About the Town: Friendships count

JANUARY 6 WAS a terrible day when domestic violence broke in our nation’s capital. There were five deaths, property damage, security breaches, and our democracy was threatened.

The insurrection appears organized by people not only angry over the election process and results, but with the misguided belief their violence could change the election results. They stormed the Capitol which was sparsely guarded and had inadequate security.

Arrests have begun and continuing investigations are helping identify groups and organizations behind the riot.

The insurrection, the post-election false claims of a “stolen election,” as well as this summer’s social unrest, once again demonstrates social media often is not a very reliable source of information.

Social media is different from mainstream media like TV news, national newspapers and community papers like the Star, which operate under libel laws.

However, social media companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, etc. are not liable for their content. This includes the tweets and posts by users on their platforms. U.S. Code Title 47, Section 230, passed in the 1990’s, gave internet platforms this protection so these companies have their own rules and regulations.

The intent of Section 230 is “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal and State regulation” and “to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.” It also provides protection in that, “No provider or user of any interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Under civil liability it provides that, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

Congress may need to update Section 230 in light of the increasing amount of messages promoting hatred and violence. Further, faced with the rampant amount of intentional misinformation and spread of irrational conspiracy theories, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have a critical decision to make. Are they merely platforms that allow people to say anything they wish; no matter how outrageous, hateful, or violent? Or, do they want news and reliable information to be part of their business model. They can’t be both.

We need to pray to God to assist in healing our country from the violence and selfish motivation of the recent past and act civil to each other. Congress needs to remember they represent and serve the American people. The people chose not to re-elect Trump and chose Biden.

We now have a new President, Joe Biden, and Vice President, Kamala Harris. They need our prayers and support to bring this nation out of political turmoil and hate. Challenges ahead include: COVID-19 vaccinations, immigration, getting children back into the classrooms, getting people back to active employment, and racial justice.

THE VACCINE ROLLOUT is going slower than expected in most states. People are waiting in lines for hours. Calling for appointments has taken over 100 calls and often fail. States and county procedures are all different. Be patient, it will be worth the wait.

AS WE AGE I’m glad someone is concerned about me. I get calls twice a week or more telling me my car warranty is expiring or I need more safety in my home. When I get a call regarding the car, my first question is; “Which one?” or “Maybe it’s a bad model.” Maybe it is more than one company that got hold of the dealer’s sales list. Maybe all the fancy gadgets on cars have more problems. Maybe they think I have to insure everything. I always decline but they keep calling back.

PAYROLL PROTECTION PROGRAM returns for small businesses from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Requirements include being under 300 employees and having lost at least 25% in gross receipts in any quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019. To be eligible businesses must have applied for a first-loan in 2020 under the CARES Act.

This program helps small businesses keep employees employed. They pay taxes, as does the business. This benefits the entire community.

THANKS FOR READING and supporting this newspaper and its advertisers. Our entire team is committed to relevant and accurate information in print and online for your community and surrounding area. Please share story ideas with us by calling our office or e-mailing our editors whose contact information is at the bottom of this page.

We also encourage your opinion on issues. You can send your letter to the editor directly to the editor of your paper or submit it online.

GENE JOHNSONis Publisher Emeritus of Press Publications, owner of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at ppinfo@presspubs.com.

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