Section 230 is one of the most important, controversial, and debated aspects of internet law. Sometimes referred to as the 26 words that created the Internet, Section 230 is a statute included in the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. While the Supreme Court found the CDA unconstitutional in 1997, Section 230 was deemed severable and allowed to remain in place. It provides legal immunity to online platforms that host third party content, allowing companies to moderate content on their platforms in good faith without fear of being sued by disgruntled users. In practice, this means that if someone is upset about what another person posts online, they are unable to sue the platform but must take it up with the other user directly.
It is significant that so many people are now aware of a very specific statute from a mostly repealed law written almost 30 years ago. Its liability protections have enabled an amazing new online ecosystem that was previously unimaginable. In order to avoid the vast unintended consequences and negative online safety implications, the Supreme Court should avoid a broad ruling in both Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh. Congress, not the Court, is the best venue to amend this foundational statute of internet law. Whether through the PACT Act or another bill, Congress’ revisions must protect lawful speech and the ability of platforms to moderate content. Updating Section 230 is a rare opportunity and if done thoughtfully, policymakers have the potential to make the Internet stronger, safer, and more closely resembling the online world we’d want for ourselves and our kids.
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