Section 230 of the CDA
The Landscape: Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects free speech on the internet by establishing that platforms are not liable for third party content, with some limited exceptions. Section 230 also encourages platforms to moderate content by clarifying that the legal shield still applies when they take down content they consider “objectionable,” as long as they are acting “in good faith.”
Despite the protections offered by Section 230, social media companies have largely failed to confront harmful activities enabled by their services. Instead, their business models increasingly rely on amplifying dangerous and inflammatory content to increase engagement and profits.
Fully repealing Section 230 would eliminate the only incentive platforms have to remove harmful speech and deceptive propaganda. At the same time, failing to pass effective laws and regulations will allow Big Tech to continue making content moderation decisions that prioritize profits over democracy and further deepen the systemic racism and injustice in our society.
There are myriad proposals to reform Section 230 from across the political spectrum (including 26 bills in 2020 alone), though the specific suggestions vary widely. Congress should carefully evaluate any changes to Section 230, and balance to what extent harmful online content could be better addressed by other means, such as a comprehensive privacy bill or an overhaul of antitrust rules.