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Anti-terrorism law threatens First amendment?

Anonymous speech is an important element of the First Amendment right to free speech. Publius, of the Federalist Papers, is the most famous pseudonym, but the ability to speak anonymously can be of great importance beyond that. Relatively few people with Internet sites can assume the risk of responsibility of their anonymous commenters' speech. It is this reason that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is so important. Liability for anonymous commenters would require screening of comments, making forum discussions on Internet sites prohibitively expensive.

For this reason, I am concerned about the report from the McIntyre v. Ohio blog about a proposed law to eviscerate Section 230 and potentially hold web site administrators liable for the speech of their commenters. One would hope that Congress sees through the anti-terrorism veneer and rejects this law as the attack on the First Amendment it would be. On the other hand, the bill's sponsor, Senator Joe Lieberman, has previously called for Twitter to censor accounts he did not like. Lieberman should know better; the senator I so much expressed admiration for would never do such a thing.




Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.