Forced birth extremists are Not happy with closing abortion clinics. They also want to clear accurate information about abortion access from the internet.in a postroe In the world, defending online discourse about abortion — and the ability of abortion advocates and providers to fundraise and organize online — is a matter of life and death. Democrats who wrongly attacked Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act need to wake up now. If they don’t start heeding the warnings from human rights experts, sex workers, LGBTQ+ people and reproductive rights groups, Democrats can help right-wing fanatics achieve their goal: mass censorship of online content about abortion.
Since the Supreme Court overturned roe On June 24, frontline reproductive justice groups have been fighting back – on the ground, in court and online. Abortion funds have poured in through crowdfunding platforms across the country. Ad hoc groups have sprung up in places like Reddit and Facebook, where people share resources and provide housing and travel for those in need. But it’s all fragile.
Texas has enacted legislation known as SB 8 that allows any individual to sue an individual or agency for facilitating access to abortion care. This includes sharing information online about managing the abortion process, getting abortion pills, or finding clinics that offer abortions. The National Right to Life Commission issued a model state law that would make it a crime to provide or host information or assistance on how to perform a medical abortion. It specifically states that anti-choice laws must be enacted to prevent state residents from seeking abortions in states where it is legal. The law could be passed in several states.
Section 230 is the last line of defense for keeping reproductive health support, information and fundraising online. Under Section 230, Internet platforms that host and manage user-generated content generally cannot be prosecuted for that content. Section 230 is not absolute. It does not provide immunity if the platform develops or creates content, nor does it provide immunity from federal criminal law enforcement. Crucially, however, it does protect against criminal liability under state law.
That means that, thanks to Section 230 in existence today, lawsuits brought by anti-abortion groups over reproductive health rhetoric or criminal proceedings brought by state attorneys general for forced births will soon be dismissed. If Section 230 is weakened, online platforms like GoFundMe and Twitter, web hosting services, and payment processors like PayPal and Venmo would face a heavy blow from state enforcement action and civil lawsuits alleging they violated state law. Even if these lawsuits ultimately fail, they can become prohibitively expensive, even for the largest platforms, without a Section 230 defense to have them quickly dismissed.
Forced-birth extremists are litigious, well-resourced, and ideologically motivated. Tech companies care about making money. Instead of spending tens of millions fighting in court, many online platforms will “race to the chase” and obey the strictest state laws. They will change their own allowed rules to massively restrict access to abortion information. As a result, countless groups, pages, online communities, nonprofits, and health care funds could be shut down and removed from the Internet—from r/AuntieNetwork to donation options and educational content on Planned Parenthood’s website. We will live in a country where lawmakers in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas can set national rules for online speech.
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