Tags: Ben Sasse | small government | Section 230

Sen. Ben Sasse Keeps Torch of Small Government Burning

Sen. Ben Sasse Keeps Torch of Small Government Burning
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. (AP)

By Monday, 21 December 2020 10:50 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Thank you Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., for courageously defending Section 230 and opposing government censorship of the internet. I'm a writer. So I am biased in favor of free speech and a free press. It's flattering having President Trump, via repeatedly tweeted veto threat, and so many legislators of both parties trying to tell us what we can and cannot say, technically called "censorship." Also, annoying.

It makes no sense, operationally, morally or constitutionally, to hold social media platforms liable for user postings. Bashing social media betrays deep ignorance of (or, in the case of legislators such as the ambitious Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., animus toward) how social media works.

Sasse to the rescue! And on the Democratic side of the aisle, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the godfather of Section 230, together with former Rep. and then SEC Chairman Chris Cox, a Republican, observes: "repealing the law entirely would return us to the legal no-man's land that necessitated Section 230 in the first place. It can't be that every one of the over 200 million websites available to Americans — all of them governed by Section 230 — will have to either stop publishing their user's contributions, or let "anything go" — no matter how gross or illegal."

Robert Bork, Jr., at Real Clear Politics, summarized Sen. Sasse's observation: "I am more skeptical than a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle about whether or not there is a regulatory fix that will make it better instead of worse. … Sasse then noted that his Democratic colleague, Sen. [Richard] Blumenthal, was 'giddy' about creating 'a new government agency to police online speech.'" Weird to see "conservatives" massing to weaponize Big Government and empower our erstwhile nemesis, tort lawyers.

Conservative media-bashing isn't surprising. We conservatives have been bashing media since time immemorial. I recently saw an '80s-era bumper sticker, "I Don't Believe the Liberal Press." Goes back much further.

In 1807, the iconic libertarian President Jefferson wrote of my journalistic predecessors in a letter to John Norvell, "To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, by restraining it to true facts and sound principles only. … It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of it's (sic) benefits, than is done by it's (sic) abandoned prostitution to falsehood."

Politicos routinely reciprocate reporters' antagonism. Alas for politicos, there's that pesky First Amendment. It says that Congress (and by extension all government) "shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, or of the press." But hey, what's a mere Constitutional right to U.S. Senators as ambitious as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley seeking to fan the embers of their presidential ambition with cheap shots designed to stoke their CPAC base?

Many decades ago I was a young conservative activist in Albany, N.Y. We wannabe firebrands merrily complained about how establishment media, The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and the three broadcast networks discriminated against us.

We had safe space in our little magazines, National Review and The American Spectator. But the federal "Fairness" Doctrine kept conservatives off radio and TV much as the proposals of anti-230 Senators would keep us off the internet. After Reagan's repeal our little magazines were joined by great big Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Matt Drudge and Newsmax, much to our advantage.

Memo to Sens. Cruz and Hawley: Don't poison your own well.

True, we conservatives rarely get sat at the cool kids' lunch table. We're rarely interviewed on PBS or NPR, much less broadcast networks or CNN. We aren't likely to be haloed by Time as Person of the Year. Now, ambitious politicos are sucker-punching Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and hippie-punching Twitter's Jack Dorsey.

Let's face an embarrassing reality. Social media companies' interest in politics is minimal. Washington is the center of our universe. Not theirs. Zuck, whatever his faults, is obsessively focused on the experience of his 2.7 billion active users (who, de facto, "elect" Facebook by using it). Sheryl Sandburg focuses on monetizing that traffic.

Politics barely registers on their radar screens (to their peril). Same deal with Twitter, Amazon and Google. They're not insidious. They're naïve.

Political advertising contributes around half a percent of Facebook's revenue. Since it is expensive to moderate political postings Facebook probably loses money on its political content. Zuckerberg allows political content out of a commitment to free speech and civic duty. Let our legislators emulate rather than savage him.

My conservative friends are having hysterics over Joe Biden's election. I am investing my own conservative hysteria in the GOP's abdication of championing free speech and ethical free market capitalism.

Thank you, Ben Sasse, for being a rare conservative profile in courage.

Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as co-founder of and senior counselor to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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Thank you Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., for courageously defending Section 230 and opposing government censorship of the internet.
Ben Sasse, small government, Section 230
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2020-50-21
Monday, 21 December 2020 10:50 AM
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