Would Scrapping Section 230 Break the Internet?


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In the months since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, one thing people on both sides of the political aisle seem to agree on, is that social media bears at least some responsibility for spreading the lies that led to the attack. But, is that true? And if it is, even a little bit, what should lawmakers do about it? Those questions are what [Un]Common Law will explore in our new series called “UnChecked.” A look at the legal doctrines, case history, and legislation that gave birth to the internet as we know it.

This first episode is all about Section 230, the law that makes it possible for companies like Facebook and Twitter to publish content created by their users. Specifically, Section 230 states that, "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." In other words, online platforms can’t be held liable for the speech that is posted on their sites. Almost as importantly, Section 230 also gives those platforms the freedom to moderate, or remove content as they see fit.

Many Republicans say Section 230 enables tech companies to censor conservative voices. While some Democrats say the law has allowed platforms to wash their hands of harms associated with hate speech, terrorism, and harassment. Many lawmakers, from both parties, have expressed a willingness to make changes to the status quo, but what those changes look like has yet to be determined.

In this episode of [Un]Common Law we hear from:

  • Gigi Sohn, former FCC Counselor, now a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy.
  • Jeff Kosseff, professor of cybersecurity law at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of a book about Section 230 called, “The 26 Words That Created the Internet.”
  • Rebecca Kern, Technology and Cyber Policy reporter for Bloomberg Government.
  • Jessica Melugin, director of the Center for Technology & Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
  • Elizabeth Banker, former Deputy General Counsel at the Internet Association.
  • Nabiha Syed, attorney and president of The Markup, an investigative journalism startup that explores how powerful actors use technology to reshape society.

39 episodes