What is Section 230?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gave social media giants like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Google, and YouTube broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

The law dates back to 1996 when no one could foresee the power of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

No One is Happy

The Wall Street Journal reports Social Media’s Liability Shield Is Under Assault

Democrats say the immunity has allowed companies to ignore false and dangerous information spreading online, since the companies generally aren’t liable for harmful content.

Republicans focus their ire on another aspect of Section 230, which says companies broadly aren’t liable for taking down content they deem objectionable. President Trump and others contend liberal-leaning tech companies have used that provision to block conservative views.

It may make sense for there to be liability for some of the content that is on the platform,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17.

“There are literally thousands of companies whose business model is based upon the protections afforded by Section 230,” said Bradford Young, associate general counsel of Tripadvisor Inc., which publishes user reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions.

What Do They Want?

  • Democrats want to censor Republican lies.
  • Republicans want to censor Democrat lies or nothing at all. 
  • Republicans also complain social media is on the side of Democrats. 
  • In general, both sides will only be happy if the other side is miserable.

Force v. Facebook

Consider the case of Force v. Facebook. The latter was sued by victims of terrorist attacks in Israel on grounds the terrorists got together due to Facebook algorithms.

The case was dismissed due to section 230.  

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Making connections “has been a fundamental result of publishing third-party content on the Internet since its beginning,” the second circuit court of appeals ruled. 

Zuckerberg's Liability Plea

Zuckerberg's call for liability is hardly innocent. Facebook makes enough money it can afford to lose a lawsuit or two (or fight them in court for years).

New startups can afford to do neither. Zuckerberg's goal is to eliminate further competition.

There’s something deeply cynical when Zuck goes out and says, ‘Please regulate us,’” said Benjamin Lee, general counsel of online discussion forum Reddit Inc. 

Reflections on Censorship

Questions of the Day

Everyone Wants Change

Everyone wants change, but typically only if it is their change. 

Can it be that if everyone is unhappy but for widely differing and opposite reasons, the law is best left alone?

Mish