Section 230: Big Tech's Legal Shield, And The Future Of The Internet

Dec 8, 2020
Originally published on December 9, 2020 1:35 pm

Section 230 protects internet companies from liability for publishing offensive material. Now, there’s a move to do something to change section 230. How would it change the internet?  


Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression project from the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit focused on the intersection of individual rights and technology. (@ellanso)

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Matt Perault, former director of public policy at Facebook.

James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. Editor of “Which Side of History? How Technology is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives.”

From The Reading List

Axios: “Scoop: Senators offer to slip Section 230 changes into defense bill” — “The Trump administration is pressing Congress to repeal the tech industry’s prized liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as part of a must-pass end-of-year defense-spending authorization bill, sources tell Axios, while Senate Republicans try to improvise a more limited change.”

Slate: “Five Ways to Address Online Speech Problems Without Gutting the Law That Created Today’s Internet” — “This article is part of the Free Speech Project, a collaboration between Future Tense and the Tech, Law, & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law that examines the ways technology is influencing how we think about speech.”

Axios: “The people trying to get in Biden’s head on holding tech accountable” — “Joe Biden has said he wants to make tech platforms more accountable for rampant misinformation, and different players are now trying to get his ear on just how to do that should he win the election next week.”

CNN: “Trump using military funding as leverage in fight with tech giants” — “President Donald Trump’s threat Tuesday to veto an annual defense bill unless Congress removes legal protections for social media companies drew swift, sharp bipartisan pushback from lawmakers who charged Trump was using leverage over the troops to settle personal scores.”

The Verge: “The latest Section 230 hearing showed that Republicans want to make the internet smaller” — “The dream with this sort of thing is that Congress shows up with a full command of the issues, and asks the CEOs good-faith questions about matters of policy and law. And then I’d come along at the end of the day to walk you through the more provocative questions and productive answers, and gesture at what likely policy outcomes we could expect from this exercise in representative democracy.”

The Guardian: “Republicans use congressional hearing to berate tech CEOs and claim Trump is ‘censored’” — “Republican lawmakers berated the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google in a hearing that was ostensibly about a federal law protecting internet companies but mostly focused on how those companies deal with disinformation from Donald Trump and other conservatives.”

Lawfare Blog: “What’s in a Name? Quite a Bit, If You’re Talking About Section 230” — “Twenty-six words in the U.S. Code created the legal framework for the internet that we know today. Until a few years ago, few people outside of tech policy circles knew much about those 26 words, which are better known as the key part of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.”

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