Reason Roundup

Sneaking Section 230 Reform Into the Defense Bill Is a Terrible Idea

Plus: Bar food police strike in New York, study finds COVID-19 circulating in the U.S. last December, and more...

|

Republicans aim to sneak anti-Section 230 regulation into defense spending bill. The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee may insert this measure into a new defense bill, as part of a compromise with President Donald Trump. If Democrats go with it, Trump will reportedly overlook the bill's move to rename military bases honoring Confederate leaders.

Section 230 of federal communications lawthe "internet's First Amendment"—is a federal law that helps ensure free speech online while also protecting the right of private entities to moderate content as they see fit.

It's become a bipartisan target since it makes it harder for elected officials and other government authorities to shut down speech they don't like or threaten private businesses if they refuse to give in to political whims when it comes to deciding what content to allow or promote. (It also has a lot of foes in failing industries who want a government-mandated leg up on their competitors.) Legislation to limit or abolish Section 230 has become popular in Congress, where lawmakers from both parties have introduced such measures. But with the exception of the 2018 sex-ad law FOSTA, most of these have gone nowhere.

Now, some officials are taking a different tack. Instead of pushing a standalone attack on Section 230, Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.)chair of the Senate Commerce Committee—will allegedly introduce an anti-Section 230 bit into the latest defense spending bill.

"The Trump administration is pressing Congress to repeal [Section 230] as part of a must-pass end-of-year defense-spending authorization bill," reports Axios. "A source familiar with the negotiations told Axios that Sen. Roger Wicker … has proposed that his bill limiting Section 230 protections be included in the National Defense Authorization Act."

But Axios reporters Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill suggest this strategy has minimal chance of working out:

The White House has pushed lawmakers to insert a repeal of Section 230 into the NDAA, as part of a compromise that would have President Trump sign the bill even though he's opposed to a provision that renames military bases that are named for Confederate leaders.

But Senate Republicans are instead trying to negotiate an alternative that would combine multiple bills aimed at reforming the law, including the bipartisan Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act and Wicker's Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, a Hill source familiar with the matter told Axios.

Let's hope neither finds its way to the final measure. Not only is a defense spending authorization no place for these actions, but their passage would make also be bad for national security by ensuring American's continued plunge from tech dominance.


REASON WEBATHON

Reason's annual webathon starts today! Throughout the week, we'll be soliciting donations for Reason's journalism, with a goal of raising $200,000 this year. Help us out?

Besides the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with your (tax-deductible) support for free minds and free markets, people who donate this week will also get some cool Reason swag. And if you help us reach our goal early, you'll stop seeing the annoying pop-up solicitations on this site earlier. Everybody wins!


FREE MARKETS

Bar food police strike in New York. State alcohol regulators are cracking down on bars that don't serve enough food with their booze. "The New York government is allowing the State Liquor Authority to aggressively enforce rules that require drinking establishments to serve food with alcoholic beverages they sell during the COVID-19 pandemic," note Jarrett Dieterle and Shoshana Weissmann at the Washington Examiner:

Perhaps not surprisingly, this has led to some ridiculous situations. For example, Pint Sized (a Saratoga Springs craft beer bar) was hit with an expected $1,500 fine for failing to serve what regulators deemed was enough veggies per pint of beer. Pint Sized was attempting to comply with New York's rule by offering simple bowls of canned vegetables, beans, or chili to each customer.

It turned out that customers were understandably unable to keep up with all the bowls of food landing on their tables. The bar's staff started to feel guilty about food waste, with good reason given the struggles of food banks during the pandemic, and elected to cut back portions to one bowl of food per table of customers. When undercover agents from the State Liquor Authority ordered brews at Pint Sized and received an insufficient amount of food alongside their drinks, the agency fined the bar.


FREE MINDS

More evidence suggests that COVID-19 was circulating in America before the start of this year. From The Wall Street Journal:

The new coronavirus infected people in the U.S. in mid-December 2019, a few weeks before it was officially identified in China and about a month earlier than public health authorities found the first U.S. case, according to a government study published Monday.

The findings significantly strengthen evidence suggesting the virus was spreading around the world well before public health authorities and researchers became aware, upending initial thinking about how early and quickly it emerged.

Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found evidence of infection in 106 of 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross from residents in nine states across the U.S., according to the study published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.


QUICK HITS

  • Reminder: "Human beings have raised fears about the addictive nature of every new media technology since the 18th century brought us the novel, yet the species has always seemed to recover its balance once the initial infatuation wears off."
  • Libertarian Party (L.P.) presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen's 1.2 percent vote share was impressive, "even while amounting to just a third of [Gary] Johnson's 2016 haul," writes Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch. "With no name recognition, no money, and no media, the Jorgensen campaign helped cement the L.P.'s decadelong transformation into the third party in the United States."
  • Yikes:

  • "People with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely than other civilians to be killed during an encounter with police," notes Laura Williamson at USA Today. How do we work to change that?
  • Norway has criminalized derogatory speech about transgender people as part of its general "hate speech" statute. "People found guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to a year in jail for private remarks, and a maximum of three years in jail for public comments, according to the penal code," Reuters reports.

White Fragility has two unstated assumptions about nonwhite people in general, and black people in particular. The first is that we are a homogenous mass of settled opinion with little, if any, diversity of thought—a kind of [Critical Race Theory]-aligned hive mind. I could marshal all the opinion polls in the world to refute this calumny, but it wouldn't move DiAngelo an inch. She needs nonwhites to think as a unit, or else her thesis falls apart. How could she tell whites to shut up and listen to the consensus view of nonwhites if that consensus doesn't exist?

The second unstated assumption in White Fragility—and this is where the book borders on actual racism—is that black people are emotionally immature and essentially child-like. Blacks, as portrayed in DiAngelo's writing, can neither be expected to show maturity during disagreement nor to exercise emotional self-control of any kind. The hidden premise of the book is that blacks, not whites, are too fragile.