Theodore's World: Obama Official's Book About Curbing Free Speech On The Internet

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July 19, 2009

Obama Official's Book About Curbing Free Speech On The Internet


An Obama Official's Frightening Book About Curbing Free Speech Online

New York Post

When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courts to impose a "chilling effect" on speech that might hurt someone's feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.

Advance copies of Sunstein's new book, "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done," have gone out to reviewers ahead of its September publication date, but considering the prominence with which Sunstein is about to be endowed, his worrying views are fair game now.

Sunstein is President Obama's choice to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It's the bland titles that should scare you the most.

"Although obscure," reported the Wall Street Journal, "the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Obama aides have said the job will be crucial as the new administration overhauls financial-services regulations, attempts to pass universal health care and tries to forge a new approach to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases."

Sunstein was appointed, no doubt, off the success of "Nudge," his previous book, which suggests that government ought to gently force people to be better human beings.

Czar is too mild a world for what Sunstein is about to become. How about "regulator in chief"? How about "lawgiver"? He is Obama's Obama.

Sunstein also believes that - whether you're a blogger, The New York Times or a Web hosting service - you should be held responsible even for what your commenters say. Currently you're immune under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. "Reasonable people," he says, "might object that this is not the right rule," though he admits that imposing liability for commenters on service providers would be "a considerable burden."

"As we have seen," Sunstein writes, having shown us no such thing, "falsehoods can undermine democracy itself." What Sunstein means by that sentence is pretty clear: He doesn't like so-called false rumors about his longtime University of Chicago friend and colleague Barack Obama.

Sunstein calls for a "notice and take down" law that would require bloggers and service providers to "take down falsehoods upon notice," even those made by commenters - but without apparent penalty.

Consider how well this nudge would work. You blog about Obama-Ayers. You get a letter claiming that your facts are wrong so you should remove your post. You refuse. If, after a court proceeding proves simply that you are wrong (but not that you committed libel, which when a public figure is the target is almost impossible), you lose, the penalty is . . . you must take down your post.

How long would it take for a court to sort out the truth? Sasha and Malia will be running for president by then. Nobody will care anymore. But it will give politicians the ability to tie up their online critics in court.

Sunstein, trying to fair, argues that libel awards should be capped at $15,000, or at least limited for anyone demonstrating financial hardship. But $15K is the limit you'd pay to your opponent. The legal bill is the scary part, and the reason bloggers already have plenty of reason to be careful about what they say, even if they don't much fear a libel conviction.

Sunstein dreams of an impossibly virtuous America: "We could also imagine a future in which those who spread false rumors are categorized as such, discounted and marginalized . . . people would approach rumors skeptically even they provide comfort and fit their own biases." But if his chilling wind doesn't work, Sunstein may try to make good on the implicit threat that runs through his book: that he would redefine libel as the spread of false information and hold everyone up the ladder responsible.

If this happened, the blogosphere would turn into Pluto overnight. Comments sections would slam shut. Every writer would work on a leash shorter than a shoelace.

Sunstein is an enemy to every news organization and blogger. We should return the favor and declare war on him.

Government of Canada moves to monitor Internet users

In the spring, the Government of Canada introduced two pieces of legislation that would greatly expand the power of the state to monitor its citizens online activity. The legislation, known as the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C) Act, would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install costly surveillance systems on their networks and give police wide ranging new powers that do away with judicial oversight.

According to University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, the legislation would create additional requirements for ISPs and expand police powers. These ISP requirements can be broken down into two components. First, ISPs will be required to install costly surveillance equipment on their networks. Part of the cost will fall to taxpayers while the remainder will be carried by the companies themselves.

Some smaller ISPs will be exempt from this requirement for a period of three years, creating an unfair burden on the larger, more successful companies. Second, the legislation would require that all ISPs give personal information to the government, including the names of their customers, as well as their IP, e-mail, and mailing addresses—on demand and without any judicial oversight.

Police will also gain expanded powers under this legislation. First, they will be able to obtain information about Internet-based messaging, including tracking what sites people are visiting and who they are communicating with. This information will be subject to a judicial order. Second, police will be able to order ISPs to preserve data on their customers. Third, police will be able to obtain a warrant to remotely activate tracking devices in technologies such as cellular telephones. Fourth, the legislation also deals with computer viruses and makes it easier for the government to coordinate its efforts with international governments.

There are numerous problems with the proposed legislation that should be alarming to freedom loving Canadians. It forces private business to not only be complicit in the government's attempt to spy on its citizens, it also forces them to shoulder much of the financial responsibility for the new policy.

Wild Thing's comment........

We already have laws in place to prohibit both libel and slander. This guy wants to regulate opinion.

Gagging/policing the web would be a challenge for our inept government - thank GOD.

“We hardly need to imagine a world, however, in which people and institutions are being harmed by the rapid spread of damaging falsehoods via the Internet,” he writes. “We live in that world. What might be done to reduce the harm?”

Does that mean Sarah won’t be ridiculed and attacked in the media?

Blogs are good for venting. Normal people need to vent. After they vent, that’s the end of it. It feels good to vent. Libs are deathly afraid of the ideas that we express.

....Thank you Mark for sending this to me.

3rd Mar.Div. 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment
1/9 Marines aka The Walking Dead
VN 66-67

Posted by Wild Thing at July 19, 2009 05:45 AM


Everything this administration has to do with, raises taxes. There won't be enough jobs out there to fund any of this.

It is all about control and how they can run everyones life better than they can. The leftists were so worried about Bush wiring tapping calls to Terrorists, where is the outrage now.

They called Bush a Nazi, Wrong, obama's the Nazi and Rham Emanuel is Hermann Goering without the baby fat...No that's not Emanuel this is:

The few survivors tell how as children in Auschwitz they were visited by a smiling Uncle Mengele who brought them candy and clothes. Then he had them delivered to his medical laboratory either in trucks painted with the Red Cross emblem or in his own personal car to undergo his experiments.

Rham Emanuel and his brother would have fit in perfectly at Auschwitz.

Posted by: Mark at July 19, 2009 12:06 PM

Under Sunstein's ideas, what I am commenting right now could be considered objectionable by some low level government attorney. Then my comment would be removed. Of course all of us here think alike, so Chrissie's entire blog would be shutdown. Another attack on the First Amendment.

cuchieddy would never be allowed to comment.

Get ready Guys. This Marxist/muslim obama and his growing administration of lefties is out to destroy America. Buy guns and all the ammo you can find.

Posted by: TomR at July 19, 2009 02:56 PM

Mark, thank you so much. I hope they
don't mess with the internet. I love
having a blog and to be able to be
with all of you on here. It means a lot
to me.

But there is no way I will change how
I post or what I say and I don't want
anyone else to either. That is why it
says PC FREE Zone at the top.No political
correctness to worry about at my blog.
Only the truth.

Your so right, they called Bush the Nazi
when it is Obama that has earned that

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 19, 2009 05:04 PM

Tom, what I don't get about it is that
Obama used the internet and he still does
to push his agenda to his followers. The
internet added with the media is a huge
part in how he got elected. I guess if
they ever do go after blogs and news sources
on the net they will have a machine or
something that tells the difference in
Obama people and those of us that love

I pray none of this happens. But no way
will I change one thing. I won't cave in
to freedom destroyers.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 19, 2009 05:13 PM

Conservative, patriotic and responsible opinions are offensive and, so, are loathsome racist hate-speech that must be banned! (Burning the American flag or yelling "Kill Whitey!" are, course, legitimate free expression of a political viewpoint.) Damn, what is this, Cuba?

Posted by: Anonymous at July 19, 2009 08:10 PM

"...challenge for our inept government..."

A coffee through your nose worthy sentiment if there ever was one!

By the way, WT, save yourself five key-strokes next time - "inept" and "government" never need to both be typed out. Same same.

Posted by: BT in SA at July 19, 2009 10:29 PM

Anonymous, good point it sure seems
to be getting more like Cuba everyday.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 19, 2009 11:27 PM

BT in SA,LMAO good one. thank you!

Great to see you.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 19, 2009 11:31 PM

"his longtime University of Chicago friend and colleague Barack Obama." -- that apparently is the ONLY 'qualification' for the job....and explains EVERYTHING we need to know. /// I REALLY need to see a cartoon of 'Rahm as Mengele' in the paper by some hot shit political cartoonist ... the phrase "apopleptic conniption fit" would probably be the best description of the 'White House Response' retrospect, Hillary as Prez may have been a 'better' choice, I mean as far as bad choices go, I mean, is it possible to do a more 'stellar'(MASSIVE SARCASM) job than the The ONE?

Posted by: pontiff alex at July 20, 2009 03:50 PM