Sotu Stories at Techdirt.


from don’t-do-what-putin-wants department

I’ve heard rumors from many quarters that President Biden might mention Section 230 in tonight’s State of the Union address, and I see no reason why he should, unless not to venerate her. Because it is only because of the existence of Section 230 that we, or the world, have a chance against the threats we face, especially right now.

In any crisis, there is always the urge to use the moment to push your case forward and affirm that what is happening illustrates how right everything you have advocated for has always been. But sometimes the correctness of that position is exactly what the moment shows. And such is the case now.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the critical importance of freedom of expression, including freedom of expression online, and the legal constructs that enable it. Dangerous people like Putin depend on silence to bring about their destruction so that their actions can continue undetected and undeterred by dissent. As we see, Putin is demanding that his own people be unplugged internet, and engage in tactics to disconnect everyone, that’s why: because freedom of speech is a powerful defense against bullies, and it’s a he does not want to face.

People always need to talk to each other, and sometimes their very survival, let alone the future political stability of their nation, depends on their ability to share ideas and information. The Internet is a wonderful tool that allows such an exchange of expressions to an unprecedented or unsubstitutable degree. It, and the Article 230 status that allows it to be this fantastic global tool to keep people connected, is a great gift we gave our future years ago, and without which we would be today. infinitely poorer today. This war is just one example.

Which is not to say that everything is perfect with the internet and all the ways people use it. We have never lived in a time when everyone could be connected. But there is no simple solution to any of the difficult challenges that our new digitally interconnected life has revealed. We shouldn’t pretend there are, and we certainly shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that section 230 is a low hanging fruit that, if picked, would miraculously solve all our problems without creating any countless others, some much worse.

Because it would be making a tyrant like Putin’s bid to take any action that would end up crippling the ability to speak and exchange information online, and to take such drastic and consecutive action that would affect all speakers everywhere simply because some used their speech rights poorly. When people abuse power, speaking out is what gives those they want to hurt the power to stand up against them. And the internet is what allows us all to hear them. Yet whenever lawmakers flirt with repealing Section 230, circumventing Section 230, or even “reforming” Section 230, they invite fate: a world without Internet and without this crucial means for people to stay connected to each other. when they need it most.

Every time we casually try to play with this essential legal protection that Internet services depend on to provide the services that speakers around the world depend on, we threaten to destroy that which evens our chances against totalitarian danger. The absurdity of this regulatory call to harm Section 230, and therefore the Internet, and therefore the world, should therefore be apparent. At a time when we need to stand up for our principles and our friends the most, it makes absolutely no sense to disarm ourselves and get rid of the greatest weapon in the world against the threats we all face. The internet allows people to express themselves, and there’s nothing to be gained by making sure they can’t – but especially not now. Now is not the time to do anything to restrict speech and leave people desperately crying out for help from the world as isolated as their abusers want them to be.

Filed Under: internet regulations, joe biden, russia, section 230, sotu, state of the union, ukraine, vladimir putin

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