Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a mixed bag like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When he’s right—the man is hell on wheels on specific agenda items of the Republican Party. On Trump’s Supreme Court nominations, Graham reverted to his 2.0 self and scorched Democrats who tried to derail these qualified jurists from confirmation. And then, there are times when he’s just plain wrong, which is fine. Seldom do you find anyone in this town who is perfect. Like Graham, McConnell was great at pushing through crucial parts of the Trump agenda, confirming judges' scores, and overhauling the judiciary towards a more conservative tilt. Though the Senate Republican leader’s seemingly unwillingness to kill this amnesty bill Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is pushing is disappointing, we’re talking about Graham now.
If there is one thing conservatives should recoil from, it’s when members of Congress talk about regulation. It enters the nightmare fuel stage when it’s about regulating something they don’t understand. In this case, it’s social media. The late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) once described the Internet as a series of tubes—that right there is disqualifying. It also doesn’t help that both sides want to regulate social media platforms for entirely different reasons: conservatives over allegations of bias and targeted censorship, while liberals are still incensed Facebook ran 100,000 rubles worth of Russian ads during the 2016 election. We’re back to the Section 230 debate, which, in a nutshell, shields companies from frivolous lawsuits over content posted by others.
It was passed in 1996 when we were all in awe about the dial-up service provided by AOL. It’s heinously outdated but doesn’t need to be shredded. It does need updating, but a new law or getting rid of the law altogether is bound to do more harm than good, especially in these politically charged climates. Case in point, Graham wants to treat social media companies like applicants at the Department of Motor Vehicles trying to obtain a license (via RealClearPolitics):
LINDSEY GRAHAM: This Twitter stuff, Google, this is as big a story as how Covid started. Because what they did is suppress the other side of the story. Every time a scientist would come forward to suggest maybe it came out of a lab or that we’re not following the science, that we’re overdoing it, that we’re going too far, they were shut down. So the real story for me is that the social media companies that exist today, Google, Twitter, all of these -- Facebook. They're unregulated and you can't sue them. They are the largest companies in the history of the world and a consumer has no recourse. We need to fix that.
HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS: And is that in part because of Section 230?
FAULKNER: So that’s been talked about. So will Republicans finally do something with that and do you think you can get it through in the Senate?
GRAHAM: Okay. Suing Twitter. You know, if somebody says something bad about me and they use Twitter, I can sue Twitter if it’s a lie. Suppressing information about my campaign, not putting my ads in the dumpster, I can bring lawsuits. But the more important thing to me is the regulatory commission. You have to have a license to sell real estate, to open up a TV station, to run a radio station. These companies should have a license that can be taken away.
FAULKNER: So that's so interesting hearing that from a Republican. Because usually you want less government but you say in this instance what is the exception?
GRAHAM: Here’s the deal. To get a license you have to have privacy protection. A license requirement would be that if you take my content down I can appeal your decision as a social media company to somebody outside the company because I’m a consumer. Young girls are being driven to websites just to make money. There's a mental health abuse here by these algorithms. The social media companies are doing a lot of damage to young teenage girls. And we need a licensing requirement to prevent that and to empower parents.
In a sit-down with editors of The New York Times, Joe Biden expressed his hatred of Section 230, partially fueled by the endless stream of anti-Hunter Biden stories that have flooded these platforms. The government wanting further control of these platforms should be anathema to most, and everyone, Left and Right, must deal with each other’s differing opinions. If there is an appeals process, transparency, and clear lines of communication to air grievances over flagged content, both sides should be able to deal with it. If they can’t, then tough because I can confidently say that a new law to replace Section 230 would be nothing short of a parade of horribles and tilt the field towards government control. If people thought censorship was terrible, imagine no protections and looney left-wingers going apoplectic over someone using the wrong pronouns. Threats of legal action would prompt more posts to be removed over innocuous content. It would be a mess, as it always is regarding more government regulation.
And without a doubt, there will probably be some constitutionality questions over Graham’s licensing idea.