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The EARN IT Act: how to ban end-to-end encryption without banning it (stanford.edu)
613 points by liotier on Jan 31, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 234 comments



So in short:

* EARN IT creates a committee that is set out to define "best practices" for preventing child sex abuse.

* Companies that don't adhere to these best practices lose liability protections for user-generated content.

* The attorney general can unilaterally edit these best practices as he sees fit.

* The current attorney general has repeatedly made statements that he wishes to eliminate the ability for companies to offer end-to-end encryption - he wants all communications to be vulnerable to wiretapping.

This effectively gives the attorney general the power to compel tech companies to do whatever he wants (so long as he can argue that it's preventing sex abuse) by threatening to revoke section 230 protections, and it's likely that this would be used to revoke protections from companies that offer end to end encryption.


This is a perfect case against centralized messaging: no company = no liability.

Sorry, moxie; there's going to be no way to have a beautiful e2e encrypted IM еxperience under wise oversight of a single company; only ugly p2p hodgepodge without a legal SPOF has a chance to pull it off.


We still need to replace the ultimate centralized industry: internet service providers. The telecommunications industry has always cooperated with the government and they can be ordered to block the "dangerous" messaging services. We need to somehow replace ISPs with a world-wide mesh network that can't be censored no matter how much governments want to.


I agree that ISPs are a problem, but it's possible to build a reasonably blockproof service with a doze of p2p darknet and reliance on common transport protocol (read: https). They would, essentially, have to find every node on the network and block them. Or perform very expensive traffic analysis, which can be defended against by designing normal protocol traffic to look very much like normal web traffic.

As always, adoption is going to be poor because even among geeks it's rare for one to deeply care about privacy & anonymity let alone lift a pinky for it.

Unfortunately, the worst threat is a legal one: just offer punishment for anyone who is found guilty of participating in such a network.


Unlike Signal, however, which the parent was taking a pop at - ISPs federate. This is a decent insurance policy in places covered by more than 1 ISP - if an ISP starts blocking content people want, they'll lose their customers overnight.

Not so good in most parts of America, though, where there's often an ISP monopoly.


How do you loop in the rural areas?


Unfortunately, in today’s App environment, no company = no signed binary = no relevance anywhere whatsoever.


Benefits of the push to "trusted computing" right here and there!


It doesn't have to be p2p. It just needs to be sufficiently decentralized, like email. If a company provides software but not a service then it's not liable under the new ruling. You can also run it outside of US jurisdiction. For example, use something like https://github.com/tinode/chat to set your own chat service.

Sure, they may try to go after a myriad of individual operators but it's a completely different story that forcing half a dozen US companies to drop e2e encryption.


If it has poor UX nobody will use it and people will use unencrypted centralized messaging instead.


> there's going to be no way to have a beautiful e2e encrypted IM еxperience under wise oversight of a single company;

At least, not headquarterd in countries where the government is known to compel staff to do "things". eg China, Russia, USA, Australia, (etc)


The article does mention that companies could argue they took "reasonable steps" if they refuse to follow the best practices. If they choose that route and win whatever court battle that follows, it'd essentially neuter this law. So there would at least a way out but it's risky.


Lets think of what "reasonable steps" a service provider of encrypted messaging could take to prevent child porn on their service...

* They could put up a big message saying 'no child porn'. I don't think that would be considered sufficient by a court.

* They could put a 'report' button. Again - insufficient.

* They could make client-side automated content scanners. Might be accepted by a court, but if you provide the scanner to the user, the government could argue it is easy to make images which bypass the scanner, which it would be.

* They could break encryption on some percentage of chats. A court would likely be looking at a particular case, and would consider the service provider not to have done their duty if the particular case at hand hadn't been checked.

I don't really see any reasonable steps which would stand up, other than breaking e2e and doing server-side scanning.


The proposed law (according to the article) requires the committee coming up with the rules to consider user privacy (not that they have to actually do that), but that gives a platform some cover to argue that breaking end-to-end encryption is not reasonable and that the report button will have to suffice.


That would be fine, if not for the fact that the committees rules can be completely overridden as desired, essentially making the committee nothing more than a public appeasement piece.


Do you know how much such an "argument" would cost? Forget all the small forums, 4chan, Mastodon instances after this law.

Maybe forget even Tor then, because by running a node at home or in your small business you are not adhering to the "best practices"


It would only take 1 platform with deep pockets to set a precedent for everyone


Say iMessage, for example?


Would such a thing have a positive side effect of effectively encouraging decentralized end-to-end encrypted technologies?


Don't Stand Out is a key privacy defence and is impossible with actually decentralized technologies. "The alleged terrorist was communicating with somebody else" is nothing, whereas "The alleged terrorist was communicating with JeremyNT's Private Node" means now you (JeremyNT) are getting the third degree. "It was somebody else" will get you just as far then as it would any number of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and went to prison (Birmingham Six) or worse (several inmates at modern US "black sites" as described in the Senate's book on torture).

When fifty people organise something the government wants to track but it can't distinguish that from the five hundred people ordering an Uber, the five thousand people reacting to a funny cat video or the fifty thousand people who just got a weather update those fifty people have privacy. That's important, it's why for example Signal uses Google's and Apple's generic notification frameworks rather than only using their own. It's also why eSNI plus DoH is on the critical path for the Internet.


> "The alleged terrorist was communicating with somebody else" is nothing, whereas "The alleged terrorist was communicating with JeremyNT's Private Node"

P2P does not imply direct communication between the private nodes of communicating parties.

We could have extremely strong anonymity today with a huge p2p (semi-dark-) net.


eSNI still gives away the public key for the encrypted host name. You only get a privacy advantage there if you're going through a large aggregator (Cloudflare, maybe Google and AWS load balancers), in which case, you have maybe reduced the number of governments that can identify your users. That's useful if you're trying to evade the GFW and you can find a service provider they won't block, but that's assuming GFW doesn't just block DoH and the ESNI txt records over plaintext DNS. And it adds a reliance on a small list of providers that have a scary monitoring capability themselves.


Not really. TLS 1.3 at least does a certificate-free ECDH handshake, deriving symmetric encryption keys that are then used to transmit the certificate(s) and any further negotiation. You can deploy TLS 1.3 without leaking anything to a passive observer, and blowing up in the face of an active (MitM) observer.


That's a problem with the internet in general really. eSNI or not, "don't stand out" can only work if you aren't standing out in regards to the source and destination IPs your packets have.


You can easily run a proxy from AWS (or whoever) to wherever, and get don't stand out, without giving the keys to your proxy host. If you cycle those often enough, you'll have some degree of don't stand out. Of course, if you use eSNI, or SNI, you'll still stand out


That's still assigning an IP to a website, and more than likely also assigning your identity or credit card to that IP address.


>Don't Stand Out is a key privacy defence and is impossible with actually decentralized technologies.

It's true that it's a key privacy defense but it's false that it's impossible.


People almost never deliberately use end-to-end encryption. They use it by accident when centralized services they already use like WhatsApp and iMessage implement it.


The people encouraged to use the decentralized end-to-end encryption would not be the average end user but the people who write the next generation of applications would use it and the end users would get it by accident just like they do now.


For the layperson (not trying to be insulting, just honest), sure. For hn readers, it's probably more appealing.

I find the parent comment more insulting than stating there is in fact a group of good people out there who value and seek privacy. Interesting that people are taking issue with my comment instead.


Elitist connotations aside, the fact that you want to use encryption is irrelevant if noone else is using. Are you going to talk to yourself, or only with a close-knit group?


I'm a member of several group chats on keybase which I use daily... Who is elitist here exactly? Sure I also have several friends who I talk to not on keybase. As soon as there's a service that's easier to setup, more reliable, and supports voice, I'll push it on all my friends.

Also, the keybase app on desktop runs 8+ processes, chewing more than 1gb of ram and several gb of storage, and the phone app is using about 1gb of storage too. I very begrudgingly endure this because it's the only service I trust so far, along with my friends who also value e2ee.

Really not sure what makes you adopt your attitude, can you explain? Do you think e2ee is not a worthy pursuit, or are you just being cynical?

I didn't intend "commoner" to be as insulting as people here seem to be reading it. Not everyone understands e2ee yet. I'd like to change that but it's the current reality.


Probably your use of the word "commoner".


It's just being honest, not insulting. Most people don't understand e2ee. They don't realize that reclaiming some privacy is an option available to them right now. (Or, they don't care, in which case I really do have less sympathy.)


"layperson" is a better word with a little less bite.


Thanks.


The continued subversion of our democracy


>Companies that don't adhere to these best practices lose liability protections for user-generated content.

https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/

>we’d be unlikely to ever federate with clients and servers we don’t control

This didn't age well.


Reminds me of a lot of the ire that I had for GDPR when I first read it (vague wording, general legislative over-reach, potential for arbitrary enforcement, and shoving it all through due to popular consumer sentiments that aren't necessarily directly related). And like GDPR, it will hurt innovation, although that detriment is difficult to measure.


At least GDPR is trying to improve privacy and the rules aren't arbitrarily made up by unelected officials.


I don't think the European Parliament or the European Commission are elected by the general public, I'm pretty sure the EP is selected by governments and the EC is voted on by the EP.


The European Parliament has been directly elected since 1979.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament#Elected_Pa...


So what will happen? Facebook will lose ability to deploy encryption and move servers overseas? Unlikely to affect non US internet users, unless my phone suddenly looses ability to use encryption.


Sorry if this seemed flippant. Of course there will be massive impact. But I was asking people if they though they knew what the impact will be? Will it only affect social platforms that need moderation?


I do find it interesting that Lindsay Graham is one of the main sponsors of this legislation. From the linked article,

>The idea is to make providers “earn” Section 230 immunity for CSAM claims, by complying with a set of guidelines that would be developed by an unelected commission and could be modified unilaterally by the Attorney General, but which are not actually binding law or rules set through any legislative or agency rulemaking process.

The structure and powers of this agency sound kind of like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau setup by the Obama administration. The CFPB was an unelected commission that could create rules financial institutions had to abide by, and dole out punishment in terms of fines, without going through a legislative or rule making process. What were Lindsay Graham's thoughts on the CFPB?

>Graham, however, called the agency the "most out-of-control, unaccountable federal agency" in Washington.

>"Really no oversight at all," he said. "They can get into everybody's business. I don't think they added much at all to the consumer protection. They sure add a lot to increasing costs for midsize banks throughout the country that had nothing to do with the financial collapse."

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/26/graham-durbin-cons...


Pedantic but for clarity: CFPB is directed by a single person who serves for five years and cannot be terminated by the President except for cause, which is one of the reasons unaccountability is brought up. Folks often indicate they want a "commission" (similar to SEC or FDIC) instead of an agency with a single director.

All that said, yes, this panel of people making "recommendations" that are not laws but have the effect of law seems like a great recipe for selective enforcement based how large or small a company is and what they do, which is not going to do much to solve the bigger issue. Congress is not going to move at the speed of the internet / technology. I'm not sure if that's a named "rule" yet, but it should be.

Illegal communities will move. And similarly, conditional "safe harbor" to operate a website should not be a thing. These regs are easily avoided by operating in other countries which will just make the US even less involved and competitive in this space.


I just think it's interesting that you can make almost exactly the same argument against this new commission that Graham made against the CFPB with a couple of words swapped out:

"They can get into everybody's business. I don't think they added much at all to child protection. They sure add a lot to decreasing privacy for people in the country that had nothing to do with the exploitation of children."


100%. That said, it would be more surprising to me if he said two things in a row that were logically consistent, not hypocritical, and made sense. I do not expect consistency from that particular gentleman.


You can make that sort of argument against anything: the FAA, FEC, FCC, National Wetland Agency, etc.

What’s euphemistically called "the real world“ simply moves too fast for any legislative body to keep up, let alone the current US Senat. So to some degree, the specific implementation of regulation will always be delegated to agencies.


> CFPB is directed by a single person who serves for five years and cannot be terminated by the President except for cause, which is one of the reasons unaccountability is brought up.

Of course they could be fired, the legislature could take action and rewrite the law. There is no pedantry required here, it is simply Graham’s trademark hypocrisy.


Pointing out that a politician is a hypocrite is a waste of time. Finding a financial conflict of interest is a waste of time. These days either catch them in a rape or looking at child porn or don't even bother.

Was first presented to me in a talk at defcon about hacking public records for political dirt.


Does it matter? What Graham says is purely a matter of partisan support, there's no principle to be discerned.


Hypocrisy is so common for everyone, and especially politicians, that it's not really noteworthy. It's fun to point out but ultimately doesn't convince anyone.

(The SCOTUS tries harder than most people to at least appear consistent.)


This sums it up: "This bill takes popular rage at social media companies’ immunity under Section 230 for public speech on their platforms, and twists it into a backhanded way of punishing messaging service providers’ use of encryption for private conversations." (emphasis original)


Does a service that only provides private conversations need 230 protections?


Seems so.


seems sort of pointless when players like Cloudflare have already twice voluntarily censored content on their networks they personally deemed too provocative. Not to mention this does nothing in the event a service provider with end-to-end crypto is implicated in some dastardly deed. The mathematics of crypto still win.

the Signal protocol used on platforms like Whatsapp provides confidentiality, integrity, authentication, participant consistency, destination validation, forward secrecy, post-compromise security (aka future secrecy), causality preservation, message unlinkability, message repudiation, participation repudiation, and asynchronicity. Using the protocol on something like TAILS OS basically turns the conversations participants into living ghosts.

Prosecutors would have one hell of a time proving a provider did anything, and if it started to seem like this could bite "providers" in court or jeopardize their 230 status, they could just release the entire thing under the GPL and patch it to use blockchain or TOR mesh networking after the fact. The name of the program is still tangentially associated with the brand and people on your social network will still talk about it and advocate its use.


To name one thing wrong with this comment: WhatsApp doesn't use Signal. This is just technobabble with sentiment; an attempt to sway, not to communicate.



What a great write up. The bill is rather dangerous, and I’m immediately suspicious of anything claiming to help children in the context of legislation.

FOSTA/SESTA is a horrible law and it has done a lot of damage.


FOSTA/SESTA was intended to cause lots of damage.


True, but arguably it wasn’t intended to cause the specific types of damage it caused, and its actual targets suffered less than expected.


A cynical person would say that this is because the stated targets weren't actually the targets, just like with this act. (Stated targets: sex traffickers, real targets: tech companies offering e2e encryption)


Yes, IMO FOSTA/SESTA were deliberately malicious and yet another successful attempt to force puritanical ideals upon our citizens, regardless of the damage it would cause.

The senators who initiated the bill are not dumb. They knew exactly how it would play out.


> The senators who initiated the bill are not dumb. They knew exactly how it would play out.

Blumenthal (who wrote SESTA and also this bill) was waging a war against consensual sex work for years, long before he was elected to the Senate.

The fallout from SESTA was not accidental; it was by design.


The intended target was sex workers, far more so than pimps.


There was plenty of warning of the effects of these bills on sex workers. Legislators at best ignored them, and at worst were happy for these side effects, depending on where they sit of the political spectrum.


Maybe I'm missing something, but I can see how this would apply to a platform providing end-to-end encryption and how restricting that is a bad thing. What's to stop someone from using, e.g. PGP in an email? Isn't that outside the scope of this?


Maybe.

... or maybe the Attorney General can declare that a service that allows PGP-encrypted communiques is in violation and will lose its 230 protections. The law as constructed is way over-broad.


There aren't PGP plugins for mobile apps and people wouldn't use them if there were.


K9mail has at least two


Really?

I run this one:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pgp-everywhere/id1011677987

Seems rather like it exists to me.


I love the hitchhiker's reference.

The post was well written and covered what I think are the important points.

There's only one thing I think deserves more attention than she gave it: The economics. The US' place in the tech world is largely a result of limited barriers to innovation in tech.

The kinds of "duties" proposed by this bill would be bad for big tech (a huge part of the economy) but worse than that they would be prohibitive for new innovators.

New social media services which attempt to serve the increasing demographic of people disillusioned with big tech aren't even going to try to get into a market with draconian requirements amd potential legal obligations like those proposed (or those that logically follow from the proposals).

Which means those services will be built elsewhere or not at all.

And of course there are the innovations we haven't imagined yet which won't be allowed to happen.


* E2E encryption is incompatible with eavesdropping.

* Forbidding content, like child porn, hate speech, etc in private communication requires eavesdropping.

* Courts are used to communication channels that are easy to eavesdrop, like paper or analog phone, and keep requiring disclosure from communication providers using court orders.

* Same as with guns, law enforcement wants to ban e2e encryption so that criminals could not use it, but criminals break the law anyway, so effectively the ban is for law-abiding citizens first and foremost.

Unless you can compel general public that having communication services with unbreakable encryption is more important than law enforcement, e2e encryption will stay effectively banned for non-technical users. That is, for almost all, including most criminals, too.


How many people here think of encryption as a second amendment right?

If you find yourself arguing that it is - what happens when you are largely, if not wholly, dependent on a third party to be able to exercise that right?

We've decided that corporations get first amendment rights independent of their members - do they also get second amendment rights?

Are these just silly arguments? It's late Friday afternoon...


Encrypted data is more like speech than a weapon. The analogy to guns just doesn't work.


The US Govt considers encryption a form of weapons tech so that it falls under Munitions Exports Controls (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_of_cryptography_from_th...). But the proposed law doesn't outlaw private use of encryption, only potentially outlawing corporations from offering it, so I don't know the 2nd Amendment would really apply.


The US courts seem to agree that encryption software are protected under the 1st amendment. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernstein_v._United_States


If encryption is considered a form of arms, it does appear that there is case law that grants sellers of arms some constitutional protections - quick article at https://harvardlawreview.org/2014/04/does-the-second-amendme....

I think, at this point, one could successfully argue that the proposed law follows 'reasonable regulation' and so protections aren't afforded. But it would be an interesting discussion.


Don't fall for the trap that this is about "big tech".

It isn't.

It is about your freedom of speech and ability to protect yourself.


It is about big tech: WhatsApp doesn't need section 230 immunity if it isn't part of Facebook.


I’m confused? What’s WhatsApp being part of a big tech company got to do with 230 immunity?


Can you explain how? The article lists WhatsApp as an example of an interactive computer service that is covered by section 230 immunity. Is it because WhatsApp is purely a messaging service without curation or moderation and so the law wouldn't consider WhatsApp to be a publisher anyway?


I don't use WhatsApp, but my understanding is that they are in the business of providing private communication between parties.

Section 230 protects the likes of Facebook, where people can post things for all the world to see, including things that are slanderous or illegal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communicati...


Yes, section 230 protects Facebook for public conversations. But as far as I'm aware it also protects providers of private communication, because as a user of the provider you could potentially receive illegal content from them. The provider, should they choose to moderate content by e.g. having report buttons and moderation teams, could still be treated as a publisher.


Why do you think WhatsApp doesn't need section 230 immunity? Do you think it can survive while being held liable for every bit of content shared on it?


Are there any stats available for child sex abuse using end to end encryption? It is used widely, along with "terrorism!" as a reason to ban e2eE, so I'd like to see some stats that show that it's actually an issue. Does regular mail post have this problem, or random websites? Not sure that e2eE is exploited more for this than those other platforms ...


Other people have mentioned this already, but in light of bills like this I am starting to get a little annoyed at people like Moxie and at people more broadly who seem to be purely interested in punching down on efforts to build sustainable, censorship-resistant encrypted platforms. People who want to argue that decentralized systems are pointless need to start offering feasible, multi-country legislative solutions alongside their criticism, or else I do not care about what they have to say.

Everything going on right now indicates to me that the UX problem is easier to solve than the legal problem. No, decentralized systems aren't perfect, they have significant challenges. But they are a way more promising field than anything Moxie is proposing, specifically because of bills like this. We have been fighting this battle for so long, and we have barely managed to stay on the winning side. But these bills are not going to go away, and in light of that I just do not believe that centralized Open platforms are sustainable.

There is no world where governments give up trying to gain control over a centralized communication platform.

So we just have to suck it up and figure out how to build good decentralized systems that ordinary people can use. We don't have an alternative. Yes, that's a very difficult challenge. But deal with it -- unless you have a better way to build an uncensorable Internet.


I think we need age limits. And lower term limits. We cannot have people stuck in an era 3 decades old deciding the fate of our country as it goes into the future. They are simply not equipped to deal with today's problems, let alone tomorrow's.

At 60 years[1], the median age of the Senate is 20 years more than the median age of the US population[2] - if this isn't an example of how broken and entrenched our power structures are, I don't know what is.

These issues are also also an artifact of a societal structure in which we use the winners of a rigged popularity contest to decide the future of our country rather than that of independent academics on a per-issue basis.

Through the lens of E2EE legislation, we are seeing our democracy crumbling because we failed to enforce that our representatives actually knowing what they are talking about.

[1]: https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/b8f6293e-c235-40fd-b895-6474d...

[2]: https://www.worldometers.info/demographics/us-demographics/


We cannot have people stuck in an era 3 decades old deciding the fate of our country as it goes into the future.

While I agree that the age skew in politics is curious, and perhaps incorrect, the other side of this is, "We cannot let people with 30 years less experience, knowledge, and history decide the fate of our country as it goes into the future."

Automatically associating youth with intelligence and "progress" and stereotyping people with years of accrued wisdom to being "old fogies" is textbook ageism.

It's something most of the rest of society grows out of by the time they hit college, but also a thing that persists within the SV bubble and what is now called "bro" culture. Fortunately, it's also illegal in many arenas.


We already have ageism enshrined in our constitution with minimum ages. If that's OK, then we should have upper age limits as well.

The lack of an upper age limit is potentially far more damaging in the modern era than not having a lower age limit. People in the founding fathers' times didn't live into senility, if you made it to 60 you were doing pretty good and probably not going to make it for another 3 decades. We have had at least one definitely senile president in the last 30 years and the evidence strongly suggests our current one is suffering from dementia as well. The two leading Democratic presidential candidates are both 80+ years old and one of them is looking awfully senile in public too. Dementia is a serious threat to American democracy in the modern era.

The structure of the American political system means that the people most likely to make a successful run are the ones that have spent 30-40 years building political capital, and those are inherently the oldest among us. Without some form of check, you end up with rule by octogenarian which is where we are.

What's the average age of a Senator these days? 65 or so? And that is the most likely place a presidential campaign can be launched from. And you would want to be a senior senator to be able to beat out the other senators...


The average age of the 1st Congress (1789) was 46.[1] The average age of the 50th Congress (1887) was 57.[2] The average age of the 115th Congress (2018) is 61.[3]

That's not a terribly huge change, especially considering the increase in age of the population.

[1] Average age of all listed Senators at 1789. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_United_States_Congress

[2] Average age of all listed Senators at 1887. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50th_United_States_Congress

[3] https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/b8f6293e-c235-40fd-b895-6474d...


Respectfully, I think you are making a "classic" mistake in demographics — one of the most counter-intuitive discipline I ever studied.

One TL;DR is that averages give you very, very, very partial information — without at least a median and the standard deviation, it's pretty much meaningless. Math, but applied to stats / demo yields incredibly wrong pictures if you don't look deeper. Think structure, not KPI, and longitudinal trends — what you see today isn't what's "now", a lot of it is what was set up 20, 50, 60 years ago.

Another TL;DR is that the increase in life expectancy is seldom about "how long do people live" but rather "how many of us die too early" — and this is where the fantastic increase in average comes from. The end-of-life expectancy sure rose too, but much less, and is actually starting to fall back down in the US (some other countries too, it's not just Sam, but it's not a generality either).

Thus the ageing of Senators has little correlation with life expectancy, it's a false correlation (again evidenced by biological facts). From a political science / historical standpoint, current epoch looks a lot like e.g. the second half of the Roman Empire ("decadence", although the word is way too negatively connoted if we mean to judge these times through a modern lens — stagnant in influence is more like it, ageing and eating well is another take).

Judging by intuition from having looked at these figures, I'd say the average political apparatus is 20+ years older today than it used to be around the revolution relatively to the active population, in terms of general pyramidal structure (so, beyond averages). Again, not true in all countries — some are even trending younger in Europe, which is about a couple decades ahead of the USA in terms of demographic structure.

Sorry I can't write a book for each of these TL;DR, but the knowledge on how to analyze demographics is there if you Google it.


I don't have the time, inclination, nor skill to do a proper analysis. I've already contributed some empirical substance; feel free to do the same. But I will make two comments: 1) life expectancy excluding infant mortality has indeed gone up considerably since 1789, by about 10-15 years, give or take, according to the particular source. 2) I would expect more old-age outliers today than 1887 driving up the average, so I wouldn't be surprised if the mean is lower or about the same as 1887. But I'll leave it to somebody else to crunch those numbers. Here they are, FWIW:

  1789    1887
  ------------
  1745    1824
  1727    1820
  1733    1841
  1745    1839
  1748    1820
  1753    1824
  1737    1835
  1750    1830
  1738    1826
  1745    1827
  1739    1840
  1741    1817
  1745    1834
  1745    1834
  1739    1824
  1733    1821
  1755    1829
  1733    1823
  1754    1828
  1737    1827
  1734    1828
  1752    1829
  1739    1837
  1744    1833
  1742    1822
  1740    1838
  1744    1832
  1758    1834
  1732    1836
          1830
          1839
          1821
          1816
          1826
          1826
          1830
          1838
          1843
          1826
          1831
          1834
          1830
          1830
          1837
          1827
          1829
          1828
          1835
          1834
          1834
          1833
          1834
          1818
          1826
          1830
          1823
          1810
          1835
          1835
          1833
          1833
          1841
          1829
          1836
          1818
          1826
          1818
          1818
          1829
          1828
          1810
          1842
          1843
          1847
          1848
          1816
          1843


I now realize my comment may be read as midly abrasive and perhaps condescending. Please receive my apologies, it was not my intent.

I won't debate your arguments because frankly I don't know, and your guess is as good as mine (you do make sense, I personally follow you intuitively; I just happen to see some interpretations of demographics that bit me in the past, in particular this topic of life expectancy).

For instance on the topic of Senators, if you just look at the pyramid of ages for the US, there's this big huge boomer zone — look no further to explain their overpresence in every domain where their current age, i.e. old, is an asset. (However, that there are two or ten times more seniors today than in 1800, when less than 1% of 1% of the population is a Senator-grade politician, is insignificant numerically.)

Let's ask ourselves the question, are all experts in all professions generally older today than before? Are Senators evolving like other comparable 'sectors' of activity? (academia, consulting maybe, etc) And I think that yes, as there are a lot of boomers, and they're here to stay to the end of their maximum lifespan because they're so many and Senator is a rare job.


None of the leading Democratic presidential candidates are in their 80s.


But when I look at the decisions today's politicians do wrt. IT, I would argue that many 30year old ex-IT students have _far_ more experience wrt. IT topics than our current politicans.

The problem is that the tech landscape moved to fast and all the wisdom and experience often just doesn't apply anymore but, to make it worse, sometimes it seems that you can bend technology to make it apply but that a very dangerous fallacy. One I have seen politicans step into frequently.


How many ex-IT students become politicians?

Old politicians with no IT experience are being replaced with young politicians with no IT experience. Age limits don't improve anything here.


I'm also not sure that having IT-savvy politicians will change policy. The government has certain safety goals (eg trafficking) that it will still have to deal with. These might be a driver regardless of tech savvy-ness. There's an assumption that if only they knew enough -- but perhaps it's not them who don't know enough.


I've been watching Louis Rossman advocating for right to repair recently.[0] Louis tells a story about how opposition lobbyists have made outrageous claims and politicians bought it, because nobody actually showed up to disagree with the claims. While it's possible that politicians would vote the same way regardless, I think they they likely do miss out on a lot of information.

[0] video, watch 1 minute from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHQYyYSZdvQ&t=1m57s


None. They are all lawyers.


It's not just IT. How many legislators have experience with any particular thing that they write legislation on? Not very many.

I will admit that IT legislation often seems insanely out of touch. But I wonder if that's just because I know IT better than I know, say, the merchant marine.


But when I look at the decisions today's politicians do wrt. IT, I would argue that many 30year old ex-IT students have _far_ more experience wrt. IT topics than our current politicans.

While I don't disagree that many 30-year-old IT people know more about IT than politicians, politicians have to see what is good for the whole of society, not just what affects people in an IT bubble.

We've seen countless times that technologists cannot be trusted alone. They have to be tempered by people from other disciplines.


> While I don't disagree that many 30-year-old IT people know more about IT than politicians, politicians have to see what is good for the whole of society, not just what affects people in an IT bubble.

Let's not delude ourselves, most lawmakers are not pinnacles of wisdom. They're not looking out for the best outcomes for society in the long term. They're partisans controlled by whomever pays them the most.


> We've seen countless times that technologists cannot be trusted alone. They have to be tempered by people from other disciplines.

It cuts both ways. Legislatures are dominated by former lawyers. It wasn't always so. I studied law, I know it lends many relevant skills for politics. But it's no longer sufficient to have nothing but lawyers legislating, given the face of the breadth and depth of modern society. Sometimes you need a specialist inside the tent. Or, better yet, a wide variety of specialists.


The politicians are lawyers as opposed to former IT professionals.


I agree that stereotyping older people is ageism and should not be tolerated.

However, specifically with regard to age limits, it's interesting to note that the law which prohibits age discrimination in the US also explicitly allows for mandatory retirement for "bona fide executives or high policymakers" who are age 65 or older [1]. In addition, many areas of the government such as the military and State Department have mandatory retirement ages. So one would naively expect our elected officials to fully support a similar policy being applied to them!

[1] https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adea.cfm


>Automatically associating youth with intelligence and "progress" and stereotyping people with years of accrued wisdom to being "old fogies" is textbook ageism.

Is it as much ageism as outright restricting rights based on age? That seems far more like ageism except it is so deep in our cultural DNA we don't view it as such. If we can, as a group, say that everyone below a certain age cannot have rights such as voting, thus saying they have no ability to have a say in politics that will impact their entire lives, then why can't we have age caps like saying no one over 60 can be elected in government because <insert some reasoning that mimics the same logic not letting any 17 year old vote>?


Oh yes, I'm totally going to grow out of this climate crisis... my, how hard are your pearls being clutched right now?


This comment breaks the site guidelines. Please don't do that. We already had to ask you this just a few days ago.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


just because you believe in climate change doesn't mean you won't have other issues, like the parent was suggesting... as evidenced by your dying comment. That's not at all what they were saying.


Term and age limits would do more to empower lobbyist than it would do anything to fix the government. You want politicians to know what they are talking about, but running a government is like almost every other job out there, you gain experience and expertise as you do it. That experience generally leads to a more productive and effective government. If you kick all those experienced people out, that knowledge shifts to lobbyist. Political officials will be even more dependent on them for guidance on governing and to learn the issues.


I'd argue the opposite. By having no term limits, lobbyists are able to build up connections over years and take advantage of them. It also means any dirt, corruption, or bribery has an unbounded time for leverage.

Term limits work really well for the Whitehouse. I don't see why they wouldn't work well for Congress. And forcing lobbyists to reestablish rapport, dig up dirt, etc... with new congresspeople every few years would do wonders.

There's a reason financial institutions force people to take holidays. It's good for rooting out theft.


> Term limits work really well for the Whitehouse.

This certainly isn't obvious.


Imagine that Trump could be president for 20 years, instead of just 8. Or that George W Bush could. Or that Clinton could. No matter where you sit politically, at least one of those should give you pause.


I honestly wouldn't mind a president whose in charge for >8 years.

I don't like term limits because often times, the Congressman most likely to do right by their country are the ones that feel "safe" in their district. They can tell their party whips to fuck off, because they can run as an independent and still be elected. If we instituted term limits on Congress, my guess is that Congress would be inhabited entirely by corporate shills looking to get rich, rather mostly inhabited by such people, as is currently the case.


Compare and contrast with monarchs, as the Framers did.

Edit: While I'd like to build out the analogy further, there's only one data point that I can find in the missing quadrant: The Philippines have a limited number and duration of terms for their legislators. One data point is not enough to even identify a single confounding factor, and there's too many ways in which the USA and the Philippines differ.


Prolonged reigns are not among the biggest flaws of monarchies. The primary problem is first and foremost the power a monarch generally has compared to a president or prime minister. Next comes the difficultly of removing that person from the position is incredibly difficult if they prove unfit in any way unlike positions in a democracy. Lastly is the selection process in which people are usually chosen for their bloodline and not any skill or even a predilection for governance. A long reigning monarch in fact is often linked to eras of prosperity for their countries rather than a steady decline as the monarch ages.

Also I should note that unlike fixes for the three flaws mentioned above, presidential term limits weren't officially part of the Constitution until after WWII. It clearly wasn't a high priority for the framers to formalize term limits.


> Next comes the difficultly of removing that person from the position is incredibly difficult if they prove unfit in any way unlike positions in a democracy.

I think current events are demonstrating that we're unable to remove hilariously unfit people in democracies, too.


Regardless of your opinions on this specific president, we need to recognize that removing any president through impeachment should require a high bar of difficulty in order to maintain the balance of power. Impeachment is a check on the president. Making it too easy would result in the president serving at the pleasure of Congress.

That said, I was mostly talking about elections in which we have the chance to remove our leaders every 2, 4, or 6 years.


When the president's crime is election rigging, the idea that we're supposed to keep him in check via the rigged election is pretty weak. When the president's crime is election rigging, the idea that we're supposed to keep him in check via the rigged election is pretty weak.

We've now established the precedent that brazen election rigging is fair game as long as your party holds a hair over 1/3 of the senate.


I don't disagree. However, I think the primary complaint is against people abdicating their constitutional responsibility and not the makeup of the Constitution itself.


Then why did the Framers add neither Presidential nor Congressional term limits to the Constitution (never mind the Federal judiciary)?


We've only had term limits on the executive since 1951.


The US has only had legally binding term limits for the presidency since 1951, but traditionally the president was expected to stand down after two terms. The constitutional term limits were introduced after Roosevelt managed to hold on to the presidency well past two terms until he died.


I think you can't ignore the importance of congressional oversight on the executive branch, and the benefits of experience there.


> There's a reason financial institutions force people to take holidays. It's good for rooting out theft.

Can anyone explain what this is referring to?


Someone else has to do the vacationer's job while they're gone, so the substitute may discover that something has been done improperly.


If you cap someone's career at 4 years, they might have more incentive to take as much lobby money as possible while they can.


This doesn’t change if you cap the person’s career at 40 years. Greedy people are going to be greedy.


Not necessarily, if you can serve for 40 years there's more risk in losing your sweet gig if you get found out.


Is there? Famous congresspeople are "found out" every single day and nothing happens.

The only real change in Congress that we are seeing is from people like AOC - determined and idealistic young people who see straight through the bullshit and aren't letting it get to them.

Maybe rather than an age limit we need to actually test Congresspeople on what they are legislating.


1. A representative who is termed out does not need to run for reelection, which changes incentives substantially.

2. The knowledge may not necessarily shift to lobbyists. Legislative staffers could become subject matter experts.

3. California implemented term limits, and provides an interesting data point to show what really happens to a legislature.

https://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/rb/RB_1104BCRB.pdf


Good point, this is a perspective I had not considered.


Term limits yes, age limits no. If 60 years isn't enough time to gather life experience and domain expertise to make independent decisions then nothing is and democracy as an institution is inherently flawed.


On the flip side, at 60 years, the median-aged Senator has about 40 years of working experience and (arguably) that many years of accumulated knowledge and expertise, as well as life experience and a sense of proportion that comes from having observed our nation's ebbs and flows over a longer period of time.

Granted, it's possible to be 60 years old, foolhardy, and out-of-touch -- just as it's possible to be 30 years old, whip-smart, and tuned in.

But in general, voters value experience, and you don't amass experience without aging.

I agree with you, though, about term limits. They're a good way to balance voters' desire for experienced candidates with the need to inject new blood from both sides of the aisle.

Unfortunately, if there's one thing American voters stupidly fall for beyond incumbents, it's nepotism, so if term limits were in place, I predict we'd see more family dynasties in Congress.


To play the devil's advocate with you and GP, term limits can often mean that congresspeople will be perpetual novices. Governing can be complex especially when seated on various committees like foreign affairs, CBO, etc. Older congresspeople who have accumulated years of experience have seen things go right, go wrong, and have learned a great deal about governing.

I think in tech we can attest to how disruption does not always mean good and how move fast and break things can go wrong.

To be clear, I don't disagree entirely with the idea of term limits or age limits, I just think the counter arguments deserve a fair amount of weight.


A limit of two terms in the US senate would still allow for a total career of 12 years — 4 years more than any president.

A 3-term cap would give 18 years, two more than any two presidents combined.

That’s a long way from being a newbie.


And the senate is even already voted in on a rolling schedule, so even in the worse case, 66% of the senate would have more than 2 years experience, and half of those would have 4 years.

Term limits to me seem to be one of those obvious solutions that are almost impossible to fix after the creation of a government. How do you convince politicians to vote against their own self interest? Especially with term limits, where you would need 2/3s of them to do so.


> A 3-term cap would give 18 years, two more than any two presidents combined

Not if one of them is FDR.


Perhaps government should be made less complex.


While you're accomplishing that I would like water to be less wet, and the value of Pi to be set to three as well, please.

All proposals that I've ever seen to "simplify" government amount to abdicating large functions, usually justified by some ideology around "rugged individualism" or anarchism which are completely fatuous.


I'm a big fan of the idea of abolishing states, having a US national government and then county/city level governments. The states were created when it was infeasible to manage large amounts of territory due to the difficulty of communicating across long distances. That's no longer the case. We could cede some state powers to local governments and some to the federal level.

The idea would get pushback from those in smaller states who enjoy a disproportionate voice in national politics, but I feel that those voices don't deserve to be amplified over anyone else's just because they have a bunch of empty land backing them.


Another side to consider is that often said Senator has 40-years of experience being a senator (or similar), and ~0 years being and employee or business owner. I often feel (anecdotally) that many representatives have spent their entire lives in government such that they have never experienced what it's like to be in the private sector, and therefore can be tone deaf to issues that matter to me.


Would you ban Ken Thompson or Brian Kernighan from holding office?

Age is a lazy argument, there are extremely ignorant young people too. America should just stop electing know-it-all, greedy people.


They're probably too smart to want to run...


Given the old joke about wanting the job being a disqualification for having it, maybe it's time we started electing people who don't want the job: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition


Sortition has lots of upsides. Given the US doesn't really have an obvious source for a Monarch (which is the definitively best way option), using Sortition to fill the Figurehead role would be a good solution.

The other half of the job currently named "President of the United States of America", heading the Executive function, would naturally make more sense as a route for either state leaders (e.g. Governor -> President) or the legislature (House and Senate leaders -> President)

It should definitely be prohibited for one person to have both jobs as is done today. Donald Trump would make a perfectly good figurehead. The world would say yup, that's what we thought, a fat idiot who flashes his money and talks crap, America. Meanwhile the executive leader would negotiate say, tweaks to agricultural tariffs and that'd go largely unnoticed because e.g. now the buffoon is pretending "everybody" thinks Belgium is in Africa because he refuses to own up to mistakes and that's way funnier than China reducing some agricultural tariffs.

The US would need to do a LOT of paperwork to make this happen though and a remarkable, disappointing fraction of Americans believe that their existing paperwork is sort of holy and mustn't be changed even though it was written in an era which is unrecognisable socially and technologically. So you're probably screwed.


> a Monarch (which is the definitively best way option)

What metric are you using that demonstrates that a monarch is definitively the best way?

> It should definitely be prohibited for one person to have both jobs as is done today.

Why?

> Donald Trump would make a perfectly good figurehead. The world would say yup, that's what we thought, a fat idiot who flashes his money and talks crap, America.

This I agree with.


Ah, so the reason monarchs are the best choice for figurehead is that it's inherited, so on the one hand you have a good heads up about future figureheads (you know there's a good chance from the moment of birth who it'll be) and can ensure they're properly trained for this role, learn some world geography and history for example, practice meeting random people and at least pretending to be interested -- but on the other hand nobody can control who they are, that's just the result of a genetic lottery.

As a result they also have zero democratic legitimacy, which is good because obviously as figurehead they'd otherwise be in an excellent position to seize actual power, which is the last thing you'd want to happen.

As to why prohibited, the temptation is, as you see in the present job of President of the United States to combine the two. Rather than ask people to resist this temptation, just prohibit it up front. These roles are huge asks, in terms both of the skills needed (or at least which ought to be needed) and the burden of responsibility. It would be easy to underestimate the figurehead role in particular, but it just isn't easy to be a symbol for hundreds of millions of people. So, de-risk by insisting on two people for two roles and never merging the role.


This is a cogent argument for having a ceremonial and practical/executive head of state, but doesn't even touch on why a hereditary monarch is in any way superior to having a ceremonial President and executive Prime Minister, as is common in other countries.


Mmm? I covered that, it's about legitimacy.

The monarch plainly has no legitimacy whatsoever, there's no merit, nobody elected them, they were born into the job.

In contrast an elected President can use the ceremonial position to seize actual power. This isn't even just theoretical, it's an actual problem - or I guess if you've just used it to seize power, a brilliant feature...

Anyway, we don't want that, so the monarch is better.


Generals lack democratic legitimacy and they seize power all the time. I don't see what heredity has to do with it.


I'm not personally a huge fan of taking away choices just because you're afraid someone will make the wrong choice. If you don't like older politicians, then make your voice be known. Claiming that you know better than everyone and that your view needs to be the rule of law seems a bit heavy-handed, though. Same goes for censorship.


> We cannot have people stuck in an era 3 decades old deciding the fate of our country as it goes into the future. They are simply not equipped to deal with today's problems, let alone tomorrow's.

This is not a function of age. It's a function of whether or not people are engaging in continuing education.

There are many young people who are simply not equipped to handle today's problems too, after all, and there are many older people who are fully up to date.


> I think we need age limits.

Ageism is not an acceptable solution. We complain about this in tech all the time. Why would we find it acceptable in politics?


Well for one we know plenty of technically competent older workers who get passed over in tech and it isn't a zero sum game - in a functioning system there is room for young and old workers and overall success inproving with more workers can make more room. Elected officials are finite and zero sum so the situation isn't comparable even if principles are.

There are also the throughly mixed messages sent. Ageism is enshrined into law even past the threshold of 18. It is just defined with maximum hypocrisy such that a 20 year old is too incapable of drinking while a senile nonegarian year old with Alzheimers severe enough to have the mental capacity of a child is. Now there are obvious dangers to sunsetting rights but that double standard both normalizes the reverse and both equality and spite make "what is good for the goose is good for the gander" viscerally tempting to those who were disadvantaged. Not the best of mentalities but it is easy to see how someone who couldn't rent a car until recently would be less than sympathetic.


How about we require our legislators to become educated enough on a topic to understand the broad view of how it works before the regulate any given thing.

In the case of regulating websites, they might need to understand (at a high level) what an IP address is, generally what DHCP and DNS do, how a web-page is like a mix of recipe and content for dynamically constructing a publication. How a database might provide some of that content and the difference between static and dynamic content.

I think if there are any particular boogeymen they're after, those examples should be deconstructed and contrasted against similar publications that they find OK.

Maybe the Library of Congress should have a Congressional Education sub-office dedicated to providing such instruction, and if not state colleges should definitely file briefings for congress.


You've just suggested a poll test/literacy test for politicians. That definitely has obvious problems based on who gets to choose the "right" answers.

The question that will be on the revenue committee exam: "do tax cuts pay for themselves"? (I mean, I know the answer, but which one is going to be "correct"?)

It's much simpler to realize that the majority of the people above a certain age can no longer stay current with technological developments. Yes, some of them can, but the vast majority are starting to lose it and certainly aren't absorbing anywhere near as much as they used to.

Just like the minimum age limits also throw away a certain number of potentially qualified younger candidates who do have enough life experience to make good decisions, it's OK that upper age limits would exclude a certain number of older candidates who could still keep up with things.


I wasn't suggesting tests. Just education. Preferably as part of the required 'debate' before voting.


This is a great perspective and puts this into words more elegantly than I attempted to.


That brings to mind subdividing Congressional seats into domains to allow for specialization. The devil as usual is in the details.

Issues include:

* Defining expertises to not become outdated or too general to give any specialization advantage.

* Handling border cases and deciding when every domain may vote on it.

* While allowing specializations would the subdivisions actually be more expert in practice? We have already seen how "sabotour boards" assemble as those who are most interested in it are those who oppose it.

I have already taken it as a given that qualification gatekeeping would take Goodheart's Law to new levels as refusing to recognize reality gives more concrete power. Still it is an interesting concept.


Ageism is wrong in both directions. The notion that older people are less technical is ageist an just as unacceptable as thinking young people are too idealistic.


Well that's just a deformed way of thinking about stuff. What matters is whether it's true, not whether somebody will call it ageist.


> We really need age limits.

That's a pretty regressive suggestion. What's next? Revoking voting rights by race or gender?


I guess my cynical question is: do these legislators not know what they're talking about or do they know who's paying for their reelection and governing accordingly? I would hope and think that they have the self awareness to know what they're not experts in and surround themselves with people who are experts in what they're weak at (maybe IT). I just worry that they have that but they know if they stop voting according to party line/special interest, their reelection coffers will be much lighter.


> I guess my cynical question is: do these legislators not know what they're talking about or do they know who's paying for their reelection and governing accordingly

Why is that the dichotomy? How about, they know what they’re talking about, and simply care about different things than you do?


How about, they know what they’re talking about

An extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary proof.


> We really need age limits. And lower term limits. We cannot have people stuck in an era 3 decades old deciding the fate of our country as it goes into the future. They are simply not equipped to deal with today's problems, let alone tomorrow's.

I’m not sure I agree. I think millennials’ commitment to freedom of speech and information is lower than that of the older generation. (“Speech as violence” and whatnot. Young people today adopt a lot of the same modes of reasoning we ridiculed Tipper Gore for 25 years ago. It’s just directed to different perceived evils.)

I’m also not sure that “people just don’t understand how the Internet works” is actually anybody’s problem. It should be remembered that Section 230 actually originated in the Communications Decency Act in 1996, a sweeping attempt to regulate the Internet. A panel of three federal judges, who were then in their 50s and 60s, in Philadelphia struck down almost the entire law, leaving only the Section 230 safe harbor. Two points are illuminating.

One, the decision was widely praised for its cogent articulation of how the Internet works. It was impressive in its technical detail. For example, it describes routing packets: https://cyber.harvard.edu/stjohns/aclu-findings.html

> Messages between computers on the Internet do not necessarily travel entirely along the same path. The Internet uses "packet switching" communication protocols that allow individual messages to be subdivided into smaller "packets" that are then sent independently to the destination, and are then automatically reassembled by the receiving computer. While all packets of a given message often travel along the same path to the destination, if computers along the route become overloaded, then packets can be re-routed to less loaded computers

It also described how USENET works:

> For unmoderated newsgroups, when an individual user with access to a USENET server posts a message to a newsgroup, the message is automatically forwarded to all adjacent USENET servers that furnish access to the newsgroup, and it is then propagated to the servers adjacent to those servers, etc. The messages are temporarily stored on each receiving server, where they are available for review and response by individual users. The messages are automatically and periodically purged from each system after a time to make room for new messages. Responses to messages, like the original messages, are automatically distributed to all other computers receiving the newsgroup or forwarded to a moderator in the case of a moderated newsgroup. The dissemination of messages to USENET servers around the world is an automated process that does not require direct human intervention or review.

The other point is that it was a radically pro-First Amendment decision: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/we...

> We were surprised at how sweeping the ruling was," said Cathleen A. Cleaver, director of legal studies for the Family Research Council of Washington, a supporter of the law.

> "They went far beyond where they needed to go," she said. "Not only did the court strike down the law against the display of pornography, but also the parts that made it illegal to transmit pornography directly to specific children. It's very radical."

Finally, as a nit picky aside: of course the median age of the senate is higher than the median age of the whole population. The median age of the population includes children. Senators are, however, required by the Constitution to be at least 30. So the relevant point of comparison is the median age of people who are over 30.


Agree with the first part of your point on median age (and was going to say the same thing before seeing you had).

However, I disagree with the second half. Imagine if the Constitution said Senators had to be 55 or older. Would that alone be a reason to conclude that the current Senate makeup was "excessively young"? IMO, the relevant comparison is the median age of people who are adults (and could therefore plausibly serve in any governmental role full-time).


> I’m not sure I agree. I think millennials’ commitment to freedom of speech and information is lower than that of the older generation. (“Speech as violence” and whatnot. Young people today adopt a lot of the same modes of reasoning we ridiculed Tipper Gore for 25 years ago. It’s just directed to different perceived evils.)

And that is OK. Liberal societies function fine while banning hate speech and naziism and other types of activity. There is not a slippery slope here, we really can just ban the nazis marching in the streets and not fall into a dictatorship. It's worked fine for, say, Germany for the last 70 years.

This isn't a popular sentiment among the capital-L libertarians that tend to populate this site and software development as a whole, but even the US has limits to the type of speech that are allowed. There is no reason that the particular places they happen to have been interpreted are necessarily the optimal ones.

Again, the slippery slope theory has literally been proven false, experimentally. The US is sliding into fascism (executive/legislative lawless and direct attacks on democratic mechanisms and constitutional checks/balances) while upholding near-absolute speech rights, while the EU is maintaining democracy with stronger restrictions. There is no correlation between these things, or there is a negative correlation between these things. The libertarian theory of slippery slope-ism is false.


In Switzerland a man was manhandled by police and then fined for saying "Allahu akbar" in public.

https://www.theweek.co.uk/98878/swiss-muslim-fined-178-for-s...

Elsewhere a European Court of Human Rights rules that defaming the Prophet Muhammed “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate" and "could stir up prejudice" and thus exceeds permissible limits of freedom of expression.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/defaming-prophet-muhammed-no...

I love posting these together because of their contradictory nature.

We're obviously not talking about a dictatorship here, but claiming that free speech rights in Europe are just fine is clearly wrong.


And the fact that the US has stronger speech rights doesn't keep the police from manhandling minorities and throwing the book at them either.

These things are uncorrelated. Except for the part where one society has nazis marching in its streets and one doesn't (specifically, recalling Charlottesville).


They don't throw the book at them for saying "Allahu akbar", because they can't.


No, the police book them for "resisting arrest" as they "dent the squad car" as they get pushed into it or whatever. They just start kicking them senseless because of the "allahu ackbar". That's not what actually goes on the ticket.

That's why we've had to institute body cam laws. Cops are gonna find a way to abuse the disadvantaged. False charges, physical abuse, all of the above.

But I guess if only the cops had more free speech this wouldn't have happened, right?


If you don't have something substantive to say, why bother commenting at all? Like, obviously, the point 'harryh is making is well taken, and is not somehow rebutted by other abuses in the US. Both things are bad, and can be addressed independently.


> If you don't have something substantive to say, why bother commenting at all?

If you dismiss my argument as unsubstantive, that's on you. Just because you find it disagreeable doesn't make it unsubstantive.

Feel free to rebut it. Of course the charge is not 'yelling allahu ackbar'. That would be illegal if cops did that. They know better, they can come up with better charges.


> ”the median age of the Senate is 20 years more than the median age of the US population“

Has the mean age of politicians increased faster than that of the general population over time, or has it always been this way?

Do politicians become older, on average, as democracies mature and power structures become more entrenched?


We might just be in a weird transition period where the modern technology us youngins are used to is still a relatively new thing in the long term. The fix might just be to wait until the older people in charge retire or die out and the new older people in charge are those who grew up with these modern technologies.


I hate to break it to you, but modern technology is painfully simple compared to what the older people in charge used growing up. People who are in their 40s now grew up having to assign IRQs in their modem to download porn. Today, young people use iPads and have no idea how computers work.


> The fix might just be to wait until the older people in charge retire or die out and the new older people in charge are those who grew up with these modern technologies.

I don't think so. I'm an older person, and I've been immersed in these technologies for almost my entire life (since I was 12). There is nothing old hat to the younger crowd that isn't old hat to me as well.

Age is not a reliable indicator of these things.


I like term limits. But how would you respond to those who say elections are term limits?


Very simple: just look at the percentage of incumbents who face a primary challenger (low), and the percentage of general elections won by incumbents (high). Elections are frequently won by incumbents on name recognition. Some ballots indicate which is the incumbent candidate, and a lot of people will just automatically vote for them.

I’m sure there’s research out there that demonstrates the first 2 points. I’m less sure about the second two, but I’d bet there’s a paper out there that covers at least one of them.


>Elections are frequently won by incumbents on name recognition.

Doesn't that imply that voters don't know better? arguments like that don't fare well in my opinion.


In your opinion? I don't understand your point. Do you think I'm underestimating the ignorance of the average voter?

Also, it's "fare," not "fair" in this context, FYI.


TY for the spelling correction. My point only is: Given that many incumbents win re-election on name recognition alone, doesn't refute the above post mentioning that elections can serve as term limits.

To say to a voter, "we're instituting term limits because you voters don't learn about challengers to incumbents". This proposition would not be popular amongst voters even if it is true that people are ignorant and stupid when it comes to voting.

Just because voters may not take full advantage of elections' ability to oust a politician may not suffice as reason to alter who the voters want. Voters voting on name recognition vs. actually liking a rep kinda have to be treated equally. If not, a rule curbing that may be interpreted as limiting people's choice.

Again, I'm not disagreeing with you! just trying to state how a new rule like term limits could be perceived and the difficulty such a perception would create.


I see. I didn’t intend that to be a point that stands on its own, merely a partial explanation for why incumbents win so much.


Is that the reason, though? Incumbents also tend to be better funded, many of them lack strong incumbents, and many of them build up goodwill via constituency services.



Repeal the 17th Amendment?


I want you to know that in general, I strongly agree with you.

However you must be careful, as these arbitrary rules could cause some collateral damage.

Namely: Bernie Sanders (78)


I don't see that as Collateral Damage. :)


How does this work for services in other countries? Do they also have to get liscenced in the US for handling user generated content? If so that’s pretty crappy, I’m reasonably sure a worldwide legal monoculture will hurt the poorest people of the world including children.


This is exactly analogous to DMCA in its structure--except that instead of the procedures being part of the law, the will be subject to constant change by the executive branch of government.


Write Congress to say that if something like this is passed, it must be actual legislation, and not this "whatever the regulator approves" nonsense.


Sadly that horse has long left the barn, fled thousands of miles, died and been eaten by vuktures. Its grandchildren are feral and flee at the sight or scent of humans.

I suspect there are only two ways to fix that issue both unlikely. Game theory and sloth favor buck passing to agencies let alone the logistical scale involved with a mytgical ideal Congress of honest actors.

The first is an amendment limiting the delegation abilities of congression to departments and agencies to be essentially programatically explicit or else be unconstitutionally vague.

The second is a precedent and jurisprudence shift as judges strike down such delegation as unconstitutional.


Well, the way you put it, we should be taking up arms right now. If we're not there yet, then there's politics to do.


Who am I to say that these two senators don't understand big politics, but here's my theory why the other 98 senators won't support the idea. Laws is a barrier between those who rule and those who obey. When the latter complain, the laws barrier diffuses their anger. The two senators find it too difficult to play this game and want to break this wall to rule the internet directly.


So if the encryption moved into the mobile is layer instead. Lets say for images and blogs of text...

Note: I don't think technology can actually beat a government that doesn't feel bound by the constitution or above the law.


Sexual abuse is terrible but I am so tired of it being used as the handle of the billyclub used to beat technology down


Look into some of the people who have set up fake CP sites on the dark web or who have posed as young girls on public social media. It's incredibly easy to create a honey pot to ensnare sexual predators. There are many articles on such experiments and they are highly effective.

They don't need back doors or hacker hanky panky to catch sex pests, just creative but conventional police work.

This is an issue that gets dragged out to scare the public but the authorities really don't care much about it. Reports of sex abuse from real victims are often ignored and sexual predators get shorter sentences than people convicted of minor drug possession or other stupid crap.


Exactly, they need to actually do their jobs instead of trying to cheat by taking away everyone's privacy and other rights.


Maybe internet needs to learn how to paint politicians bringing up child porn regulation as molesters


Given some of the news that's come to light in recent years, there's a non-zero chance that they are


One of them has to give. You can't effectively police what's perfectly anonymous.


My teacher said if you wqnt to reduce violence, the most effective you could do was to start installing surveillance cameras in every bedroom.

I suggest we start there, and we start with politicians homes ;-)


Conversation doesn't work when people immediately strawman the other side.


This may be an unpopular opinion, but this is a great idea. Huge tech companies now worth trillions facilitate criminal activity at scale and wash their hands of any responsibility. E2EE at scale is problematic for maintaining sanctity in society, as people are terrible. Giving common folks easily accessible tools to engage in global secure comms has been a recipe for disaster. LE’s job has been made more difficult, and the tech companies should bear responsibility for policing their pipes.


Law enforcement has more tools for mass surveillance than ever before. The Stazi could only dream of what we have built. But it's not the job of tech companies to make policing easy, and it's not in the best interest of a free people to give their government too much power. Please look at the history of the FBI for examples.


Sorry for delay in responding. The issue is that there’s a huge proliferation of inaccessible comms which creates a growing sea of unchecked globally enabled online activity. This isn’t the same as allowing people to congregate in person and in private. The abstraction of privacy expanding on a virtual global scale presents unique challenges to law enforcement. This is independent from the proliferation of surveillance mechanisms at hand, and isn’t a valid counterbalance.

The tech companies assume power and disclaim responsibility. It is their job to police their pipes, so respectfully and urgently I disagree.

Concerns about historical corruption within three letter agencies is best addressed by working towards technical solutions that enable proper checks and balances amongst involved players: governments, tech oligarchies, and commoners. The current trend is towards a growing sea of entropy without checks and balances, and this is unacceptable to governments motivated to maintain/increase order and reduce suffering. Resistance via deployment of technical libertarian mechanisms at scale isn’t a solid long term solution.

The federal government isn’t aiming to ban math, encryption, pgp, one time pads, steanography, etc. Instead the goal is to prevent the proliferation of unbreakable encryption at scale, as that growing void enables criminal activity at scale, despite the growing surveillance apparatus.


"Facilitate criminal activity at scale" is an argument to ban roads, too. All infrastructure gets used by everyone.


Roads can be monitored and policed.


[flagged]


I like owning firearms so I'm regularly told that I love dead children. Welcome to the club.


AG Barr basically said as much in a speech at the White House Human Trafficking Summit this morning. Decried "military-grade encryption (lol) being marketed on consumer devices" and made all the same old for-the-children excuses.

Naturally no mention of how his own DoJ botching and slow-walking the Epstein case may be helping some of the worst and most prolific traffickers in the country escape justice. It takes real gall for him to complain about how difficult encryption is making it for investigators to gather evidence of human trafficking, when the FBI still hasn't raided Epstein's New Mexico ranch.

https://twitter.com/mooncult/status/1223320056257376256


Pulling a Pay out of the Anti-Gun Playbook "Encryption like this is only for war" and "Regular people do not need this type of encryption"

I wonder how many people support this line of reasoning when it used as a case to strip me of my Gun Rights, but reject it when it used to strip me of my Privacy rights...

//for the record, I support both Gun and Privacy Rights


Terrorists, drug cartels and child abuse. At least one of these will appear in every article related to encryption regulation. They're today's communists: a perfect political weapon to justify any measure taken, get any law passed and a valid reason for authorities to persecute anyone they want.

Nobody in positions of power actually cares about child molesters. They're after their political adversaries, dissidents, journalists, whistle blowers... People who can do actual damage to the foundations of their power.


Really the give away is in the vagueness if they don't give an actual explanation as to how it will protect children. They haven't even thought about it enough to come up with a reasoned pretext. Instead they are using them as a demagogic thought terminator for emotional manipulation.

The other hint is if the rest of their actions aren't consistent with their claimed position, giving a damn about the children.


This is great. We can all run private Kubernetes pods and share over Wireguard.

This will only ever apply to corporations right?


> Without the immunity provided by Section 230, there might very well be no Twitter, or Facebook, or dating apps, or basically any website with a comments section.

Going on that description, a bit of me wishes for Section 230 to be repealed.

Of course there would be no GitHub either, which wouldn't be so great.


I don't think you fully understand the scope of what section 230 protects against. Even running an email server could put people at risk of being held liable for crimes, if users were to use that server to coordinate criminal acts. Revoking section 230 essentially mandates total surveillance of user activity.


So you would have to run your own email server or be given access to one by someone who trusts you, which would be a better situation in some ways than the Gmail monoculture we have today. Google likely has your mail on one end or the other; you're already under surveillance; Section 230 hasn't saved you.


And that email server has to be in a datacenter you own, because AWS doesn't exist. (What is AWS if not hosting user-generated content?)

And if you run a tor node, then you're liable for anything someone does with tor.

And if you host a blockchain mirror.

And...


There's already child pornography in the Bitcoin blockchain, right?


Yep!




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