Section 230 of the Communications Act protects social media companies from liability relating to hosting, editing, or taking down third-party content. It is one of the most important and wide-reaching laws that affect the internet.
Platforms are not liable for user-posted content that they carry, and can take down objectionable content without fear of lawsuits. This allows digital platforms to rid their services of misinformation, hate speech, and other forms of objectionable content. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube likely would not have prospered, and may not even have existed, had they been afraid of being sued based on user-posted content.
A diverse and competitive media and online ecosystem is the best way to ensure that all voices are heard. That is why those who disagree with choices popular platforms make should support policies designed to empower users and increase competition. Policymakers should focus on solutions to promote greater transparency, accountability, and due process for content moderation practices, as well as solutions to improve competition in order to give users more choices in the platform marketplace.
We’ve compiled several resources elaborating on Section 230, its importance, and where there is room for reform:
“What Is Next for Section 230 Reform?,” ProMarket piece by Harold Feld
“Content Moderation Is Not Synonymous With Censorship,” blog post by Jonathan Walter
“The Senate Commerce Section 230 Hearing that Could Have Been,” blog post by Alyssa Martindale
“Public Knowledge Criticizes FCC Chairman Pai’s Claimed Authority to Rewrite Section 230,” 10/15/20 press release
“Public Knowledge Rejects DOJ Proposal to Amend Section 230,” 9/23/20 press release
“How Section 230 Uplifts Marginalized Voices,” 9/3/20 event recording
“It Doesn’t Make Sense To Treat Ads The Same As User Generated Content,” TechDirt piece by John Bergmayer
“Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Section 230 and Civil Rights,” blog post by Bertram Lee
“Due Process for Content Moderation Doesn’t Mean ‘Only Do Things I Agree With’,” blog post by John Bergmayer
“Justice Department, Sen. Hawley Proposals Could Limit Efforts to Fight Online Harms,” 6/17/20 press release
“Breaking Down and Taking Down Trump’s Latest Proposed Executive Order Spanking Social Media,” blog post by Harold Feld
“Public Knowledge Rejects White House Executive Order Targeting Free Speech on Social Media Platforms,” 5/28/20 press release
“Moderating Race on Platforms,” blog post by Bertram Lee
“Speech and Commerce: What Section 230 Should and Should Not Protect,” blog post by John Bergmayer
“Could the FCC Regulate Social Media Under Section 230? No.,” blog post by Harold Feld
“Viewpoint Diversity Requires Media Policy, Not Editorial Regulation,” blog post by John Bergmayer
“How to Go Beyond Section 230 Without Crashing the Internet,” blog post by John Bergmayer
“What Section 230 Is and Does — Yet Another Explanation of One of the Internet’s Most Important Laws,” blog post by John Bergmayer