February 28, 2020
What’s Wrong with Changing Section 230?
In an effort to fight nefarious activity on the internet, policymakers are considering amending Section 230 — a federal statute that prevents tech platforms from being liable for users’ content. Yet changing this law could have wide ranging, negative consequences for both the economy and free speech, contends AAF’s Director of Technology and Innovation Policy Jennifer Huddleston. Policymakers should consider if they can achieve their goals without undermining this fundamental law, Huddleston argues.
Proposed changes to Section 230 suggest making either additional carve-outs or creating conditions for receiving this liability protection that is critical to the ability for a wide range of online platforms to host user-generated content. While many of these proposed changes seek to address obviously harmful and already illegal online behavior such as sex trafficking or child sexual exploitation, changes to Section 230 could have broad and negative consequences for the economy and society. Changing this law could stifle both legitimate free speech and new online entrants while not further addressing the underlying concerning behaviors that typically are already illegal.