Section 230 Is Here to Stay

Discourse on social media platforms is an important part of modern society and only possible thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Without this legal protection, online media today would be very different, and for the worse. Dating back to the creation of the internet, the law has provided technology companies with a legal defense against claims based on content shared on their websites; for example, you may be able to sue someone if they defame you on Instagram, but you cannot sue Instagram. While the current way that Section 230 is enforced does have flaws, the government should advise companies on how to moderate their platforms more effectively instead of overturning Section 230. 

One of the many benefits of social media is its easy access to discussions and current events, where users can post live streams of things that are happening right now. Section 230 was enacted in 1996, during a time when the internet only consisted of around 100,000 websites, as opposed to the 1.6 billion websites today. Websites like Instagram and Facebook are popular platforms for people to share news and opinions, and Section 230 protects these companies from liability for anything users post on their sites. 

This protection has come under attack with renewed considerations in the Supreme Court case Gonzalez v. Google. Plantiffs argue that Section 230 protects Google from being held liable for promoting ISIS terrorist recruitment content in its algorithms. While this is a valid concern, Sam Chen (II) explains, “Section 230 being repealed would be one end of an extreme that is simply unnecessary.” 

A repeal of Section 230 would also hinder innovation in the social media industry. With the increased liabilities of people suing the company over content out of their control, social media companies will expend more resources hiring a legal team. The strain in budgeting would stunt developing new features or streamlining functions of social media apps.

A protection from liability would allow companies to experiment more freely with different ideas for social media platforms. Many features on social media, such as Instagram Live, are possible because companies do not feel pressured to monitor all user action in real-time. If Section 230 was changed, companies would likely disable live streams to avoid legal liability and ensure compliance to social media regulations.

In a world where anyone can sue social media companies for any reason, companies would need to pay a lot more attention to what is published on their sites. The removal of Section 230 will force them to limit free speech and likely prohibit the spread of legitimate information out of fear of spurring misinformation that is liable to lawsuits. 

Although social movements spark heated controversy and debate, it would be worse to censor them. “Freedom of speech is more important than preventing people from saying harmful things,” Benjamin Leung (IV) argues, “Because unless a post or thread is incredibly harmful, or dangerous, I think that it should be allowed on a platform.” If users were to lose their freedom of speech, social media would lose its appeal, and important discussions would be much less accessible.