to conduct illegal activity online,” said Senator Manchin. “We must amend Section 230 to better reflect the way the Internet impacts our lives today – both good and bad. Senator Cornyn and I reintroduced our bipartisan legislation that uses a commonsense approach to create a clear mechanism for reporting criminal activity online, requiring companies to take reasonable steps to report unlawful activity or be held liable for that failure. It is past time we held these sites accountable.”
What the actual fuck does the DEA’s seizures of fentanyl have to do with Section 230? These are wholly unrelated issues. Also, given that the DEA loves to make up crazy conspiracy theories about fentanyl, I’m going to have to ask for some actual evidence to the line that it was enough to kill every American.
First of all, Section 230 already has an exemption for federal criminal activities, what do drug sales have to do with Section 230? Second, “see something, say something” has always been a dumb, failed concept, because it leads to mass reporting of utter nonsense, overwhelming those looking for actual problems. You end up flooding law enforcement with garbage reports. Third, the most astute thing for a website facing this nonsense requirement to file a report for anything suspicious to do is to stop looking altogether. The more you look, the more you’ll have to report. So, congrats Senator Manchin, your bill would make it so social media companies do less to stop illegal drug sales.
Indeed, Section 230 is a big part of what lets social media companies continue to adapt and change to try to stop the sale of illegal drugs on their platform, without fearing liability for making a mistake. Manchin’s bill would wipe that way, giving them less freedom to actually help.
Also, admittedly this is not my area of expertise, but I would expect that even if drug dealers are using social media today, such activity would likely move to encrypted communications like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal rather than traditional social media, meaning that the companies wouldn’t be able to monitor it anyway.
This whole thing, yet again, stinks of politicians and moral panics, and the desire to blame social media for larger societal issues that neither Manchin nor Cornyn actually want to do the heavy lifting to deal with. The opioid epidemic, which Manchin has talked about for years, isn’t going to be solved by making social media company fling piles and piles of useless time-wasting paperwork at law enforcement. It needs real solutions. Solutions Manchin refuses to consider.