Rep. Marsha Blackburn Says Internet Service Providers Have ‘An Obligation’ To Censor ‘Fake News’

Tech Dirt – by Mike Masnick

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn doesn’t have a very good history demonstrating any knowledge of how the internet works. She’s generally in favor of two very stupid policies related to the internet. First, getting rid of net neutrality. Second, forcing tech companies to censor the internet to stop “piracy.” The fact that her rationales for these two things are completely in conflict with each other doesn’t seem to enter her thought process. That is, she claims that there shouldn’t be any net neutrality because it’s important to keep the internet free from all regulations. Here’s Blackburn explaining this point in a nice, quick and utterly idiotic whiteboard video:  

If you can’t see that, she starts out by talking up how wonderful the internet is just as it is today, and notes that it’s necessary for creating jobs. Then she says this:

Some people fear that without government intervention, that entrepreneurs and innovators are going to hijack the internet that you enjoy. The World Wide Web! This hasn’t happened. And there has never been a time when a consumer needed a federal bureaucrat to intervene.

Then she talks about passing her legislation to block the FCC “from ever regulating the internet” because “we want to keep it open free and prosperous.”

Of course, she’s quite willing to sing a different tune when it comes to her other pet projects. She was a major backer of SOPA, of course, which was a bill to regulate the internet and open it up to Chinese-style site-blocking. A few months ago, she also made the nutty claim that the script kiddie botnet hack that took down large parts of the internet would have been stopped if only SOPA had been passed which made no sense at all.

And she’s back again now to deal with the highly exaggerated scourge of “fake news.” Her solution? Have ISPs censor and delete “fake” news. Really:

If you can’t see that, it’s part of a clip of Blackburn on CNN talking about “fake news,” where she says:

If anyone is putting fake news out there, the ISPs have the obligation to, in some way, get that off the web. And maybe it’s time for these information systems to look to have some type of news editor doing some vetting on that. Whether it’s the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians or whomever. You do not want that out there because it’s… because it’s fake news! It is not something that is going to be correct. It’s going to end up being refuted. But it takes time, effort and energy to do that, and trying to sway or misinform is completely inappropriate, and in my opinion unethical.

So she isn’t directly calling for legislation, but any time you have a sitting legislator (not to mention a Trump transition team member…) talking about how internet companies need to censor the internet to do away with “fake news” your ears should perk up. First off, note that she says that refuting fake stories takes “time, effort and energy” but doesn’t note that finding “some type of news editor” who can review the news postings of billions of internet users is, um, physically impossible. Does she really not understand the scale of what she’s talking about?

Second, I get the feeling that Marsha Blackburn’s definiton of “fake news” differs from many other people’s — which is why we’ve noted that the whole “fake news freakout” is so misguided. The term can mean just about anything — and all too frequently means “news I disagree with.” I’m going to imagine that Rep. Blackburn doesn’t much like this article for instance. Does she believe that her friends, the internet service providers, have “an obligation” to get this article “off the web”?

Because that’s a pretty serious issue: you have a sitting legislator effectively calling for internet censorship based on a vague standard of news being “fake.” Somewhat ironically, Blackburn has been one of the most vocal opponents of the bogeyman of the Fairness Doctrine — which was an attempt to beat back biased news in the past by requiring “equal time” to opposing views. But Blackburn is constantly freaking out about a non-existent “fairness doctrine” for the internet that she insists was part of the FCC’s net neutrality rules (it wasn’t, and never was suggested). But her suggestion for having internet companies censor “fake news” seems even worse than a fairness doctrine. Rather than encouraging more speech, Blackburn is flat out supporting having internet companies censor content they deem to be “fake.” That’s bad.

3 thoughts on “Rep. Marsha Blackburn Says Internet Service Providers Have ‘An Obligation’ To Censor ‘Fake News’

  1. These congress members should try to keep their mouths shut, because when they start sharing their ideas it becomes obvious that they’re only in congress because someone has video of them having sex with farm animals.

    “Looks like you had a good time with that donkey, Marsha. Now if you don’t want the video on the internet, you’ll vote like we tell you to.”

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