NY Launches Ridiculous, Blatantly Unconstitutional “Investigations” Against Twitch and Discord; Shifting the blame away from NY’s own mistakes

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of the none of this works like that dept

I realize that many people are angry and frustrated by the mass murderous donkey who killed ten people at a Buffalo grocery store last weekend. I’m angry and frustrated about it too. But the problem with anger and frustration is that it often causes people to lash out and “do something” in irrational ways, even when that “something” is counterproductive and destructive. In this case, we’ve already seen politicians and the media trying to steer the conversation away from larger issues like racism, mental health, law enforcement, social safety nets and more… and looking for culprits.

While they seem to recognize that they can’t really blame news outlets for fanning the flames of division, bigotry and hate — for whatever reason — they refuse to apply this fundamental insight to newer media like video apply games and the internet.

We’ve already talked about how New York Gov. Kathy Hochul seems really focused on blaming internet companies for her own state’s failure to stop the shooter, and now her attorney general, Letitia James, has it officially made: She initiates an investigation on Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord, claiming that these are the platforms the killer used. James notes that she does this directly in response to a request from Hochul.

“The terrorist attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depth and danger of online forums that spread and promote hatred,” he said Attorney General James. “The fact that one person can publish detailed plans to commit such an act of hate with no consequences and then stream it for the whole world to see is terrifying and unfathomable. As we continue to mourn and honor the lives stolen, we are taking serious action to investigate these companies for their role in this attack. Time and again we have seen the real devastation wrought by these dangerous and hateful platforms and we are doing everything in our power to spotlight this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again.”

The shooter was reported to have spent months posting online about his hatred of certain groups, spreading theories about white supremacists and even discussing possible plans to terrorize an elementary school, a church and other places he believed had a sizable community of Blacks would have attack. These posts detailed information about plans to carry out an attack in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood and his visits to the shooting site in the weeks prior. The shooter also streamed the attack on another public-facing social media platform, posting a 180-page manifesto about his bigoted views.

She claims that these investigations are authorized by the very broad law Granting the AG powers to investigate issues related to “public peace, public security and public justice”. Except that the First Amendment doesn’t allow for any regulation of speech, and that’s what this investigation is all about.

Imagine the (pretty reasonable) outrage when James announced she was launching an investigation into Fox News. Or, if you’re on the other side of the political aisle, imagine Ken Paxton, the Texas AG, announcing an MSNBC investigation. They would immediately argue that these were politically motivated intimidation techniques aimed at suppressing the right to free speech of these organizations.

The same applies here.

Or, if you want to argue that these sites are somehow different than news channels, let’s try that for size. If you agree with James doing this investigation, do you also agree with Paxton investigating Discord, Facebook, Twitter and other such sites to form groups to help women get an abortion? Or how would you feel if Florida resident Ashley Moody started investigating these sites to help school kids gain access to banned books?

You would be rightly outraged, as you certainly should be.

Anything you could possibly “blame” any of these sites for is obviously protected by the 1st Amendment. First off, it’s almost guaranteed that none of these organizations had detailed knowledge of that one horrible person’s screeds and plans. Even in a non-section 230 world, lack of actual knowledge of these platforms would mean they could not be held liable under the 1st Amendment.

On the other hand, we are in a world where we have Section 230 and that makes this plan for an investigation even more ridiculous because it seems pretty clear that this investigation is an attempt to hold websites liable for the statements made by one of their users do . And that’s not allowed under 230.

Of course, one could argue that it’s not an attempt to hold them accountable for his speech but for his murderous acts. But you would still be wrong because he didn’t use any of those websites to murder people. He may have used them to talk about his hateful ideology and his plans, but they are (in no way) the same.

It’s now difficult to look at and not believe that AG James and Governor Hochul are playing it all up to distract from the mistakes of their own government. It has now been widely reported that the shooter had previous threats made that law enforcement is investigating. It was also reported that the gun he used in the shooting contained a high-capacity magazine, which is illegal in New York. Also, and perhaps worst of all, there are reports that someone at the grocery store called 911 and the dispatcher HANGED UP.

In other words, they seem to exist several examples of NY’s own law enforcement failing here. And I guess it’s not surprising that the governor and the state’s chief police officer would rather blame others than think about how they failed themselves.

But this lack of introspection causes us to continue to fail.

Filed under: 1st amendment, guilt, buffalo, free speech, kathy hochul, letitia james, new york, section 230, shooting

Companies: 4chan, 8chan, Discord, Twitch

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