Section 230 Revision Will Likely Impact Anonymous Internet Speech

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April 1st, 2012

Joe Lieberman, it seems, is looking to crank up the anti-terrorism volume a bit further. I would have thought that with Bin Laden killed we’d be heading in the other direction by now.

But a friend of mine in the GPO let me know that Lieberman is proposing an amendment to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That is the law that gives immunity to information content providers for the conduct of others. In other words, a blogger or forum host isn’t responsible for defamatory comments by anonymous commenters.

This amendment to that law would change that, by stripping out the immunity and leaving web hosts potentially liable. Yuck. A draft of the bill, apparently to be introduced tomorrow, is here: Section 230 Amendment The act as it stands now reads:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

The amendment reads (underline is an addition and strike through is a deletion in legislatureland):

No A provider or user of an interactive computer service shall may be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

The Senator calls this anti-terrorism legislation, in that if web hosts can be held accountable, they won’t let folks like the Taliban uses their services. This disrupts their communications.

While you might think this is far-fetched, Lieberman (in)famously asked Twitter late last year to kill the Taliban Twitter feed. He has also tried to make First Amendment inroads by stopping the media from publishing leaked documents with the Shield Act.

The effect of this, of course, is that forum hosts and blogs may not be too keen on having anonymous commenters anymore if the hosts might be held responsible for the comments of others, thus chilling the free speech of the internet. We’ve enjoyed a bit of a Wild West since 1996 when the law was passed. This would bring us back to the days of Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy, which preceded Section 230, and held that a publisher might be liable for the conduct of its message board participants under certain circumstances.

Lieberman’s amendment to Section 230 will be referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which he is the chairman. I guess that is one of the perks of the job, you can get your bills into and out of committee pretty fast, assuming you have the votes.


Original Article:


  1. Why is this idiot still in office? People of Connecticut, vote this fascist dictator out of office!!!!!

    John Eric Grumling, K0JEG

  2. Eric, you weren’t deliberately sending a secret message with this article were you? If so, I appreciate the effort. Generally though, I don’t really care because I’m this normal middle class guy that never does anything more adventurous than put a Ron Paul sticker on the bumper of his 1999 Dodge Durango. I’m pretty safe, but if you *were* thinking about me, or even other poor bastards like me, thanks 🙂

    • I love the smell of censorship in the morning.

      I kind of figured the NSA’s ‘Broken Wind’ project pretty much sewed this issue up. Why bother to talk about due process when you’re already archiving every keystroke anyone makes anywhere in the world?

      Answer: Publicity. The intent is to terrorize, humiliate and neutralize the American citizen. You need publicity for that, it doesn’t work if you do it secretly.

      • The thuggery itself doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the braying about “our freedoms” and “security.” And not just the government’s braying. What makes me certifiable is the braying of the moo-cow public, with their goddamn flag stickers and the rest of it. Yes I’m proud to be a Ahhhmerikun! Where at least I know I’m freeeeeee!

  3. It’s at times like this I like to drag out my old Tintin comics.

    McCarthy had his moments but he wasn’t ever a real detective or anything, he was just a boob with a microphone. Lieberman would have liked him.

    There’s no accounting for this, no escape. Trying to “behave” is probably the worst thing you can do. It isn’t even clear what the current regime really *wants* you to do; should we rat out suspicious Jews (er, Muslims)? Should we rat out our neighbor, who just never seems to bathe anymore? Who can say?

    Surfing on the other hand is very substantial and well defined. In this situation, my recommendation is we all take up surfing.

  4. Sometimes the worst terrorists seem to be people (congressmen) who are supposed to be on the side of the US citizens.

    With friends like Lieberman I do not need any enemies.


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