Update: It would appear this is an April Fool’s joke. The thing is, it’s utterly believable. If it is a joke, I fell for it. I’ll refrain from flushing this post down the memory hole to spare my ego.
Feel free to slam Lieberman in the comments anyway. He’s still a Nanny State fuckwad, even if this is a hoax.
I’m just going to say what Alex and Jim already know: Joe Lieberman has no business being in office:
Section 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230) grants immunity to Internet Service Providers from being held liable for the comments of third parties to their websites. Basically, it’s what shields review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp from butthurt business owners holding them liable for disgruntled third parties’ reviews. It is also what allows all of you to say whatever you want in the comments without The Legal Satyricon being taken to task for it (legally).
However, Lieberman’s proposed amendment would change that. The new language reads:
NoA provider or user of an interactive computer service shallmay be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Although Lieberman is touting this amendment as an anti-terrorist effort, this action will have a chilling effect on all forms of Internet speech. Service providers from Comcast to Consumerist may now be treated as publishers to content posted to their websites. This opens up the possibility that review sites and others that rely on third parties for content will be held responsible for those very same deranged, sub-literate contributions. Lieberman’s proposed amendment will have a chilling effect on free speech, as any site that does not want to drown in legal bills likely won’t accept anonymous comments. If you’re a sissy with paper-thin skin or an obsession with “bullying,” rejoice, I suppose.
Any time legislation is justified because of terrorism, I become immediately suspicious. Terrorism is the “think of the children” of our time. If Congress proposed legislation allowing members to sodomize random members of the public (The ‘Please Use KY’ Act of 2012), they would justify it as an anti-terror effort.
Right now, you are only responsible for what you put on the web. If someone were to, hypothetically, write a libelous post about a US Senator having no testicles and the IQ of a drapery rod, only the poster would be responsible. But under the revision, the website, host and IP provider could all be held liable.
As far as I know, there is no federal anti-SLAPP provision. So this will open the door to anyone silencing anyone with a blizzard of lawsuits against intimidated hosts and IP providers. And it wouldn’t be just angry business owners. Next time SOPA comes up, websites criticizing it could endure an avalanche of libel suits (remember Chris Dodd’s tantrum). Popehat‘s commenters have pointed out that such lawsuits could targeted against ripoff report websites, sites that carry escort ads and sites that criticize the government (one anti-TSA blog gets 10% of its traffic from TSA itself).
Joe Lieberman has always been a Nanny State twerp. With this, he has crossed the line into being a full-on Nanny State fuckwad. We need to get him away from power even if it takes a catapult.