Congress may always run short on funds, but it never seems to run low on bad ideas. This week, Senators Joe Manchin and John Cornyn announced a new bill that manages to rev up the War on Drugs, butcher Section 230, and attack free speech and the free market all at the same time. Impressive, honestly.
Today @JohnCornyn & I reintroduced the See Something, Say Something Online Act to stop illicit sale of opioids & other drugs online by amending Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act to require companies to report illegal activity on their platforms. https://t.co/ssntze0Vtm
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 30, 2023
In a tweet, Manchin said they introduced the “See Something, Say Something Online Act to stop illicit sale of opioids & other drugs online by amending Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act to require companies to report illegal activity on their platforms.”
In a longer statement issued by the senators’ offices, they added to this sentiment.
“Last year alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized enough fentanyl to kill every American, much of it ordered over the Internet and sent by mail from China. The Internet has drastically changed since Section 230 was written in 1996, nearly 30 years ago, and while it keeps us all more connected than ever before, it also makes it easier to conduct illegal activity online,” said Senator Manchin.
“We must amend Section 230 to better reflect the way the Internet impacts our lives today – both good and bad. Senator Cornyn and I reintroduced our bipartisan legislation that uses a commonsense approach to create a clear mechanism for reporting criminal activity online, requiring companies to take reasonable steps to report unlawful activity or be held liable for that failure. It is past time we held these sites accountable,” Manchin concluded.
Cornyn added to the statement saying, “High-level drug offenses, violent crimes like murder, and even acts of terrorism are documented online, and it’s past time that technology platforms play a role in standing up for the victims of these types of crimes by saying something when they see something. By requiring technology platforms to file reports when they become aware that a major crime has been committed, this legislation keeps platforms accountable and helps authorities deliver justice.”
Cheese and rice. Can the Boomers just NOT for one day?
Let’s break the problems here down one by one.
First, it is not the job of any private business or citizen to enforce the government’s laws. They don’t get paid for this service, nor can the government force its work on citizens. Maybe use the trillions in funding you get to, hmm, actually do your own job?
Moreover, the government should not force citizens or private businesses to participate in its vastly stupid, liberty-eroding, endless War on Drugs. The drugs have won.
That’s why despite decades and billions of dollars, drugs continue to pour into the country. All politicians have succeeded in doing is creating a black market and destroying civil rights under the War on Drugs. Common sense would dictate it’s time to hang it up, not draft in new allies. But, of course, common sense is in short supply in DC as well—and the federal government isn’t typically very good at getting out of the foolish wars it gets us into.
Not only that, but this bill wants to go about forcing companies to participate in this clown show by threatening their free speech rights if they refuse. That’s an attack on the First Amendment.
Section 230 essentially just reaffirms the First Amendment by stating that business owners are responsible (liable) for what they say on their platforms and they’re not responsible (liable) for what others say on their platform. Just as Burger King would obviously not be responsible for someone making terrorist threats while on their physical property—neither should companies be responsible for illicit or harmful statements made online by others.
But in tying Section 230’s liability protections to drug enforcement, these politicians are saying that if you don’t help us (or even if you do and something falls through the cracks) we will make you liable for the speech of others. Thus, companies would have to moderate speech on their platforms according to government dictates.
Now, do you see how absurd this is? This is akin to telling Burger King they’re responsible for someone selling drugs in their parking lots, and if they don’t find a way to stop it they’ll also be able to be sued for the rantings of the local homeless man sitting in one of their booths.
Unfortunately, Section 230 has become the pet target of anti-capitalists on both the Right and the Left, and this is merely the latest example from numerous current bills with this angle. But the reality is that Section 230 is a very good and necessary law that protects free speech and the free market, and also protects businesses from our atrociously structured litigation system that makes it far too easy and affordable to sue people without cause.
A politician targeting Section 230, and especially one using it as a threat to make fundamental rights conditional privileges, is a major red flag in the bio. Americans should swipe left on these dusty ideas.