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Hometown: New England, The South, Midwest
Home country: USA
Current location: Chicago
Member since: Sat Mar 5, 2011, 12:32 PM
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Journal Archives

In the BFD Zone: Congress's ignorance about 230, and why you can't trust Congress or Barr

In the BFD Zone: Congress's ignorance about 230, and why you can't trust Congress or Barr more than Silicon Valley to look out for American end users' best interests.

If you've read the headline that social media heads are to testify before Congress, you should know the fine print about how long Congress' and Wm. Barr's attacks against Section 230 of the CDA have gone on, and how Congress is either trying to stall Barr's efforts or aid them. These days it's hard to tell.

Below, Techdirt offers information and analysis. There's a lot more on its site about 230; only three articles are shown here. If this is a long read, it's still too important to ignore.

These are yet more reasons for Millennials to join the rest of us and get involved in the 2020 election -- because they know that their leaders, AOC and The Squad, understand the importance of 230, and how Barr will amend it to enhance Trump's dictatorial powers and Russian influence.

If you were in a coma for the past 12 months ... to figure out what had happened in the last year or so solely based on new bills introduced in Congress, you would likely come to the conclusion that Section 230 was the world's greatest priority and the biggest, most pressing issue in the entire freaking universe.
I've completely lost track of how many new bills have been introduced this year -- in the midst of a pandemic -- that try to undermine and destroy the open internet enabled by Section 230 of the CDA. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Last week we had Lindsey Graham and his garbage Online Content Policy Modernization Act. Josh Hawley, the lying demagogue, has probably introduced half a dozen bills aimed at undermining Section 230, including one a few weeks ago. On Tuesday of this week we had Senators Manchin and Cornyn introduce their despicable and dangerous See Something, Say Something Act.
And then, on Wednesday, we got two more truly awful anti-230 bills. What's going on over there on Capitol Hill?

There have been so many dumb anti-230 bills that it's hard to rank which one's worse than the next, but this one is... just bad.
Basically, this would take Section 230 away from any site that tracks any information on its users, or presents an algorithmically generated feed for its users.
But, it would not apply if the users of those sites "knowingly and intentionally elect to receive" the algorithmically generated feed. And so sites that want to do that will just put it in their terms of service and make people agree to it and... what good does that do for anyone?

And what does this even have to do with Section 230 anyway? If you don't like algorithmically generated feeds, it would seem that
(1) you're going to have a 1st Amendment issue to overcome at some point and
(2) there are other tools in the toolbox and
(3) it's totally unrelated to the questions about Section 230.

This is just "old man yells at cloud... and writes weird legislation."


Sorry Russian trolls (oh, and also all you people insisting that Section 230 doesn't and or shouldn't allow Facebook to kick trolls off its platform), but a court has made it clear that Facebook is clearly protected in kicking trolls off its platform.
In this case, the Federal Agency of News (FAN) was kicked off Facebook soon after the 2016 election, when Facebook realized that various Russian trolling outfits had used the platform to push propaganda, often directed by the Russian "Internet Research Agency."
Among the pages that Facebook removed was FAN's. For what it's worth, the "General Director" of FAN was one Aleksandra Krylova, who is among those who were indicted by Robert Mueller last year, for trying to influence the US election.

And in regard to Americans' interests in 230:

At bottom, the United States Supreme Court has held that property does not “lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes.” Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, 407 U.S. 551, 569 (1972).
Thus, simply because Facebook has many users that create or share content, it does not mean that Facebook, a private social media company by Plaintiffs’ own admission in the complaint, becomes a public forum.

In Professor Eric Goldman's discussion of this ruling, he notes that anyone supporting Senator Josh Hawley's silly bill to remove Section 230 protections from big internet platforms is effectively supporting Russian trolls like the ones who filed this case:

Just a reminder to anyone complaining about Facebook “censoring” them, arguing that Facebook is the new public square, or demanding that Facebook “must carry” content neutrally: you are making the exact same arguments as Russian trolls seeking to destroy our country.

Either that’s the goal you intentionally want, or you are so narrowly focused on your concerns that you don’t realize or care how Russian trolls are weaponizing your arguments against our democracy. Want to Make America Great Again? (or keep America great, if we never stopped being great). Stop trying to destroy the editorial freedom of online publishers to decide what’s fit to publish and what isn’t.

In particular, this case reiterates the depravity of Sen. Hawley’s “[Ending] Support for Internet Censorship Act.” FAN was promoting its own political viewpoints, so Sen. Hawley’s proposal would force Facebook and other major Internet companies to treat FAN’s trolling as equally legitimate as the Republican Party’s social media activities. (Please, no “jokes” about how Republicans have become unexpectedly enthusiastic supporters of Russia’s policy and world views). Why would Sen. Hawley–and the few supporters of his bill–want to prevent online crackdowns against Russian trolls? It appears Sen. Hawley doesn’t understand the consequences of his bill–or worse, perhaps he does.


This is pretty similar to the two bills listed above. The only real difference is that this one adds in the promotion of "violent extremism" which you already know that this DOJ will use to include trying to force social media companies to take down Antifa and BLM content.

But, of course, as we discussed with the previous bills, this is clearly unconstitutional. It is a form of regulation of content that is not content neutral, and that's not allowed. Also, note what kind of content is not included here: racist, homophobic, hateful content would not be covered in many cases. Nor would spam.
Yes, in some cases it could be argued that such content is "harassing" or perhaps it might qualify for some of the other categories, but most of it would lead a site to not have 230 protections. Websites would still have 1st Amendment protections, but to fight that legal battle would be hugely expensive and destructive for most websites -- meaning that many will not fight at all.

The bill would also expand 230's exemptions such that federal civil actions were no longer exempt (as per the FTC's wish). It also includes a bunch of other carve-outs that I'm too tired to go through, but will note that it would appear to allow state Attorneys General to bring lawsuits against websites that were previously barred by 230...

The anti-terrorism one should be particularly concerning. We've wrote about a whole bunch of cases involving people who sued social media for "material support for terrorism" in response to a loved one being killed by terrorists. The arguments are, roughly, that because their family member was killed by a terrorist, and because some terrorist-connected individuals used social media, clearly, the social media companies are liable for their family member's death.

Courts have, rightly, been tossing these cases out on 230 grounds. But if the DOJ got its way, that would no longer be possible, and we'd likely see a ton of frivolous litigation in response.
Another change is an attempt to remove 230 protections for sites that fact check the President. This is not how it's framed of course, but it's pretty obvious why Bill Barr wanted this in there...

...Basically, fact check someone, and you can lose your 230 protections. Of course, again, this is unconstitutional, as it's an attempt to suppress the very thing that 230 (and the 1st Amendment) were designed to encourage: more open discussion. Indeed, for Bill Barr -- who has whined about "cancel culture" -- to include this in there is deeply ironic. This kind of thing will decrease incentives to add commentary or fact checks, thus suppressing speech

For The Record -- First Presidential Debate 2020

Now that we won this one.

Start 27:45

Post debate comments at the top of The 11th Hour:

Claire MacCaskill: I'm 80% sad and 20% mad. If you were watching this for the first time, you'd say about Trump, "what's wrong with this guy" and about Biden, "this guy sounds like he knows what he's doing."

James Carville : Trump lost the audience. 28 minutes into it was unwatchable -- and he's 9 points down!
Re Trump's "stand down but stand by," words: we're not prepared to address this, because even Chris Wallace couldn't even handle this. This accomplished nothing for Trump, Biden did fine but it was a tough night for Democracy.

Lawrence O'Donnell: Biden maintained his lead. The guy behind him in the polls had to move up, and I didn't see one moment when he moved up. Quoting a woman: "my soul hurt" and I think millions of women felt that way tonight.
Re the Presidential Debate Commission, it's behind the times and it will not fix this debate problem. Turning off the mic couldn't be done without agreement from both sides, but Trump wouldn't agree because his whole goal is to talk through whenever Biden is talking. The president refused to take a stand against white supremacists, and so each and every future moderator must ask that exact question about whether he'll take a stand against white supremacists, to get that on public record.

Eugene Robinson: I don't know what the hell we just saw. I'm the reverse of Claire -- 80% mad and 20% sad. Trump came to disrupt a debate, being unqualified to address issues, just to prove his alpha maleness. He didn't succeed in advancing his campaign claims against Biden and so didn't help himself. I don't see the point in repeating this exercise. The American people didn't learn anything except that Trump is a bully.
I don't think the integrity of the election was a good question, because it fed into Trump's narrative.

Governor Cuomo Briefing September 29 2020

Localities must do their job, enforce the law, to maintain clusters so they don't become outbreaks.

To progress in stability and maintenance of public safety, Cuomo defines "progressive" and again hits Trump's government hard on the costs of COVID, for which Cuomo refuses all liability. (28:30)

Patriot Coalition: Leaked Messages Show Far-Right Group's Plans for Portland Violence

Do the last two months' activity show they're they waiting for a post-Nov 4 "signal"?

Bellingcat has acquired several months of chat logs from the Patriot Coalition of Oregon, a network of pro-Trump, pro-police activists. These chat logs were provided by an infiltrator affiliated with the antifascist collective Eugene Antifa. We were also given login information for the infiltrator’s account on GroupMe, a secure messaging app owned by Microsoft. This allowed us to directly observe the group’s communications, to verify the information provided to us and to export a log of those chats directly from the application. (Many posts contain spelling and grammatical errors, which we have not altered.)

These logs provide an intimate look inside a growing insurgent network, and shed new light on episodes of armed conflict which are already on the public record. Topics of conversation include plans for violence in the streets of Portland, celebration of acts of thuggery and even discussions about harming elected leaders and journalists. More than anything, the chats catalog the rapid radicalization of Patriot Coalition’s membership, many of whom express a willingness to kill their perceived left-wing enemies.

The leaked chat logs appear to reveal that some members of the Patriot Coalition have taken part in multiple violent rallies throughout the summer, and that they claim to have operated a series of vigilante patrols and checkpoints during the Oregon wildfires. While the chats appear to show they work and fight alongside members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys, American Wolf and 1776 2.0, the Patriot Coalition seems to have no coherent ideology beyond a desire to violently confront leftists in the name of the police and President Trump. A user identified as Paige summed up the general feelings of the group in a post made ahead of a what turned out to be a bloody ‘Back the Blue’ rally on August 22nd in Portland when she wrote: “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing.”

Mark Melchi, a member of the chat group who also heads a militant anti-Antifa group named 1776 2.0, posted on August 17th: “My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months. They are all hit an run tactics from a few behind the main rows of people. When things get going. The Portland Ganges who also hide in Antifa will shoot you…Like they have done with a few of our guys. This won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat. We have fought with guys in Portland who are like giant Russians so, they’re not all soy boys. We must be ready to defend with lethal response. If we don’t get to enough of them they will just comeback when we leave, just like the Taliban did in Afghanistan. We need to make it dramatic enough for them not to want to return. Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”

As user Roger Charlie Bravo posted on September 15th: “What we are doing is not random. Patriots around the country are currently organizing and preparing. We know D day is coming after November. We know that what we are seeing now is a betrayal of trust of the people by our government. We know that this war has a long time to go. We are not alone. There are people all around us supporting us. There are people all around that would stand side by side with us.”


The Guardian, of course, shows its interest.

Original, now archived, Patriot Coalition page on Facebook.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver September 27 2020

From my Millennial son:

There has been an orchestrated, directed, effort to undo the success of the New Deal Coalition; fomented in the early days of the Cold War, whose faction was elevated in the GOP during the McCarthy era and pronounced to unmake the post WWII American political consensus in Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Republican run at presidency.

This would be mainstreamed in every contentious GOP victory for the next fifty years, with its current incarnation astroturfed as the Tea Party post Obama victory, which has since mutated into a very publicly armed, nebulous, populous-branded, authoritarian-nationalist surge.

The same players in Nixon and Reagan’s administrations, and their same backers in the evangelical, Radical Free Marketeer, and Southern Strategy camps, are at the center of this power-at-any-cost American Oligarchy.

Attempts to appease and work through this peacefully have been met with the most egregious threats to our Union since the period of the Compromise of 1877.

With facets that have now appeared as ideologically-driven violent street gangs, the armed storming of state government houses by insurrectionary militias, and false narratives designed to undermine the elections... right now is historically of extremely heavy and dangerous gravity, that has, and will, fundamentally alter norms in society in reactionary, not wholly backwards, ways.

This is intentionally subtle, and riddled with the inherent strangeness of the New. The suffering and terror will be as quiet as a whimper, if not a stunned shock, and will be even more foreign to those same people who today perpetrate it.

It won’t look like the horrors we’ve seen, but its shadow will rhyme with the faraway stories of hard fought struggles won.

The ones you and I come from.

The ones we’re in now.

Rockport Sunday

Governor Cuomo Briefing September 24 2020

The two major factors affect New York's being an anomaly for the country:
the extraordinary work of New Yorkers, and what happens in states around NY and in other other countries.
The U.S. COVID infection rate is going up, overall, while New York has only a 1% infection rate.

The collective reality is that we won't be out of this until we are all out of this.

Fall challenges to adapt to: schools, COVID vaccine, flu season

Schools report daily, labs do tests, and both are available online. School plans are easy; schools submit daily reports of data and testing (school report card), so that both the report card and lab tests give people the facts so they can respond accordingly.

Nationally, FDA vaccine guidance is being being politicized, and so is untrustworthy in terms of safety and distribution, and implementing the dosing.

Statewide, a task force will take the lead to determine the distribution and implementation plan once a vaccine is safe and affordable. New York's goal is to be the first COVID free state, and the model for states to become COVID free.

Further hard hitting commentary (a Trump ad on taxes interrupts at 44:00! thanks, YouTube!) on what Trump knew, Breonna Taylor's death, qualified funding for police from the state, the political dynamic of the public and government, NY's debts from COVID and who is liable for the costs of COVID -- WASHINGTON, DC, through "gross negligence."

"What government does in the age of COVID is a matter of life and death."

Of Course Democrats Have A Plan!

Just because he presented a montage of claims that Trump won't leave, stupid Bill Maher thought that would justify demanding that Bernie tell him of the Dems' "Plan" on national television, watched by milions. Maher thinks he and his millions are entitled.

If anyone thinks knowing the Democratic Party's "Plan" is a good idea, they do not know that when one is on the defensive in life and politics, stealth and ambush are the greatest weapons.

To PUBLICALLY tip off Republicans? on HBO? the news? on DU?
To give fascists even more intelligence and leverage than they now have? Preposterous.

Transparency is for governance, not winning political wars. Win first. Never tip your hand.

Let's not think Democrats and Biden don't have a plan just because we don't know it. Tom Perez hinted at that yesterday on MSNBC.

We know a few things which should reassure us. Biden's got a war room. He's not taking a knife to a gun fight.

Biden's using two former solicitors general -- Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger -- along with hundreds of lawyers bracing for an extended legal battle. Dana Remus, Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration; the law firm Perkins Coie, led by Marc Elias to head up state-by-state battles, monitoring and building cases of Trump election fraud across states.

A lot of what Trump and his allies would have us do is amplify their disaster scenarios,” Mr. Bauer said. “We’re not going to get caught up in alarmist rhetoric they are using to scare voters.


Already De Joy is showing fear. Already Lindsey Graham is publically begging for bucks, Indivisible is prepped across states.

Watch what Democrats can do. They ain't playin'.

Bernie Sanders First Major Public Address 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders gives a speech on the integrity of the upcoming Nov. 3 election at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The speech is Sanders' first in-person event since he ended his presidential bid in the spring.

Glad to see him on Rachel's show tonight, and that he's hitting the road for Biden and Democracy for at least the next month.

His independent voice will be heard by people discouraged by party politics, and he'll give them the best of objective reasons to vote.

The most important thing about this speech is that it is a clarion call to both the U.S. Military and American people that we are facing a real threat to our Constitution. The key emphasis was clear: autocracy is being attempted. As Masha Gessen said tonight on Rachel, the autocratic threshold could be passed and autocracy solidified in the next four years.

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