Short Take: Got Comments?

Neither Trump nor Biden are fans of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, albeit for very different reasons. The former because his twits are labeled as false, and his sycophants keep being tossed off social media for being too violent, crazy or absurdly false. The latter because platforms aren’t censoring enough hate speech and allowing white men to disagree with women of color.

But Trump upped the ante by announcing that he will veto the defense spending bill necessary to fund the military unless it includes the repeal of Section 230.

President Trump tweeted late Tuesday that he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress repeals Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which critics say unfairly shields social media platforms from liability over items posted on their platforms.

These opponents have been vocal that tech behemoths like Twitter and Facebook should no longer be shielded as a neutral platform when they operate more like a publisher.

Or, as the president said using his official mode of communication:

This, of course, is factual nonsense, not that facts play any role in either the president’s decision-making or claims. Section 230 existed before any of the “Big Tech” platforms and provided the internet with the ability for platforms to exist. There is no publisher/platform distinction in the law; the point of Section 230 is to enable commentary and moderation without liability, as there would be no possibility of social media or comments here without it.

Without Section 230, my options here would be to post all comments, unmoderated and without limitation, or allow no comments. My posts are entirely my responsibility, for which I am liable should anyone take issue. But your comments?

Much as I love your comments, I am not inclined to be sued because of them. If someone takes issue with a comment calling someone a mean name, I do not wish to be sued, and compelled to defend, for defamation, infliction of emotional distress or having the wrong fringes on the flag.

If i were to allow every commenter to say whatever was on his or her mind, it would range from the basic crazy to the most racist rants imaginable. You have no idea what I see and trash, and that’s from Barleycorn alone. The daytrippers from the most radical and hateful fringes who occasionally show up here will make you hate Darwin for being so very wrong.

What’s at stake here isn’t just whether your fav political nutjob gets his rants posted on twitter, but whether blogs like SJ will be at the tender mercies of the criminally insane as well. Without Section 230, there will be no comments here. It’s not that I don’t love you and relish your brilliant insight, but there’s no way I’m going to spend the rest of my days in court defending against lawsuits by folks wearing tinfoil hats. That’s what we’re looking at here.

16 thoughts on “Short Take: Got Comments?

  1. Bear

    Before the comments on SJ are gone I’d like to say I’ve learned a good deal from and been made to think by some of them.

      1. Steve King

        I have learned a great deal from this blog and its comments and hope that they both continue for a good long while.

  2. B. McLeod

    This is what comes of Trump’s lawyers blaming section 230 instead of just telling him they can’t sue people for statements that are true. Repealing the section will allow him to harass more people with baseless litigation, but he still won’t prevail.

  3. Jake

    If big baby trump does throw Section 230 out the window on his way out the door I imagine commenting and social media will change but not in the way you suggested, though it was quite funny. It seems much more likely you will have to be identified as a real person, at least at the level of the master services agreement you have with the platform, and check a box next to a lengthy indemnification clause none of us will read and (nearly) all of us will agree to. I certainly will.

    1. Rengit

      And if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the feds in the very recent Van Buren case, if you say something that is against the terms of service, you can be hit with a CFAA prosecution for accessing computer software for “an improper purpose,” which under the statutory language amounts to “exceeding authorized access”.

      Thrown in prison for violating tech companies’ vaguely defined terms of service, of which they are contractually the only authorized interpreter; a brave new world.

      1. SHG Post author

        Jake can speculate about what it all means. It won’t matter because Jake has nothing to say about it. I, on the other hand, have my hands on the wheel and eyes upon the road.

  4. KP

    You could tackle the problem from the other end, the rest of the world thinks America is crazy in the way you can sue someone for anything, like coffee being hot…

    Lawyer- This site said bad things about my client & hurt his feelings.

    Judge- Tell your client to take a teaspoon of cement & harden the fk up! Next!

    The comments are the only reason most sites are worth reading.

  5. L. Phillips

    Enjoy the site. Occasionally enjoy the comments, but they rarely make the site more interesting. Mine certainly don’t.

    That blah attitude balanced against the time and emotional energy you must spend raking through the daily dreck makes me wonder why comments are allowed at all.

    1. SHG Post author

      There are time I wonder as well, but then somebody says something exceptionally funny or brilliant and I remember why.

  6. F. Lee Billy

    Commenters Rule! The idea is to trick the host into posting your comment when maybe it was not worth the effort, either on his part or ours. We have pulled it off several times, … Too our eternal regret?

    You have to remember: Scott is good, but not purrfect. And neither was Sick
    Cheney, or our current disgraced Prez.
    P.S., Bush #43 looks pretty good in hindsight, Cheney notwithstanding. Where is broken-clock Scalia when we kneed him? You know who I’m 👄 about!

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