In Josh Hawley's World, People Should Be Able To Sue Facebook Both For Taking Down Stuff They Don't Like AND Leaving Up Stuff They Don't Like
from the basically-you-should-just-sue-facebook dept
Last year, Josh Hawley introduced one of his many, many pathetic attempts at changing Section 230. That bill, the “Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act” would create a private right of action allowing individuals to sue any social media company if they were unhappy that some of their content was removed, and to seek a payout. The obvious implication, as with a ton of bad faith claims by populists who pretend to be “conservative” is that websites shouldn’t do any moderation at all.
However, this week, Hawley introduced another bill to attack Facebook and to create another private right of action against basically any website — except this time the private right of action is for anyone who feels their “mental health” was harmed by content on that website. Contrary to what Hawley-loving propagandist rag “The Daily Caller” falsely claims, this bill doesn’t actually “amend” Section 230, it simply uses the definition of an interactive computer service from 230, and introduces a weird new liability regime that is in total conflict with 230 (and with Hawley’s previous bill — but when you’re culture warrioring and trying to be the face of the new insurrectionists, who has time for little things like consistency?). The Federal Big Tech Tort Act is a bunch of silly performative nonsense.
It used to be that Republicans were the party that was dead set against opening up new private rights of action and giving tort lawyers new ways to drag people and companies into court. No longer, I guess. Amusingly, Hawley’s bill shares its DNA with Senator Amy Klobuchar’s equally silly bill to hold social media companies liable for misinformation. The key part in the Hawley bill:
PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.—An individual who suffers bodily injury or harm to mental health that is attributable, in whole or in part, to the individual’s use of a covered interactive computer service provided by a social media company as described in subsection (b) may bring a civil action against the social media company in an appropriate district court of the United States or a State court of competent jurisdiction
The bill says that the liability applies to individuals who use social media when they are “less than 16 years of age.”
So, if someone on social media, like Josh Hawley, contributes to your young teenager’s depression by doing incredible dangerous things (like encouraging an insurrection at the Capitol to block the results of a free and fair election), you can now… sue Facebook for the damage to your kid’s mental health? Because that makes sense.
Again, this is clearly (1) ridiculous, (2) unconstitutional, (3) completely at odds with Republican philosophy for the past half century, and just (4) an attack on the basic frameworks of how liability works. But none of that matters. The “consistency” for Hawley is that he has to keep attacking “big tech” or the headlines among the Trumpist populists will continue to go to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and that might make them the front runners for the 2024 Republican nomination instead of Josh Hawley.