Arthur Chu’s Top Three Reasons To Eliminate Section 230

He may be no Ken Jennings, but then, being a Jeopardy! champion eleven times is nothing to sneeze at.  So when Arthur Chu took to writing for TechCrunch after learning that there was no more savory way to monetize his moment of fame, it was worthwhile checking out what a mind filled with trivia had to say.  And Chu did not squander the opportunity.

After launching into a shallow homage to anti-Gamergaters, “[p]erennial troll targets Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn,” Chu eventually got to the point of his cry for attention: End the safe harbor of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  This “loophole,” Chu posits, is how mean people on the internet have been allowed to so deeply hurt the feelings of Sarkeesian and Quinn.  It must die.

Right now you can’t sue digital platforms for enabling harassment on their services, even if they enable harassment through flagrant, willful neglect. If your harasser is able to take fairly basic steps to keep himself anonymous — and if the platform he chooses enables and enforces that anonymity — then there is literally nothing you or the government can do, even if his actions rise to the level of major crimes like attempted murder.

Well, maybe not “attempted murder,” which actually involves the use of a telephone, rather than the internet, and isn’t exactly attempted murder, though SWATTING is a awful thing.  But Chu is on a roll, even if he refuses to put it in the form of a question.

It’s not that Chu supports the wild calls for government control over the evil trolls. Even he isn’t that batshit crazy.  In the absence of a safe harbor for online platforms to publish user expression, Chu offers a more market-friendly answer:

We have, here in the United States, a system by which wronged parties can seek redress from those who wronged them, and those who willfully enabled that wrong, without proactive control by government bureaucrats. It’s one that even ardent libertarians imagine as being part of how their ideal “small government” would work. And it’s a highly American tradition: one that’s been identified as central to American culture since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville.

I’m talking, of course, about lawsuits. Civil litigation. Bringing in the lawyers.

Lawyers!  This is a big thing, since nobody with a Jeopardy! win under their belt, tossing in a reference to de Tocqueville to show their mad trivia skillz, has ever suggested that lawyers were the solution to anything before.

But it’s nonsense, of course, as any lawyer who isn’t desperate for impoverished whiny clients will tell you.

Yes, by all means, bring on the lawyers. Speaking as one of them — in fact, one who handles the sort of litigation at issue here — let me explain why this is stick-your-hand-in-the-blender naïve.

The court system is broken, perhaps irretrievably so. Justice may not depend entirely on how much money you have, but that is probably the most powerful factor. A lawsuit — even a frivolous one — can be utterly financially ruinous, not to mention terrifying, stressful, and health-threatening. What do I mean by financially ruinous? I mean if you are lucky as you can possibly be and hire a good lawyer who gets the suit dismissed permanently immediately, it will cost many thousands, possibly tens of thousands. If you’re stuck in the suit, count on tens or hundreds of thousands.

The suggestion that this system will ease the chaos that would result from the loss of Section 230 is nothing short of lunacy.

And this is perhaps an overly optimistic view, given that almost all of the stakeholders, save the few major corporate entities that own the internet, are broke. Unless a lawyer wants to be paid with a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, there’s nothing here for anyone.

But what about those big-league internet players?  Without Section 230, they would be the deep-pocket targets of every butthurt victim online.  Chu has that covered as well.


Remember all the fun you had on the internets? Garbage. Garbage, garbage and more garbage.  Who will rid the internets of these meddlesome trolls, protected by Section 230 so they may hurt feelings with abandon? Chu will. For a fellow in possession of vast amounts of trivia, Chu evinces a rather odd inability to connect the many and varied dots.  First, absent the ability to allow people to post on the internet, upload, comment, whatever, with impunity, no internet platform will allow it to happen.  No one, from blogger to Ms. Google, is either going to prison, going bankrupt or going to endure ten million lawsuits for your sake. Yet, without the input, the content, the thoughts for better or worse, there won’t be much to see except a few marketing websites.  Picture an internet comprised solely of advertisements. Fun, right?  No interaction. No engagement. No smart twits or stupid twits. No twits at all. The irony of the myopia of guys like Chu is that they see your twits as mean, you as the troll.  What they fail to grasp is they’re no different, often the first to call those who dispute their notions of social justice “misogynists” and “racists,” haters all.  Which, of course, is just as much an attack as they see happening to them.  To the unduly fragile, everything is an attack. And when we all get to bitch about each other’s words, we’re all each other’s troll. Chu imagines an internet where we do a billion part chorus of Kumbaya, validating each other and spreading hugs and love.  In his head, ending the protection for words that hurt feelings will eliminate those “sour notes” that ruin the happiness he craves. Maybe if he had won just one more game show, he would understand that there will be no happyworld, but a silent world, because no one, none, is above expressing an opinion that will somehow, some way, avoid being perceived as unpleasant by someone.  So what’s the best response to Chu’s inane idea?  

6 thoughts on “Arthur Chu’s Top Three Reasons To Eliminate Section 230

  1. Fyodor

    How would “swatting” be affected by 230 liability, anyway? You’re not using the online platform for that. I guess that it’s often the case that the people who commit swatting crimes also engage in offensive online harassment. But even absent 230 liability, I don’t see how you could sue Twitter because the swatter is also a Twitter user.

      1. Frank

        Also hypocritical. He tried to get a venue in DC to cancel a GamerGate gathering about six months back. When the venue manager told him to go pound sand, there was this mysterious bomb threat phoned in.

        1. SHG Post author

          This isn’t meant as a bash Chu opportunity. It’s about Section 230. Chu can otherwise be as good or evil as anyone else.

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