So, just yesterday I wrote about how Democratic Senators had been shying away from co-sponsoring bills with Senator Josh Hawley. Throughout 2019 and 2020, even as Hawley’s populist fascist tendencies had become abundantly clear, Democrats were willing to partner with him because he was “anti-big tech.” But after January 6th of last year, suddenly Hawley was left shouting on Fox News, rather than teaming up with Democrats to sponsor bills to regulate the internet.
So… it was more than a bit of a surprise that, yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s name popped up as a co-sponsor on S.2972, a bill from Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, and Marsha Blackburn, to literally repeal Section 230.
It’s such a bizarre and nonsensical move. Even for Senators who support reforming Section 230, repealing it seems unlikely to accomplish what they think it will. And, even more to the point, Warren is apparently already aware of how removing Section 230 can cause significant harm. She was behind a previous bill in the Senate that was designed to study the impact of FOSTA on sex workers, after tons of people realized (way too late, and despite widespread warnings from multiple experts) that FOSTA would create massive consequences for the sex work industry (and related industries).
Over the last couple of years, ever since she lost the Presidential primary, Warren seems to have shifted further and further away from the thoughtful Senator “with a detailed plan to fix things” to one who has fully embraced pure, naked, populism for the sake of political gain. She’s especially leaned hard into attacking internet companies in ways that are extremely disappointing. Even if you believe that the big internet companies (and the wider internet itself) require regulation — an argument that is easily defensible — she has embraced truly extreme and unconstitutional positions that generate headlines and screams of support from people who just want to punish big companies, rather than create a better world.
This latest move — teaming up with three extremist Republican Senators — on a bizarrely stupid and dangerous plan to flat out repeal Section 230 makes absolutely no sense at all, and I don’t see how it accomplishes any of Senator Warren’s stated goals. Without Section 230, you end up helping the largest internet companies cement their position, while punishing smaller competitors and killing them with legal liability for things that they didn’t actually do.
This is an unfortunate and cynical move by a Senator who I had thought was better than that.