This means newspapers must cease and desist immediately then, huh?
"GAG THE INTERNET!; AN OBAMA OFFICIAL'S FRIGHTENING BOOK ABOUT CURBING FREE SPEECH ONLINE
When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling.
Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courts to impose a "chilling effect" on speech that might hurt someone's feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.
Advance copies of Sunstein's new book, "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done," have gone out to reviewers ahead of its September publication date, but considering the prominence with which Sunstein is about to be endowed, his worrying views are fair game now. Sunstein is President Obama's choice to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It's the bland titles that should scare you the most.
"Although obscure," reported the Wall Street Journal, "the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Obama aides have said the job will be crucial as the new administration overhauls financial-services regulations, attempts to pass universal health care and tries to forge a new approach to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases."
Sunstein was appointed, no doubt, off the success of "Nudge," his previous book, which suggests that government ought to gently force people to be better human beings..... Sunstein calls for a "notice and take down" law that would require bloggers and service providers to "take down falsehoods upon notice," even those made by commenters - but without apparent penalty.
Consider how well this nudge would work. You blog about Obama-Ayers. You get a letter claiming that your facts are wrong so you should remove your post. You refuse. If, after a court proceeding proves simply that you are wrong (but not that you committed libel, which when a public figure is the target is almost impossible), you lose, the penalty is . . . you must take down your post.
How long would it take for a court to sort out the truth? Sasha and Malia will be running for president by then. Nobody will care anymore. But it will give politicians the ability to tie up their online critics in court.
Sunstein, trying to fair, argues that libel awards should be capped at $15,000, or at least limited for anyone demonstrating financial hardship. But $15K is the limit you'd pay to your opponent. The legal bill is the scary part, and the reason bloggers already have plenty of reason to be careful about what they say, even if they don't much fear a libel conviction.
Sunstein dreams of an impossibly virtuous America: "We could also imagine a future in which those who spread false rumors are categorized as such, discounted and marginalized . . . people would approach rumors skeptically even they provide comfort and fit their own biases." But if his chilling wind doesn't work, Sunstein may try to make good on the implicit threat that runs through his book: that he would redefine libel as the spread of false information and hold everyone up the ladder responsible.
If this happened, the blogosphere would turn into Pluto overnight. Comments sections would slam shut. Every writer would work on a leash shorter than a shoelace.
Sunstein is an enemy to every news organization and blogger. We should return the favor and declare war on him.--MORE--"