The bill would set up a massive new system of intense user monitoring and reporting that would lead to more perfectly innocent people getting booted from internet platforms.
A new bill revitalizes the war on terror’s favorite slogan in service of forcing tech companies to turn over more user data to the government. The “See Something, Say Something Online Act of 2020,” introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas), is the latest attack on the federal communications law known as Section 230 as well as freedom of speech and online privacy.
The legislation says any interactive computer service provider—that means social media giants, small blogs, podcast hosting services, app stores, consumer review platforms, independent political forums, crowdfunding and Patreon-style sites, dating apps, newsletter services, and much more—will lose Section 230 protections if they fail to report any known user activity that might be deemed “suspicious.”
“Suspicious” content is defined as any post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or “any other user-generated content or transmission” that government officials later determine “commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.” Major crimes are defined as anything involving violence, domestic, or international terrorism, or a “serious drug offense.”
For each suspicious post, services must submit a Suspicious Transmission Activity Report (STAR) within 30 days, providing the user’s name, location, and other identifying information, as well as any relevant metadata.
Those submitting the user surveillance reports would henceforth be barred from talking about or even acknowledging the existence of them. STARs would also be exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The bill, which comes amid renewed calls to stamp out domestic terrorism after the Capitol riot, is impressive in managing to be both completely invasive andutterly unconcerned with even appearing to be about protection, since the remedy—report within 30 days—would hardly help stop the commission of crimes. If we were talking about the Capitol riot, for instance, companies who still hadn’t reported posts about it would be OK.
The bill would set up a massive new system of intense user monitoring and reporting that would lead to more perfectly innocent people getting booted from internet platforms. It would provide the government with a new tool to punish disfavored tech companies, and it would enlist all digital service providers to be cops in the failed post-9/11 war on terror and the drug war. Read Full Article >