Last week, House Democrats introduced the Save the Internet Act, to enact the Net Neutrality protections favored by 83% of Americans; in response, Rep Greg Walden (R-OR, @repgregwalden, +1 (541) 776-4646) has proposed legislation rescinding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, “the most important law protecting internet speech”, which says that online services are not required to pro-actively censor user postings that might contain illegal speech — a vital protection that made it possible for sites like this one to have comment sections, and also enabled sites like Youtube and Snapchat to accept photos and videos from the public.
Section 230 was dealt a terrible blow last year with the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, which imposes a duty on service providers to ensure that users are not engaged in the sex trade; this has made life much more dangerous for sex workers, endangered positive depictions of human sexuality, and subjected Tumblr users to algorithmic censorship at mass scale, with predictable results.
But as bad as SESTA/FOSTA was, Walden’s proposal would be much, much worse. Eliminating Section 230 protection for wider classes of bad speech would make every public utterance subject to extremely broad, error-prone algorithmic censorship, while cementing the dominance of today’s digital monopolists, because only the largest tech companies would be able to afford to run these buggy algorithms.
This is a Made-in-America version of Europe’s Article 13, a measure so unpopular that the petition against it is now the most popular petition in human history. It’s more proof that the Republicans want to subject the vast majority of us to deeply unpopular ideas that only a tiny minority of mostly very rich people like.