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Senator Lieberman proposes to eliminate Section 230 immunity from blogs (mcintyre-v-ohio.com)
115 points by andrewpi on Apr 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

When the constitution was framed, 'the press' meant literally anyone with a printing press, which allowed them to mass produce their newspapers, newsletters and zines.

Now, presses were expensive, so it's a matter for debate whether the founders would have given the same right to everyone if presses were cheap like the interenet is today. Remember that only landholders could vote - they made distinctions based on wealth and status.

But it's not a matter for debate whether amateur press was intended to be afforded protection. The press by and large was amateur, and far closer to the full time bloggers of today than it was to the New York Times.

If anything, the scrutiny of lawmakers should be on the press conglomerates where so much power is in so few hands; but of course, that's not the way the world works.

I always find the american obsession with the constitution (& founding fathers) a little weird. How about deciding what's best for now instead of trying to interpret the words of a couple of guys 200 years ago as a gospel about how the internet should work?

I'm going to write the following with the caveat that there are plenty of idiots who like to put words in the founding father's mouth, not realizing how divided they actually were post revolution:

Our Constitution is fundamentally built on the belief of individual freedom and equality of man in a "state of nature" (John Locke) and that the Bill of Rights builds on Locke's theories as to how the government should protect property and create Justice (The preamble to the Constitution, which also throws back to the Declaration).

The whole argument between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans was about the balance of natural freedoms and government impediment of those freedoms. The culmination of these arguments (an argument which eventually led to the Civil War) boiled into the supreme court and led to the concept of judicial review, which lays the ground work for legal precedent.

So, we're obsessed with precedent and the founding fathers not necessarily because of what we think they wanted, but because every legal argument stems from the belief that man is, and of right ought to be, free and independent. The Constitution forms the basis of the social contract of free and independent people. The Constitution can be changed and we have done so some 27 times. However, every argument fundamentally stems from the original point of view that all men are created equal.

It's not about interpreting the words of "a couple of guys" from 200 years ago. It's about whether or not our government has broken the social contract. The idea of "equality" itself has been a moving target in America, from land-owners to the Civil Rights movement. We are a country born out of tyranny, you know... It's fair to say that fear of tyranny is embedded in our culture and our laws.

The Constitution is the supreme law of our land.

There's a clearly-defined process for changing it (it's been done 27 times, in fact). "Deciding what's best for now" inevitably leads to abuses, or so many of us see it (who gets to "decide" what's "best"?)

"Interpret the words of a couple of guys 200 years ago as a gospel about how the internet should work?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That still works for me. What problems do you see with it?

Who decides what religion is?

Who decides what speech is?

Who decides who the press are?

Who determines peaceful assembly vs riotous mob behavior?

Who determines the processes by which we can petition our government and the process' effectiveness?

At best, these are all still grey areas we've been trying to nail down since before these words were written.

That's because Americans, unlike Europeans for example, aren't really bound by any pre-state history. There were no American tribes uniting, no real ethnicity, just fairly random people from around the world (though white Europeans mostly mattered). So the Constitution (and the Declaration of Independence, some other writings) is like a deal signed by those people with their government and they treat it like a deal -- it shouldn't be changed without a very good reason and consent from parties involved, the original intent matters, etc, etc.

The whole idea of a social contract makes much more sense there.

Actually I'm not an American, I'm Australian. I used to think the constitution obsession was naive nationalistic pride, but I've come to respect it.

It would be best if pragmatism could rule the day. However, that presupposes that decisions are being made for the benefit of the country rather than for political and personal reasons. Even up to the highest levels of office, I just don't think that is a standard politicians are living up to. I'm not sure any human is capable of it.

The constitution provides an anchor point to restrict the government, especially during turbulent times. I think there's incalculable value in that, even though it's slowly being eroded. Sure, the Patriot Act slipped through, but how many more would have without it?

Being bound by a 200 year old document isn't ideal, but it's better than the alternatives.

What's interesting is that the U.S. constitution, even a couple hundred years after the fact seems like an outright progressive and radical document in most of the world today.

>> How about deciding what's best for now

What is best now is not necessarily what is best for everyone. The constitution prevents mob rule. Is a filter that allows changes at a very slow rate so that we do not screw ourselves or some other minority at the heat of the moment.

You can make an argument that we should be contemplating changing our constitution, but what I read you saying was: "How about you just do whatever you want, instead of trying to actually follow the law?"

So we can end up with laws like this? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17576745

Altering rights in the heat of the moment is precisely what we don't want.

Don't be silly. For every repressive law you can find for the UK, I can find 10 for the US. Despite your nicely formatted constitution, your rights are fucked. Ever been to an airport?

What you need is not greater adherence to a bit of paper, but sane elected officials and sane people electing those officials.

Please go find those ten. I'll wait here.

Actually, you have to go find twenty, since I'll just add RIPA.

Sorry, thirty: Terrorism Act 2000, even predates the 9/11 hysteria.

No, forty: Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

Fifty: Terrorism Act 2006

England still has an established church. I'll be nice and just count that as one, so... Sixty...

Not all of our rights are as respected as they should be, but if you had any actual knowledge of US history, you'd realize that without our written constitution, we would have ten repressive laws for every one in the UK. It is only thanks to that constitution and the powers of our courts that we have any remaining freedom at all.

It's a peculiar thing, but when I'm in the US, and potentially subject to the death penalty and aware that the people around me may be armed with guns - particularly armed police - I feel far more fear than I do as an Irishman in London. Those two things, gun culture and death penalties, are massive.

From a UK perspective, the US executive looks almost rampant. The constitution is not an effective check on federal power; the commerce clause seems to have magical capabilities. The US president has just recently asserted the authority to unilaterally assassinate US citizens without a trial upon conviction by some secret and undefined court ("due process, not judicial process").

At least RIPA creates legal justification for intelligence monitoring of communications. The US executive appeared to just unilaterally appropriate that capability with retroactive immunity.

> Those two things, gun culture and death penalties, are massive.

I oppose both, but some things are more important than personal safety.

> The constitution is not an effective check on federal power; the commerce clause seems to have magical capabilities.

The constitution is in many ways an effective check on all levels of government, but not in all matters. Arguing about the commerce clause is very bizarre, however -- I have to think you don't understand what it's been used for if you're dragging this into a discussion of basic rights.

> asserted the authority to unilaterally assassinate US citizens without a trial

I suggest reviewing the SAS's conduct in Northern Ireland.

> At least RIPA creates legal justification for intelligence monitoring of communications. The US executive appeared to just unilaterally appropriate that capability with retroactive immunity.

The fact that warrantless surveillance had to be done in secret is exactly the point. I prefer a country where such evil must be carried out covertly to one in which it is openly accepted.

> I oppose both, but some things are more important than personal safety.

I'm sure I could be very "free" in the anarchy of Somalia, but without safety, effective freedoms are very limited. Quite a lot of government tyranny is needed to create a space for freedom to begin with. A social safety net, subsidized or free college education, socialized medicine (whether through public or universal private coverage), etc.; I consider some of these things fundamental to living a life of freedom rather than fear.

> Arguing about the commerce clause is very bizarre, however -- I have to think you don't understand what it's been used for if you're dragging this into a discussion of basic rights.

Gonzales v. Raich, for example.

> I suggest reviewing the SAS's conduct in Northern Ireland.

I'm not aware of the British prime minister ever standing up in the Commons and effectively announcing the right to kill UK citizens. Government wrongdoing, particularly by security services, are ten a penny in most large states, IMO. These days, in the western world, it's usually governments succumbing to US arm-twisting.

I understand that you're invested in defending the US. I, however, don't have a particularly strong motivation to defend the UK; I'm not a UK citizen, I've just lived here for a few years. I'm not interested in attacking the US in this argument. I'm just saying that, as a practical matter, I feel more free, and less afraid of the state, in the UK than I do in the US - and I work for a US company and visit the US multiple times every year for weeks at a time.

(If I wanted to attack Parliament's involvement in Ireland, I'd rather point to Cromwell. But those days are past.)

> I prefer a country where such evil must be carried out covertly to one in which it is openly accepted.

If this is your true position, be aware that you have not chosen one of a dichotomy; you have in fact chosen a superset of tyranny. Not just evil acts; but covert evil acts.

But, of course, the UK has committed its own share of covert evil acts. I don't think it's ever been caught running a network of secret prisons in modern times, though.

You're reading a lot more into my statements than what is there. I loathe my country and would leave it in a heartbeat were it practical -- but not for the UK.

The constitution, founders' philosophies, and other axiomatic ideas of government are a major part of how people are indoctrinated into the system throughout their schooling. Emphasizing a simple logical framework encourages them to identify with a fundamental soundness in the process despite the realities of the resulting utterly dysfunctional system. The constitution delusion continues in adulthood, with one generally either thinking that the "deviation" (ie outright contradiction) is necessary "interpretation" for the modern world OR thinking that constitutional law just isn't being followed hard enough, and as soon as the courts get around to making correct decisions we'll see some "real change". Modern day USG is clearly not bound by any sort of controlling law, document, or even the electoral process; but lacking any mechanism of change, cognitive dissonance is the only thing most people have.

(PS. Run through the Bill of Rights and count how many amendments could even possibly be in effect. I count three.)

> Remember that only landholders could vote - they made distinctions based on wealth and status.

Wow, I definitely didn't know this. From when were non-landholders (i.e., all adult white male citizens) allowed to vote?

The Federal Constitution (amended over time) has a list of reasons and qualifications which cannot be used to deny the vote. It is otherwise silent on the matter. Until the 14th and 15th amendments (1868, 1870), that list only included "religious test" (as in no religious test may be used to deny someone the franchise).

The several states each had (and have!) their own laws and regulations. Immediately following the ratification of the Constitution, states largely restricted voting rights to landholding white men. But by the 1840s most states had extended the right to vote to almost all white men, having done away with the requirement to own land, or pay taxes.

States continue to have different laws regarding voting rights, perhaps most notably surrounding the the rights of convicted felons.

1965. Although technically Black Americans were allowed to vote in 1870, in practice it was impossible in many states.


Universal women's suffrage didn't happen until 1920.


Until the Civil War.

Depends on the state, but federal constitutional protection of voting rights for adult men didn't exist until the 14th Amendment in 1868. Until then, voting qualifications were a state matter, and even after that, the "penalty" was simply a proportional reduction in representation for the state.

The founders also passed the Sedition Act of 1798 so YMMV, and the constitution itself has that provision about giving aid and comfort to the enemy but a public service like Twitter ought to be able to claim common carrier immunity from being charged.

Not a lawyer. I have a question:

Joe tells me "Frank just killed three people and is a thief".

I go to a well attended town meeting and say "Joe told me that Frank just killed three people and is a thief".

Am I liable for defamation of character if Joe did not tell me the truth?

Am I liable for any damages caused to Frank for this?

How is this different from a blog posting something that a third party said or having its users post their own content?

IANAL but I think you would be liable. Newspapers get sued all the time for printing things that aren't true. The reasoning is that you have conscious control over what you say.

So in your example, a Tumblr blogger could get sued, but Tumblr would not be. The provision in the Communications Decency Act was intended to shield internet service providers like AOL. Before the Act passed, let's say AOL had reviewers looking over comments and removing some of them. Someone could then turn around and sue AOL by saying, "Hey look, your reviewers let this comment stand and it's defamatory!" Whereas if AOL had taken a more hands off stance, they might have have better off legally. Congress put in the provision to encourage internet providers to police their content without fear of legal repercussions. It's sort of like how Good Samaritan laws protect people who try to help accident victims.

You can get sued for anything. Whether or not the lawsuit has merit or not is another matter. I think that's the key here. Would you be liable give my hypothetical scenario?

It would a special kind of fun if Lieberman participated in some sort of online forum where comments were allowed, and somebody organized a protest of sorts that flooded the comment system with things such that Lieberman was himself now liable for those comments under his proposed change.

Can they ever really stop us? We'll use every possible measure aka toe to make the Internet free. Just ask the guys at silk road

If the lunatics are not running the asylum they sure are trying very, very hard. And we keep letting them.

Well, the asylum used to largely be a state run enterprise, but it was put on the open market after some friends of the inmates pointed out how expensive and badly run it was.

Then the inmates bought all the shares.

Be careful what you say here. ;-)

Erm... Is this real? It was posted on "don't believe anything on the internet" day

For all his years in the Senate, what an amateur he is. Let the terrorists have their communications and get a warrant to force Twitter, Youtube, etc to pipe all related activity to the FBI. Otherwise they'll go underground to where the TLAs can no longer see them.

Count on Lieberman to be on the wrong side of every crucial issue. He's the worst kind of Washington apparatchik tool.

I'll probably get down voted for this, but in every sense the guy is a fing ahole.

If he is not, his view of the world, and his decision process that brings him to rationalize supporting some of our most destructive legislation is truly disturbing.

I'm from the US. In my youth, I would discuss politics with just about anyone under almost any circumstances. Tonight, I admit to having had a few drinks, and understand this may be an admission of apathy to all the wrong internet strangers...

However, I just want you as a PERSON to know that at least one other human out in the void that is the United States agrees completely with you.

When I think of people like Joe Lieberman still having a job in 2012, and then realize that he and others like him are continually elected by people who buy from me, work with me, and live with me because on some level they want(??) people like this in office............

Words are incapable of describing my sadness, anger, and eventual apathy towards the process.

He's so advanced at the process that he's done what you might think is impossible in the U.S., and gotten elected as a third party candidate, because he couldn't get the nomination of either of the two major parties.

My knee-jerk response is that what you mention is a decent strategy if your intention is to catch terrorists, but if your intention is to get votes, then Lieberman's plan may work better.

That may explain "all his years in the Senate"

<rant>If you follow his history, Liebermann is a sanctimonious wind bag that is all about drawing attention to himself. I'm glad he is retiring.</rant>

Are there many professional politicians left at this stage who aren't covered by more or less that description?

It seems like there are few, CA's two Senators are not amongst them. Ron Wyden and Al Franken are up there in my book. Previously, Paul Wellstone was, prior to his passing.

Some would say Ron/Rand Paul, but despite agreeing with them on more than a couple of things, there are aspects of their positions I can't get on board with. They are probably less delve serving than some of their peers, though.

"It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"


"I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"

"I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."

Ford shrugged again.

"Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."

Well played, sir.

At times I think that the hitchikers series of books is basically the modern gullivers travels.

[edit] but better and with more dolphins.

Once again, we have politicians who are simply unable to keep up with the technology revolution that has largely happened and continues to happen without their involvement (DARPA origins, etc., not withstanding).

What scares me is that this amazing new level of self-expression and communication seems to be facing an ever-increasing number of threats. Each time stuff like this comes up, it increases fatigue on the parts of those of us who work to fight against such threats...

The disparity in effort required to author such legislation and the effort required to defeat it makes me fear that loss is only a question of 'when', not 'if'.

Hes a fucking traitor actively trying to destroy this country with every single action he takes.

He is the worst of the worst scum of the government.

Who needs actual "enemies of the state" when you have Senators like Joe Liberman?

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