Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and deeply awkward ‘satirist’ seek to remove 1st Amendment rights from website to ‘protect free speech’
from it-doesn’t-seem-fair department
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who leads what’s called the “House Republican Big Tech Task Force,” teamed up with Seth Dillon, the CEO of deeply “conservative” wannabe Onion, The Babylon Bee, to whine in the NY Post about “how to end big tech’s censorship of free speech.“The answer, apparently, is to remove the 1st Amendment. I would just like to joke, but that’s the crux of their very, very confusing suggestion.
Let’s start with the basics: Dillon’s site regularly publishes satires promoting a culture war. Because Republican culture wars these days are all about shitting on someone they don’t like, or who dares to suggest that simple respect for others is a virtue, many of these stories aren’t just deeply unfunny, but often quite screwed up. None of this is surprising, of course. But, the thing about the modern GOP and its culture wars is that it’s all about pretending to be the victim. It is never, not once, about being willing to take responsibility for your own actions.
So when Babylon Bee posts something stupid that breaks a rule, and they get a little slap on the wrist for it, they immediately collapse to the floor like a terrible football player and roll over how their freedom of expression was completely censored. . This is not the case. You are relying on someone else’s private property. They make the rules. And if they decide you’ve broken their rules, they can show you the door (or whatever punishment on the spot) they think is appropriate. It’s pretty basic stuff, and actually used to be Conservative dogma: Private property rights, the right to associate freely – or not – with whomever you want under the 1st Amendment, and to accept personal responsibility when messing around, were things that, did we -it is said, were essential to being conservative.
More (it’s debatable, of course, if they were really serious about all this).
There is no freedom of expression problem here. The Babylon Bee has the 1st Amendment right to publish all the nonsense it wants on its own site. He has no right to demand that others host his speech for him. Just like Babylon Bee needn’t publish my hysterically funny satire about Seth Dillon plagiarizing his “best” jokes by running Onion articles three times via GPT3 AI with the phrase “this, but for stupid rubies”. It’s freedom of association, Seth. This is how it works.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the CEO of a “what if satire was shitty” site doesn’t understand the 1st Amendment, but you’d think that a sitting member of Congress, who has actually sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution, might have a better idea. That’s not the case for Rep. McMorris Rodgers, who was once actually decent on tech, before apparently realizing that her constituents don’t like reality’s chosen ones and prefer them to be warriors as well. of the culture.
Anyway, after complaining about facing a tiny bit of personal responsibility – including, don’t shit, having to be fact checked by Facebook (note for both of you: fact-checking is more talkit’s not censorship, you hypocritical idiots) – they trot out their “solutions”.
Big Tech must be held accountable. First, we propose to narrow Section 230 liability protections for Big Tech companies by removing ambiguity from the law – which they exploit to suppress and penalize constitutionally protected speech. Our proposal ensures that Big Tech is no longer protected if it censors individuals or media or removes factually correct content simply because it doesn’t match its woke narrative.
I mean, damn it. There’s no excuse in the year 2022 to still ignore how Section 230 works so much. Especially if you’re in Congress. The narrowing of Section 230 liability protections will not lead to less restraint. It will lead to more. Liability protections are what make websites feel comfortable hosting third-party content. The case that caused Section 230 in the first place, involved Prodigy being held liable for comments in a forum. If you make the sites more accountable, they are less likely to host any nonsensical content you want to share their website.
Second, the removal of “factually correct content,” whether or not it “fits its woke narrative” (and, uh, no big tech company has a “wake narrative”) is…protected by the 1st Amendment. Content moderation is protected by the 1st Amendment. Dillon doesn’t have to publish my unfunny article. Twitter doesn’t need to publish its unfunny article. Facebook can verify anything it wants, even if it gets the facts wrong. It’s thanks to the 1st Amendment.
Removing 230 protections doesn’t change that – it makes websites even LESS likely to host culture war nonsense.
But McMorris Rodgers and Dillon aren’t done yet.
Second, we propose requiring quarterly filings with the Federal Trade Commission to keep Big Tech transparent about content moderation. This will allow Congress, the FTC, and Americans to know when and why these companies are censoring content to determine if it is warranted. We would also remove Section 230 protections after five years, so that Congress can reevaluate them if necessary and incentivize Big Tech to treat all content fairly or have their protections revoked.
Again, this is almost certainly unconstitutional. I know some people have a hard time understanding why the transparency requirements are an affront to the 1st Amendment, but it’s pretty simple. If Congress ordered Seth Dillon to file his site’s editorial policies, including details about which stories they reject and which ones they promote “to determine whether the site is justified” in making those editorial decisions, just about everyone would recognize the concerns of the 1st Amendment.
Require anyone to justify their editorial decisions by filing reports with the government to “determine whether [those editorial decisions are] Justified” is just a blatant attack on free speech and the 1st Amendment.
The Article 230 sunset simply brings us back to the problem we noted above. Without liability protections, websites are MORE likely to remove content to avoid liability, not less.
It’s not like a big secret. Maybe Dillon and McMorris Rodgers only get their news from sites like Babylon Bee, and that helps them not understand how it all works. But, really, that’s no excuse.
Third, our proposal demands that Big Tech improve appeal processes for users to challenge moderation decisions and allow people to ask their state’s Attorney General to take legal action against Big Tech, thereby strengthening the power users to challenge censorship. Twitter would be required to notify a user, such as Babylon Bee, via direct communication before taking any censorship action. Big Tech would also be required to give users the ability to challenge any censorship decisions with a real person — not a bot — to dissuade Big Tech from completely automating its censorship process.
Well, again, this is all an affront to the 1st Amendment. Should I be able to get my state’s Attorney General to take legal action against Babylon Bee for not posting my truly hilarious article about how Cathy McMorris Rodgers hates the internet so much, that she uttered a legislation prohibiting communities from building their own broadband networks (really fun stuff, because it’s true).
Of course not. The 1st Amendment protects websites and their editorial decisions. There is no constitutional cause of action that an Attorney General could bring against a website for its moderation decisions.
As for the appeal process, most websites have one. But mandating one would, again, raise serious constitutional issues, because it is the government that interferes with the editorial process.
And, note, of course, that none of these complaints are about the fact that the social media sites people love Dillon Asincluding Parler, Gettr, and Truth Social, have much more arbitrary and aggressive content moderation policies (even though they claim otherwise).
It will be hilarious — even Babylon Bee-worthy, if I say so myself — if this bill passes and woke liberals use it to sue Truth Social for suppressing truthful content from the January 6 hearings. Come on, Seth, let me publish this as an article on your site! Or do you hate freedom of expression!
Freedom of expression should be cherished and preserved. It’s time for Big Tech companies to uphold American values and become fair stewards of the discourse they host.
But the Babylon Bee is still free to be as shitty as before? How is that fair?
Filed Under: 1st amendment, cathy mcmorris rodgers, content moderation, editorial discretion, freedom of speech, section 230, seth dillon
Companies: babylon bee