yesEmily BirnbaumNone
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Politics

McConnell is killing $2,000 stimulus checks by tying them to Section 230

Both efforts are probably doomed.

McConnell is killing $2,000 stimulus checks by tying them to Section 230

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell teed up a bill to increase government stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 and repeal Section 230.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is tying the fate of $2,000 stimulus checks to the repeal of Section 230, an effort that will likely doom both pieces of legislation in the Senate.

McConnell on Tuesday teed up a bill to increase government stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 and repeal Section 230, the law underpinning the modern internet.

"Here's the deal: The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together," McConnell said on Wednesday, referring to the $2,000 checks, Section 230 and an election fraud study.

Democrats have emphasized that those provisions would be a non-starter and amount to a "poison pill" that makes passing the $2,000 checks impossible.

Even top Republican senators sounded skeptical of the effort before it was officially announced by McConnell. GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is typically a swing vote, told Protocol she believes Section 230 should be "reformed" but does not support repeal and does not believe it should be tied to the prospect of stimulus checks.

And Sen. John Cornyn, a high-ranking Republican with a close relationship with McConnell, said he doesn't believe Section 230 is "germane" to the COVID relief issues at hand.

Trump over the weekend demanded that the Senate pass legislation to increase payments to Americans to $2,000 while repealing Section 230. He said that was part of the deal he struck with congressional leaders in order for him to sign the $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending package.

McConnell acknowledged Trump's request on Tuesday, saying he requested to have the issues "linked." He promised that the Senate would "begin a process to bring these priorities into focus" this week.

Aides and lobbyists told Protocol that it's almost impossible that McConnell has secured enough votes in the Senate to pass legislation that would increase checks to $2,000 and repeal Section 230. It appears to be a political move that allows McConnell to appease some of the president's top priorities without passing difficult legislation, they said.

"The American people overwhelmingly support $2,000 relief checks," said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who helped write the original Section 230 statute. "Mitch McConnell knows that blocking $2,000 relief checks is politically toxic for Sens. Loeffler and Perdue, so he's going to tie the checks to a poison pill like rewriting our Internet laws. It's a classic McConnell move: Use process gimmicks to kill popular policies and try to deflect the blame."

Even some of the senators most intent on reforming the bedrock internet law said this legislative effort has little to do with tech companies and their legal protections.

"I'm hardly shy about criticizing Section 230, but making a lifeline for struggling families contingent on a half-baked, meat-ax evisceration of the law is cruel and stupid," said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who introduced the EARN IT Act, which would narrow tech's legal protections. "Americans deserve relief without delay, and reforming Section 230 deserves its own debate — one that I've helped lead in Congress, and which I look forward to continuing with a more serious, thoughtful administration in January."

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, who has also introduced legislation to tweak the controversial law, said this is not "a serious lawmaking effort."

"I have a bipartisan bill that simply updates the law in practical ways, but the reason no one is talking about it is BECAUSE it is a serious attempt at making a law," Schatz said.

The vote is set to be held later this week. McConnell could still choose to hold a vote on the House-passed bill to increase stimulus payments to $2,000.

Read the bill below.

New McConnell Bill.pdf

Update: This article was updated at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday to include Mitch McConnell's comments.

Big Tech benefits from Biden’s sweeping immigration actions

Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai praised President Biden's immigration actions, which read like a tech industry wishlist.

Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden signed two immigration-related executive orders on Wednesday.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Immediately after being sworn in as president Wednesday, Joe Biden signed two pro-immigration executive orders and delivered an immigration bill to Congress that reads like a tech industry wishlist. The move drew enthusiastic praise from tech leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

President Biden nullified several of former-President Trump's most hawkish immigration policies. His executive orders reversed the so-called "Muslim ban" and instructed the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which the Trump administration had sought to end. He also sent an expansive immigration reform bill to Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals and make it easier for foreign U.S. graduates with STEM degrees to stay in the United States, among other provisions.

Keep Reading Show less
Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

Keep Reading Show less
Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Politics

Silicon Valley is cracking down on Congress

Big Tech's pause on PAC contributions highlights how powerful it's become.

Democrats are particularly frustrated by Facebook, Google and Microsoft's decision to halt PAC contributions altogether, rather than targeting particular Republican lawmakers.

Photo: Tobias Hase/Getty Images

Congress has failed to act on every opportunity it had to seriously rein in the power of Big Tech over the last several years. Negotiations over a federal privacy bill fell apart last year, antitrust reform hit partisan headwinds and every debate over content moderation since 2016 has devolved into a theatrical yelling match that left the parties more divided over solutions than ever.

And now, the bigger-than-ever Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles with impunity as companies cut off violent extremists and wield the power of their political donations, acting more like a government than the U.S. government itself. They're leaving Republicans and Democrats more frustrated and powerless than ever in their wake.

Keep Reading Show less
Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Trump wants to spend his final week as president getting back at Twitter and Facebook for suspending him.

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Getty Images

President Trump has been telling anyone who will listen that he wants to do something to strike back at Big Tech in the final days of his presidency, promising a "big announcement" soon after Twitter permanently banned him last week.

In a statement that Twitter has taken down multiple times, Trump hammered usual targets — Section 230, the "Radical Left" controlling the world's largest tech platforms — and pledged he would not be "SILENCED." But at this point, as he faces a second impeachment and a Republican establishment revolting against him in the waning days of his presidency, there's likely very little that Trump can actually do that would inflict long-lasting damage on tech companies.

Keep Reading Show less
Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

We need Section 230 now more than ever

For those who want to see less of the kind of content that led to the storming of the Capitol, Section 230 may be unsatisfying, but it's the most the Constitution will permit.

Even if certain forms of awful speech could be made unlawful, requiring tech sites to clean it up would be even more constitutionally difficult.

Photo: Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas

Many conservatives are outraged that Twitter has banned President Trump, calling it "censorship" and solemnly invoking the First Amendment. In fact, the First Amendment gives Twitter an absolute right to ban Trump — just as it protects Simon & Schuster's right not to publish Sen. Josh Hawley's planned book, "The Tyranny of Big Tech."

The law here is clear. In 1974, the Supreme Court said newspapers can't be forced to carry specific content in the name of "fairness," despite the alleged consolidation of "the power to inform the American people and shape public opinion." The Court had upheld such Fairness Doctrine mandates for broadcasters in 1969 only because the government licenses use of publicly owned airwaves. But since 1997, the Court has held that digital media enjoys the same complete protection of the First Amendment as newspapers. "And whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011, "'the basic principles of freedom of speech and the press, like the First Amendment's command, do not vary' when a new and different medium for communication appears."

Keep Reading Show less
Berin Szóka

Berin Szóka (@BerinSzoka) is president of TechFreedom (@TechFreedom), a technology policy think tank in Washington, DC.

Latest Stories