Section 230 Update: March 2020

March 17th, 2020

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act continues to draw a lot of commentary, and attention from Congress.

Section 230: What You Don’t Know Might Destroy the Internet | Jess Miers | TEDxSantaClaraUniversity

Here are some updates on recent cases and proposed legislation.

  • Why Section 230 Matters And How Not To Break The Internet: Section 230(c)(1) says simply that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service [content host] shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider [content creator].” Many Section 230 critics, especially Republicans, have seized upon this wording, insisting that Facebook, in particular, really is a “publisher” and so should be held “accountable” as such. This misses the point of Section 230(c)(1), which is to abolish the publisher/distributor distinction as irrelevant.
  • Significant Changes to Section 230 are on the Horizon:  These proposals are already being met with criticism. Nevertheless, given techlash and the politics on the Hill, a DOJ recommendation to rewrite Section 230 along these lines would carry significant weight in Congress.
  • Modifying Section 230 Will Give More Censorship Power To Trump; And Lock In Facebook’s Dominance: What’s really incredible in all of this is how little those looking to modify or remove 230 seem to even understand 230. They seem to blame all sorts of societal problems on 230, even though all 230 has done is allow people to express themselves. And from there, the complaints against 230 are often contradictory. Some are worried that two much speech is silenced through moderation, while others complain that not enough speech is silenced.

The modern internet has grown up under the protection of Section 230. Allowing service providers immunity from liability for what their users post, liability is placed where it belongs.