Senator Manchin Pushes for Anti-Section 230 Snitching Mandate Targeting ‘Suspicious’ Content

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has renewed his efforts to erode Section 230 liability protections by inserting his extremely controversial “See Something, Say Something” bill into the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act.

Manchin’s proposal “would force companies to file ‘Suspicious Transmission Activity Reports’ (STAR) for basically anything ‘suspicious’ they see online,” TechDirt’s Mike Masnick reported today.

Back in 2020, Masnick published a detailed analysis of Manchin’s “dangerous, stupid” mandatory snitching bill, which Masnick labels “a direct attack on Section 230.” Manchin is now attempting to graft the provisions of that bill onto the NDAA as an unrelated “rider.” The NDAA is the annual legislative authorization of resources for the entire U.S. military.

“You know how under the law right now, if a website finds child sexual abuse material, it needs to report it to NCMEC?” Masnick writes. “Well, this law basically expands that to, well — everything. See someone mention drugs? File a report! See someone slightly mean to someone else? File a STAR. See someone joke about a bomb? STAR. On and on and on.”

Should such provisions become law, the potential for abuse and lawfare is self-evident. Organized, well-funded groups as NCOSE and Exodus Cry could easily leverage the proposed system in order to further their mission of eradicating online pornography.

Masnick also points out that since Manchin’s proposal targets “known suspicious transmissions,” it could easily backfire and “actually encourage websites to take a less proactive approach to reviewing content, because they will claim that if they don’t look, they couldn’t have known.”

At the same time, since “See Something, Say Something” uses the “should have reasonably known” standard, platforms could be forced to litigate “whether you should have magically known about this bad thing found online.” Sites such as Twitter and Reddit, which tolerate adult content, and user-upload sites like OnlyFans and Pornhub, could expect to be challenged on such grounds by the same deep-pocketed anti-porn crusaders that have long had them in their sights.

Though nominally a Democrat, Manchin has become notorious for pushing back against his party and President Biden’s agenda, and using his tie-breaking vote in the Senate to advance positions more aligned with the Republican party and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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