A bill known as the “See Something, Say Something Online Act” has been recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. If it becomes law, it will accomplish two liberty-killing objectives: Give Big Brother the ability to spy on literally every single American while simultaneously beginning the dismantling of so-called Big Tech.
When it comes to creating new and improved ways to destroy liberty in America, the tragic events of 9/11 have made it easy for government tyrants to launch a countless number of unconstitutional programs to spy on Americans in the name of “safety and security.”
From our computers and cell phones to our bank accounts, nothing has been off limits when it comes to Washington’s unquenchable thirst for more power over our daily lives — a reality made even worse in the Age of Coronavirus.
The events of 9/11 gave birth to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Patriot Act, the Patriot Act II, spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), and fake cell towers to tap your cell phone. These and many other attacks on liberty began under George W. Bush, grew under Barack Obama, and expanded under Donald Trump.
“If you see something, say something” became an unofficial catchphrase post-9/11, appearing on billboards and public transportation systems as government worked to turn citizens into amateur anti-terrorism spies.
The Orwellian-sounding mantra was born on Sept. 12, 2001. New Yorker and advertising executive Allen Kay came up with the phrase without a client in mind, but he wanted to create something positive in the days after the attack on the twin towers. It was eventually adopted by the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Agency, Amtrak, and cities like Chicago and San Francisco.
This anti-terrorism mantra became Obama’s favorite propaganda tool in his feckless attempts to deal with Islamic terrorism, but Donald Trump’s DHS left his predecessor in the dust in 2018 when it designated September 25 as national “If You See Something, Say Something®” Awareness Day,” and they built a website loaded with resources to make better spies of us all.
Clearly, the liberty-killing laws and policies created post-9/11 have become the basis for creating ways to expand government’s control over our lives and advance its tyrannical agenda.
For example, as a primary target of unibrow Washington, Democrats have been attacking big tech for “promoting” conservative content on their platforms and by Nationalist Republicans like Josh Hawley for “censoring” conservative content. In both cases, they have zeroed in on so-called reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to control internet content, and they are connecting their anti-free speech agenda to the war against terror.
In a recent Reason.com article, we learn about a new bill trying to make this connection, and the devastating consequences to liberty facing America if Washington succeeds:
A new bill revitalizes the war on terror’s favorite slogan in service of forcing tech companies to turn over more user data to the government. The “See Something, Say Something Online Act,” introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas), is the latest attack on the federal communications law known as Section 230 as well as freedom of speech and online privacy.
The legislation says any interactive computer service provider—that means social media giants, small blogs, podcast hosting services, app stores, consumer review platforms, independent political forums, crowdfunding and Patreon-style sites, dating apps, newsletter services, and much more—will lose Section 230 protections if they fail to report any known user activity that might be deemed “suspicious.”
“Suspicious” content is defined as any post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or “any other user-generated content or transmission” that government officials later determine “commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.” Major crimes are defined as anything involving violence, domestic, or international terrorism, or a “serious drug offense.”
For each suspicious post, services must submit a Suspicious Transmission Activity Report (STAR) within 30 days, providing the user’s name, location, and other identifying information, as well as any relevant metadata.
Did you notice that they’re not only targeting big tech with this bill? They want to spy on EVERYONE. Small blogs? Podcast hosting? Independent political forums? How long before something I post or broadcast on the radio gets reported to Big Brother?
Anyone submitting one of these user surveillance reports is barred from talking about or even acknowledging the existence of them. STAR reports will also be exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The bill was introduced in November 2020 but will likely receive new attention following the January 6 Capitol insurrection. If it becomes law, the bill will:
- Allow the government to set up a giant new system for conducting intense monitoring and reporting of our online activity
- Lead to more innocent people getting booted from internet platforms
- Provide the government with a new tool to punish disfavored tech companies
- Will turn every digital service provider into internet spies and snitches
Since the See Something, Say Something Online Act will obviously increase the workload for our already “overworked” government overlords — spying can be so draining — a new federal agency will be created to handle the suspicious activity reports, which can be submitted by individuals in addition to tech companies.
This latest revelation about federal government spying needs to serve as a reminder that politicians in both parties will manipulate and pervert seemingly clear legal standards and rules for the benefit of the state and its agenda . . . liberty be damned.
Of course, it would be nice if the Supreme Court took another look at the legality of the See Something, Say Something Online Act along with the rest of the growing list of post-9/11 surveillance programs. But with the current tyrannical ambitions of the Republican/Democrat duopoly and the Supreme Court’s recent history of judicial tyranny, I find it hard to believe that such a review is anywhere on the horizon.
In the end, the only hope we have of taking back the liberty we’ve lost is to commit ourselves to continue fighting for life, freedom, religious liberty, the UNINFRINGED right of every American to keep and bear arms, our founding principles, limited government, fiscal, social, and constitutional conservatism, family values, traditional marriage, and Judeo-Christian values.
Failure to make this commitment will cost us more than we realize.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.