Will a white Christian nationalist Supreme Court rule against a white Christian nationalist Twitter?

Gilead

Twitter


Fig. 1. “Elon Musk shared a video of his entrance on his Twitter account.” Photograph attributed to Elon Musk, October 26, 2022, via the New York Post,[1] fair use.

From what I’m seeing, it looks to me like a pair of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a Section 230 defense for social media companies hosting so-called “terrorist” content might be splitting across partisan lines:

Justice Neil Gorsuch repeatedly said that the law required substantial assistance to the specific person who commits the [terrorist] act, seeming to reject the plaintiffs’ “butterfly effect” theory where everything is connected.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett at one point even offered a holding in the case that would insulate generally available services, absent some specific knowledge that the services would be used to commit such acts.[2]

In a counterexample to the challenge that algorithms may recommend or elevate “terrorist” content to users, Clarence Thomas deployed an example involving rice pilaf from different regions.

It was Elena Kagan, by contrast, who compared Twitter’s conduct to a bank opening an account for Osama bin Laden.[3] And I have to say I’m skeptical of John Bergmayer’s argument here:

John Bergmayer, legal director of Public Knowledge, told the Berkman Klein Center that algorithmic recommendations “fit the common law understanding of publication. There is no principled way to distinguish them from other platform activities that most people agree should be covered by 230. The attempt to distinguish search results from recommendations is legally and factually wrong.” If the Supreme Court comes down against the platforms, Bergmayer said, it could limit the usefulness or even viability of many services. The internet, he argued, “might become more of a broadcast medium, rather than a venue where people can make their views known and communicate with each other freely. And useful features of platforms may be shut down.”[4]

Such an argument rests on equivalence between “boosting” and not “boosting.” The former can be seen as an editorial decision, even if made by a machine; the latter sounds neutral and I think this is the point Julian Angwin reaches:

Julian Angwin . . . wrote in her inaugural column for the New York Times that while tech companies claim any limitation to Section 230 could “break the internet and crush free speech,” this isn’t necessarily true. What’s needed is a law drawing a distinction between speech and conduct,” she said.[5]

An abstraction that the machine did it can’t really fly. Algorithms are written by humans. Humans can’t be held blameless for what they do. Negligence certainly applies; this question certainly reduces to degrees of culpability. And these might have been really lousy cases to try to decide such a question:

In a podcast discussion of the two cases being heard by the Supreme Court, Evelyn Douek—a professor of law at Stanford who specializes in online content—suggested that both options seem like a stretch, because neither one mentions any specific content recommended by YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter that allegedly caused the deaths in question. Her guest, Daphne Keller, the director of platform regulation at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, agreed. “I don’t even have a good theory about why they would choose such exceedingly convoluted cases,” Keller said. “Maybe it’s just that Justice [Clarence] Thomas had been champing at the bit for so long they finally felt they had to take something, and they didn’t realize what a mess of a case they were taking.”[6]

Some say that regardless, the social media companies are protected by the first amendment,[7] but this assumes that freedom of speech is an unlimited right, which, thanks to slander and defamation laws, we know not to be the case.

All that said, it kinda sorta sounds like the now white Christian nationalist Twitter might see favorable treatment from a white Christian nationalist Supreme Court and other social media companies might be beneficiaries.

Jimmy Hoover, “Justices Skeptical Of Twitter’s Liability For Terrorism, ” Law360, February 22, 2023, https://www.law360.com/california/articles/1578710

Matthew Ingram, “Section 230 gets its day in court,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 23, 2023, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/section_230_supreme_court.php

Academic repression


Fig. 2. “The Evolution of Intellectual Freedom.” Comic by Jorge Cham, 2011, via Episyllogism[8] fair use.

Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez, “What Does ‘Woke’ Mean Anyway?” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2023, https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/race-on-campus/2023-02-21

Student loans


Fig. 3. Unattributed and undated image via James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,[9] fair use.

George Miller, “Can Biden legally cancel student debt? There’s no question,” Washington Post, February 22, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/02/22/student-debt-cancellation-congress-heroes-act/

Critical Race Theory History

Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez, “What Does ‘Woke’ Mean Anyway?” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2023, https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/race-on-campus/2023-02-21


Ukraine


Fig. 4. “The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945.” Photograph from Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, (12/17/1942 – 09/15/1945), by Charles Levy, August 9, 1945, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[Vladimir] Putin may be a dictator, but even dictators have to justify losses. . . .

Putin has put himself and his country in a desperate situation, and he has run out of options, including nuclear threats. This is not to say that the risk of nuclear conflict has evaporated; as I noted on the most recent episode of the Radio Atlantic podcast, there is still plenty of room for Putin to do something foolish and set a terrible chain of events in motion. But after a year, it seems that the Russian president’s plan—if it can even be called that—is to consign more of his young men to the Ukrainian abattoir while hoping that the West somehow tires of the whole business. . . .

The Russian president is still counting on Kyiv and its armies to collapse, or perhaps on an election to remove Biden, or for Europe to lose its nerve, or for China, perhaps, to come to Moscow’s rescue (which would be both a balm and a deep humiliation). But he also knows that time may be running out at home: After a year of war, there are only so many young men left to kill and only so many generals left to blame.[10]

Robyn Dixon and Catherine Belton, “Putin, czar with no empire, needs military victory for his own survival,” Washington Post, February 19, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/02/20/putin-czar-with-no-empire-needs-military-victory-his-own-survival/

Maria Katamadze, “Can Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin challenge Putin?” Deutsche Welle, February 19, 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/can-wagner-head-yevgeny-prigozhin-challenge-putin/a-64744266

Anton Troianovski and Valerie Hopkins, “One Year Into War, Putin Is Crafting the Russia He Craves,” New York Times, February 19, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/19/world/europe/ukraine-war-russia-putin.html

Anne Applebaum, “Biden Went to Kyiv Because There’s No Going Back,” Atlantic, February 20, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/02/biden-trip-ukraine-kyiv/673134/

Missy Ryan et al., “Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine ahead of Russian invasion anniversary,” Washington Post, February 20, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/02/20/president-biden-kyiv-ukraine-visit-war/

Marc Santora, Peter Baker, and Michael D. Shear, “Biden Visits Kyiv, Ukraine’s Embattled Capital, as Air-Raid Siren Sounds,” New York Times, February 20, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/20/us/politics/biden-ukraine-visit.html

Ishaan Tharoor, “Biden in Kyiv and Warsaw is a reminder of who really leads Europe,” Washington Post, February 20, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/02/20/biden-leader-europe-kyiv-trip/

Evan Vucci et al., “Biden in Ukraine ahead of war anniversary: ‘Kyiv stands,’” Associated Press, February 20, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-zelenskyy-biden-f00af220669457d5ba07127c7e57a27b

Tom Nichols, “Putin’s Desperate Hours,” Atlantic, February 21, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2023/02/putins-desperate-hours/673150/

Ann M. Simmons, “Putin Suspends Nuclear-Arms Treaty Between Russia, U.S.,” Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/putin-suspends-new-start-nuclear-arms-treaty-with-u-s-6498b44

Evan Vucci, John Leicester, and Zeke Miller, “How do you sneak a US president into a warzone without anyone noticing?” Associated Press, February 21, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-biden-kyiv-politics-74c9de636c489393c86ad115e5cbcb48

Ed Pilkington and J Oliver Conroy, “Putin aiming to divide US public opinion with nuclear treaty pullout, experts say,” Guardian, February 22, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/22/putin-biden-us-nuclear-new-start-treaty-russia-ukraine


Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

Infrastructure


Fig. 5. Post-collapse scene at the Fern Hollow Bridge, photograph by National Transportation Safety Board, January 29, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Julia Felton, “Pittsburgh officials considering more extensive repairs on Swindell Bridge,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 21, 2023, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-officials-considering-more-extensive-repairs-on-swindell-bridge/

Hallie Lauer, “Mayor Ed Gainey is on a committee that can fund Pittsburgh bridges. But he rarely shows up,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 22, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2023/02/22/charles-anderson-pittsburgh-bridge-funding-ed-gainey/stories/202302220015


Work


Fig. 6. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.

Travis Bland, “NC Strip Club Says Models Can’t Deny It Info On Photos,” Law360, February 22, 2023, https://www.law360.com/consumerprotection/articles/1578843

Daniel de Visé, “Twenty high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree,” Hill, February 22, 2023, https://thehill.com/business/3863716-twenty-high-paying-jobs-that-dont-require-a-college-degree/


  1. [1]Thomas Barrabi, “Elon Musk barges into Twitter HQ as deal nears: ‘Let that sink in,’” New York Post, October 26, 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/10/26/elon-musk-barges-into-twitter-headquarters-as-deal-nears/
  2. [2]Jimmy Hoover, “Justices Skeptical Of Twitter’s Liability For Terrorism, ” Law360, February 22, 2023, https://www.law360.com/california/articles/1578710
  3. [3]Jimmy Hoover, “Justices Skeptical Of Twitter’s Liability For Terrorism, ” Law360, February 22, 2023, https://www.law360.com/california/articles/1578710
  4. [4]Matthew Ingram, “Section 230 gets its day in court,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 23, 2023, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/section_230_supreme_court.php
  5. [5]Matthew Ingram, “Section 230 gets its day in court,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 23, 2023, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/section_230_supreme_court.php
  6. [6]Matthew Ingram, “Section 230 gets its day in court,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 23, 2023, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/section_230_supreme_court.php
  7. [7]Matthew Ingram, “Section 230 gets its day in court,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 23, 2023, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/section_230_supreme_court.php
  8. [8]Bob Lane, “Academic Freedom,” Episyllogism, November 3, 2016, https://boblane.com/2016/11/03/academic-freedom/
  9. [9]Richard K. Vedder, “Eliminate or Radically Restructure Federal Student Loans,” James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, September 16, 2020, https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2020/09/eliminate-or-radically-restructure-federal-student-loans/
  10. [10]Tom Nichols, “Putin’s Desperate Hours,” Atlantic, February 21, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2023/02/putins-desperate-hours/673150/

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