Readers Write: Abortion law, Section 230 and the internet, economic dysfunction

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Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


A May 13 letter writer stated that ” the dependency of a fetus is unique, since only the impregnated women can ‘care’ for it.”

I say to states making it difficult to impossible for women to have the right to choose: Why not spread the “save a life” concept to both genders? There could be a law that all males from puberty to age 55 would, by law, be required to register as a “living organ donor” if it meant saving a life. The law would say that if a male left the state in order to avoid the donation, he could be prosecuted. Also, if the person needing the organ ended up dying because of that choice, he could be charged with murder. On top of all this, private citizens could be deputized to bring civil litigation against anyone who helped a male avoid his responsibility to save a life.

Barbara Mosman, New Brighton


I’m going to throw my hat in the ring regarding abortions. Why not? What I’m going to share with you is simply my opinion about when life begins. I offer no facts or certainty, and in this regard I’m the same as every other person whose article you’ve read in this newspaper. The truth is that no one really knows when a growing fetus can be referred to as a human being. It’s unknowable, much like the existence of God is unknowable. If it were knowable, we wouldn’t be involved in these endless, bitter arguments over all these years.

My point is a simple one: Because we can’t know, let alone agree, on when life begins, the power to decide this issue should be vested in the woman in whose uterus the fetus resides. It is she who will have to live with the consequences of her choice for the rest of her life. The criterion by which the choice she makes does not lie outside herself in other people’s speculation (or man-made laws) about when life begins but rather in her journey to the depths of her heart and soul and to know that still, quiet voice within. It is from this place that she can make her informed decision knowing that she has done everything that she could humanly do to make the best possible decision she could make.

P.S. As a man, I can only imagine how difficult and agonizing a decision regarding a pregnancy can be. Maybe we should all show a little more empathy and kindness and understanding to a woman in this most difficult situation and a little less attachment to our position on abortion. Just a suggestion.

John Cordes, Golden Valley


To expand on the well-done May 9 editorial “The ‘oops’ that made the internet,” I have seen much confusion over recent years as to the true purpose and meaning of Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It is sometimes called the 26 words that made the internet.

This confusion is most pronounced in those advocating the repeal of Section 230. They forget the purpose of this law. It was to define websites and similar platforms as carriers or distributors rather than as publishers. A carrier is like the phone company that is not liable for what subscribers say or send over its networks. A publisher is like the Star Tribune, which is liable for much of its content, since it chooses what to publish. An early computer information service, Prodigy, was found liable for content it carried because it exercised some editorial control over its subscribers’ postings. Another, CompuServe, did not moderate its content and was never sanctioned by a court.

To alleviate this confusion and create the best environment for future creativity, Section 230 was passed (with near-unanimity). But we were not anticipating Facebook in 1996. Facebook mashed together individual websites, blogs and affinity groups into a single simple platform for any internet novice. The real game-changer came when it fed news items to subscribers, later developing algorithms that fed increasingly focused articles to each subscriber based on that subscriber’s stated and implied preferences and interests.

Full repeal of Section 230 could make all internet content platforms into publishers, or would certainly create immense legal confusion. If Donald Trump and his gangs think they’ve been stifled currently, just wait until Facebook and Twitter are forced to exercise full editorial control over their postings.

The key problem is that Facebook is being the consummate capitalist, orienting its newsfeed algorithms to give you exactly what it thinks you choose to see. The purpose is to keep you glued to Facebook, thus increasing advertising revenue. Twitter will feed you what you choose to follow. One could say that this problem wouldn’t really exist if people were less gullible, more discerning in their reading and more skilled in how to verify before believing. But that has been a problem through history.

U.S. Amy Klobuchar wants Facebook to be responsible for its news feed algorithms so they don’t spread evil stuff. Good luck with that. Facebook engineers hardly properly understand their own “artificial intelligence” software as it is. Who is going to determine whether they are doing a good enough job? The courts, of course, who are most deficient in this subject matter.

The inability to discern truth from lies and the grievance culture so many hold today has enough causes to fill a book. I think trying to patch Section 230 is like legislating morality. You need the citizenry to do its part here.

Dennis Fazio, Minneapolis

The writer is a former supercomputer designer and internet services executive.


It was too bad that three related articles May 11 were not presented together. The underlying theme speaks to the dysfunction of our economy and the aggregation of wealth in the pockets of a few at the expense of the many.

In the Business section it was reported that David Wichmann, the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group, received $142.2 million in compensation last year. And this after only making $94.2 million over the prior two years. Health care gets more and more expensive for less and less coverage, and why? The rich get richer, and we the working pay for it, in the hope that “insurance” will cover astronomic charges if we fall ill.

On the editorial page, a reprint from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board bemoaned the higher inflation rate, suggesting it caused people to quit working because their buying power decreased. Companies cannot be expected to pay more in salaries; they need to save their funds to ensure senior executives make enough to entice them to lead.

Last, our illustrious two mainstream parties are rushing to reinstate corporate tax credits for research and development for destitute companies. Because, as Adam Smith said, the magic of the markets only works when corporate welfare is practiced. Can you imagine if companies reinvested profits in R&D because that is how capitalism works instead of giving multimillion payouts to former executives?

Nope, Republicans and Democrats want to provide tax cuts to ensure the wealthy get their share, and our share, too.

What about the middle class? Who?

Paul Scott, Bloomington