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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Biden calls for changing Big Tech moderation rules. But not how.

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1932, Hattie W. Caraway became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. “Silent Hattie” didn’t make many floor speeches. She once joked that was because: “I haven’t the heart to take a minute away from the men. The poor dears love it so.”

The big idea

Biden calls for changing Big Tech moderation rules. But not how.

President Biden made a familiar plea Wednesday: It’s time to overhaul the provision of law that basically protects any website, whether David dot edu or Goliath dot com, from civil legal liability for what its users post and it leaves up, or liability for what its users post and it takes down.

(There are exceptions. Click through the link, above, to see them.)

Biden’s fresh attack on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — whose supporters call it foundational to a free and open Internet — came in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece he used to invite Democrats and Republicans to take on Big Tech in a bipartisan way.

“We need Big Tech companies to take responsibility for the content they spread,” he said. “That’s why I’ve long said we must fundamentally reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech companies from legal responsibility for content posted on their sites.”

Political punching bag

From a political perspective, the column can be understood as the president staking out the position, which will surely come in handy should he formally announce campaign for reelection, that he favors bipartisan action on popular items.

And boy is taking on Big Tech popular.

Based on other events he’s held since the midterm elections, the thinking at 1600 Pennsylvania seems to be: If it works, and the GOP comes along, great. If it doesn’t, he can try to contrast his approach to Republican investigations into his administration and his family.

  • From a policy standpoint, things are a lot more murky. Yes, Biden has “long said” Section 230 in its current form must go. He just hasn’t said what it should turn into. And if he has publicly uttered the words “Section 230” since taking office, I wasn’t able to find an example.

At her daily briefing on Wednesday, Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters “this is an issue that the President is going to continue to focus on, and is incredibly important to him.” She did not offer details about what a revamped Section 230 would look like.

On some Big Tech issues, Biden has been clearer. It’s time, he said in his 2022 State of the Union address, to “ban targeted advertising to children; demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”

In September 2022, the White House released a kind of blueprint for taking on Big Tech. It was also pretty vague on this score. (Of note, Biden and his administration have used “reform” and “remove” interchangeably when it comes to Section 230, which doesn’t help clear up matters.)

The document says he wants to “[r]emove special legal protections for large tech platforms” and notes “[t]he President has long called for fundamental reforms to Section 230.” What those reforms might be, it does not say.

(There’s precedent for presidential vagueness like this — White Houses sometimes articulate a principle and let Congress hash out the details of legislation, work on the necessary compromises, etc., rather than try to impose an outcome.)

  • But in December 2019, candidate Biden had told the New York Times that Section 230 “should be revoked, immediately should be revoked” for Facebook and “other platforms.”

“And it should be revoked,” Biden said. “It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

Easier said than done

And this is where the policy and the politics get complicated. It’s not that Republicans don’t also hate Section 230, which former president Donald Trump railed against, especially after Twitter booted him. They do.

In January 2022, for example, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took to Twitter to threaten Twitter after the site banned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), citing covid disinformation.

“Twitter (all big tech), if you shut down constitutionally protected speech (not lewd and obscene) you should lose 230 protection,” he said. “Acting as publisher and censorship regime should mean shutting down the business model you rely on today, and I will work to make that happen.”

You can see the problem. Okay, one of the problems.

  • Biden (and Democrats more broadly) want to overhaul Section 230 to prevent the spread of what they consider misinformation. They’re targeting the law’s protections for a website leaving up user-generated content.
  • McCarthy (and Republicans more broadly) are going after Section 230 protections for a website taking down user-generated content, arguing unfair censorship.

So there’s bipartisan support for changing Section 230. But not what to change.


See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

What’s happening now

White House confirms 2nd set classified papers found in search of Biden’s home

“White House lawyers said Thursday that, after searching President Biden’s homes in Delaware for documents from his time as vice president, they discovered a ‘small number’ of additional material marked classified,” Matt Viser reports.

The search was done of Biden’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach after documents were found Nov. 2 at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, according to a statement from Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president.”

More: Garland considering special counsel appointment in Biden documents probe

Navy veteran held in Russia is released, U.S. officials say

Taylor Dudley, 35, of Michigan, had been held since April in the Russian province of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania. He was released at a border crossing with Poland and was traveling to the United States with a team working for former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, according to a statement from his center, which negotiates for the release of hostages and prisoners abroad,” Tyler Pager, Shane Harris and Karen DeYoung report.

Ex-Neb. governor Pete Ricketts appointed to replace Sen. Ben Sasse

“Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) on Thursday named former governor Pete Ricketts (R) as the replacement for former senator Ben Sasse (R), who resigned from his seat this week to become the president of the University of Florida,” Amy B Wang reports.

Inflation slowed further in December, the sixth month in a row

Inflation eased again in December, giving relief to households and businesses nationwide and offering more assurance to economic policymakers that price increases are pulling back after they soared to 40-year highs last year,” Rachel Siegel reports.

“The latest inflation data, released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed prices rose 6.5 percent in December compared with the year before — and fell 0.1 percent compared with November, the first time prices have dropped month-over-month since May 2020.”

Lunchtime reads from The Post

George Santos was paid for work at company accused of Ponzi scheme later than previously known

“Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has admitted to fabricating key details of his biography, received payments as recently as April 2021 from a financial services company accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a ‘classic Ponzi scheme,’ according to a court-appointed lawyer reviewing the firm’s assets,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Emma Brown report.

Santos did not divulge any income from the company, Florida-based Harbor City Capital, on a financial disclosure form required of all federal candidates. The payments the lawyer described to The Washington Post, which have not been previously reported, indicate that Santos received money at least a month after he has said he left the firm — and mere weeks before registering a business called the Devolder Organization that he has claimed as the basis for his wealth.”

Survey finds ‘classical fascist’ antisemitic views widespread in U.S.

The survey shows ‘antisemitism in its classical fascist form is emerging again in American society, where Jews are too secretive and powerful, working against interests of others, not sharing values, exploiting — the classic conspiratorial tropes,’ Matt Williams, vice president of the [Anti-Defamation League]’s year-old Center for Antisemitism Research, told The Washington Post,” Michelle Boorstein and Scott Clement report.

… and beyond

Hunter Biden’s tangled tale comes front and center

“An examination by The New York Times of Mr. Weiss’s investigation and Hunter Biden’s journey to this juncture does not provide either side with the narrative they would prefer,” the NYT’s Adam Entous, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner report.

It highlights how he aligned himself with foreign actors eager to leverage their connections to him to further their own interests. But it also underscores how far removed the most likely legal charges against him are from the issues most aggressively promoted by Republicans — and how his father’s opponents have often twisted or exaggerated the story of his descent to score political points.”

The mysterious, unregistered fund that raised big money for Santos

"A month before George Santos was elected to Congress, one of his large donors received a call asking him to consider making another sizable contribution,” the New York Times’s Alexandra Berzon and Grace Ashford report.

The request came from a Republican loyalist calling on behalf of RedStone Strategies, which was described in an email to the donor as an ‘independent expenditure’ group that was supporting Mr. Santos’s bid to flip a Democratic House seat in New York … Three months later, Mr. Santos is now in Congress, but where the donor’s money went is unclear. The Federal Election Commission said it had no evidence that RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions or spending.”

The Biden agenda

House Democrats ask Biden to revoke Bolsonaro’s visa after Brazil riot

“Dozens of House Democrats, including some of the top members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter late Wednesday to President Biden urging his administration to revoke any diplomatic visa that former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro may be using to stay in the United States,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and John Hudson report.

Here are all the ways Republicans plan to investigate Biden

“Preparing to use their new subpoena power, Republicans have already created three special investigative committees or subcommittees, but they expect to carry out many more inquiries under existing committees they now control. Some of the investigations may involve multiple panels, and top Republicans are jockeying for the biggest and most prominent pieces,” the NYT’s Luke Broadwater reports.

The rise in global temperatures, visualized

Twenty-eight countries set national record-high annual averages last year, including the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, China and New Zealand. Despite 2022 being slightly cooler than other recent years, Berkeley Earth reported 850 million people experienced their warmest year ever,” Amudalat Ajasa and Naema Ahmed report.

Hot on the left

Dems to Tester and Manchin: Run in 2024, save our majority

“Democrats are already waging what might be the most consequential fight for Senate control next fall: Getting Jon Tester and Joe Manchin to run again,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report.

The decisions of the two Democratic senators from Montana and West Virginia, respectively, will determine their party’s chances of hanging onto its slim majority in 2024. And landing their reelection bids is job No. 1 for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Gary Peters as he embarks on his second tour of duty.”

Hot on the right

House Republicans approve antiabortion bills after daunting midterm

“The House adopted a resolution in a 222-209 vote, which carries no legislative weight, that condemns attacks on ‘pro-life facilities, groups and churches.’ Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Tex.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) were the only Democrats to support the measure,” Marianna Sotomayor and Rachel Roubein report.

The House also passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in a 220-210 vote, which is aimed at compelling doctors to provide care to infants who survive an attempted abortion, a situation that is rare. Some experts say there were already protections for infants included in a 2002 law and even before that established infants have the rights of a full person. The legislation adds new penalties, including fines or imprisonment of up to five years for health-care providers who do not comply.”

Today in Washington

Biden will return to the White House at 12:50 p.m. after delivering remarks at a memorial service for former Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.

In closing

We’re listening 👀

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.