The Portland Tribune is a media partner of KOIN 6 News.
Portland, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s Washington County Town Hall on Thursday, Jan. 12, was mostly civil, covering roads, bridges, social media, and the war in Ukraine, except for a woman’s outburst that saddled her with some misdemeanor.
After she uttered questions of her own during a public question-and-answer session at the Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center in Beaverton—regarding how much CIA money was going to China, referring to a laptop belonging to President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and Wyden was described as a “china worker” – the woman was escorted from the gym.
After the meeting, law enforcement said she was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and trespassing. It was not immediately possible to know the woman’s age and city of residence.
After a 10-minute break, Wyden covered a list of topics brought up by the audience, including infrastructure and regulation of social media and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Wyden hosts town halls in every Oregon county or state, at least once a year.
By 2023, Wyden said his top priorities as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee are fighting cuts to Social Security and Medicare; addressing fairness in tax regulation; and support sanctions for big drug companies that price drugs.
On roads and bridges, Wyden said the Infrastructure Investment Act would be “a big jab in the arm” for Oregon, on transportation and energy resilience.
“I think it’s going to be a lifeline for Washington County, because … you’ve got traffic jams everywhere,” Wyden said. “We’re going to need to make sure you have a great league quality of life, you can’t have a little league infrastructure.”
Other questions center around mental health, particularly in relation to social media.
Lawsuits have been filed across the country, including earlier this week in Seattle Public Schoolsclaiming that social media sites such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are causing a mental health crisis in young people.
The 27-year-old senator said he joined the Senate when it was only one member who knew how to use a computer, and was there to help write many social media ground rules decades ago.
Section 230 of the US Code says that media platforms are not responsible for what people post on their website. Instead, such responsibility rests with the person posting the information, including if it is defamatory, inaccurate, or inflammatory.
Wyden said he believes liability for social media posts should remain with the label, not the platform, in part because online conglomerates have enough money not to learn from their consequences.
“I think it’s not possible from the point of view that there’s no way (media platforms) can be on top of all those posts,” Wyden said of the old code, “for the platforms to be responsible.” “Single responsibility is still the best way to go. The big players will always have enough money to buy their way out of the system.”
Wyden also said that Russia’s war in Ukraine, although it has received fewer front-page headlines than when it began in February 2022, is still at the forefront of national security concerns.
Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine during his town hall.
“Putin is the KGB in a terrible way,” he said. “My opinion is that he still had a vision of a broader old Soviet Union, um Russia and such. He didn’t expect this. … He thought he would just go to Ukraine and everyone would sit there with Russian flags … He didn’t take into account the fact that freedom is in All parts of the world are exploding and people are just not willing to accept a tyrant pushing them.
Now we have to protect our strategic military interests. … I think that’s something we need to stand strong on and we need to stick to it.”
On a more local scale, Wyden said that while he doesn’t control the local and state police officers who handle homelessness and thefts, the feds can handle gangs and guns. He added that the federal government has already sent billions in recent years to states in an effort to address the housing crisis and homelessness.
“But that’s nowhere near all that needs to be done,” Wyden continued.
He said local patrols are still being implemented at the local level.