Press Release Platform Competition

Public Knowledge Rejects DOJ Proposal to Amend Section 230

September 23, 2020 , , , , ,

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice issued recommendations to Congress for amending Section 230 of the Communications Act. This law states that platforms are not liable for third-party content that they carry, and can take down objectionable content without fear of lawsuits.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“Any positive ideas in the DOJ’s proposal are entirely outweighed by its overall purpose, which is to put obstacles in the way of digital platforms that want to rid their services of misinformation, hate speech, and other forms of objectionable content. 

“Under the terms of this proposal, it would be trivially easy for someone who is upset by a platform to allege a violation of its terms of service, and ask the government to override the platform’s editorial judgements. Additionally, among many other bizarre details in this proposal, it makes a platform liable for content that it merely ‘comments upon,’ meaning that even efforts to provide fact-checking or opposing viewpoints would subject a platform to liability, not for its own speech — for which it is already liable — but for the content of the misinformation it seeks to correct. In short, this proposal would make the problems of misinformation, hate speech, and online abuse worse, not better.

“We welcome good-faith efforts about how to reform Section 230 to enhance platform accountability. We have put forward some ourselves. This proposal does not fit in that category.”

You can read our Section 230 blog series for more information about the law.