And what’s worse, last night lawmakers included the bill in their 4,400-page, must-pass defense spending behemoth (pp. 2540-2569). This version of the security bill is even worse than the previous one.
Kept in: inane categories of “covered information” (the presence of which online would yield mandatory takedown orders; non-compliance would lead to lawsuits and legal costs) like judges’ birthdays, spousal places of work and existence of children.
Added: “future school of child,” “name or address (was previously “and”) of spouse’s employer,” and a broader definition of who the law considers an at-risk individual, including individuals who are houseguests or renters in judges’ homes.
Added: platforms like Google and Twitter would lose certain exemptions under Section 230 and become responsible for taking down posts that include covered information or else face liability. Section 230 has become a political football of late, and sneaking a 230-related provision into a mammoth bill at the 11th hour is not a responsible way to govern. (12/10/22 edit: the Section 230 segments of the bill were taken out — minor victory for Fix the Court!)
The main problem: putting the litigation implications of the take-down orders aside, if judges and justices are scrubbing truthful information from the Internet before journalists and nonprofits can find and report on said information, it’s going to be far more difficult to hold the jurists accountable.
An example we like to use is the sale of Justice Gorsuch’s Colorado home shortly after he was confirmed to SCOTUS in 2017. Fix the Court was able to find the address on a real estate website, find out who bought the house and then vet the buyers to see if, say, they were major Trump donors. (They’re actually registered Democrats.) The point is, once this law goes into effect, basic Fourth Estate legwork would be far more difficult to do — and this would bring little if any “security” benefit to the third branch.