from the that’s-not-how-any-of-this-works dept
Last fall, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana (a supposedly smart Senator who seems to have decided his political future lies in acting dumber than 95% of all other Senators) introduced an anti-Section 230 bill. He’s now done so again in the new Congressional session. The bill is, once again, called the “Don’t Push My Buttons” Act and introducing such a piece of total garbage legislation a second time does not speak well of Senator Kennedy.
The bill is pretty short. It would create an exception to Section 230 for any website that… uses algorithms to rank content for you based on user data it collects. Basically, it’s taking a roundabout way to try to remove Section 230 from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It is not clear why algorithmic ranking has anything to do with Section 230. While social media sites do tend to rely on both, they are separate things. Indeed, part of the reason why social media sites rely on algorithms is because Section 230 helps make sure they can host so much user-generated content, that there needs to be algorithmic rankings to make those sites useable.
So, in practice, if this became law, all it would really serve to do is to make social media sites totally unusable. Either, websites would have to stop doing algorithmic ranking of content (which would make the sites unusable for many people) or they’d start massively moderating content to avoid liability — making sites nearly unusable.
And, of course, there’s an exemption to this exemption which makes the whole thing useless. The bill will allow algorithms… if the user “knowingly and intentionally elects to receive the content.” So, all that will happen is every social media service will show you total garbage with a pop up saying “hey, we can straighten this out for you via our algorithm if you just click here” and everyone will click that button.
And that’s not even getting into the constitutional problems with this bill. It’s literally punishing companies for their editorial (ranking) choices. That’s Congress regulating expression. I don’t see how this bill would possibly survive 1st Amendment scrutiny. But, of course, it’s not designed to survive any scrutiny at all. It’s to serve as ever more grandstanding for Senator Kennedy to pretend to be looking out for a base he knows is ignorant beyond belief — and rather than educating them, he’s playing down to them.
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