What is Section 230? | king5.com

Two cases are being argued before the US Supreme Court this week challenging Section 230. The results could reshape the modern internet.

WASHINGTON — Twenty-six words were included in a telecommunications overhaul of 1996 that allowed companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to grow into the behemoths they are today.

A lawsuit is coming before the US Supreme Court this week, Gonzalez sues Google, challenging this law — specifically, whether tech companies are liable for material posted on the platform. theirs or not.

Judges will decide whether the family of an American college student killed in the Paris terror attacks can sue Google, which owns YouTube, over claims that the video platform’s recommendation algorithm helped extremists spread their message.

The second case, Twitter v. Taamneh, also focuses on liability, albeit on different grounds.

The results of these circumstances could reshape the Internet as we know it. Section 230 will not be easily lifted. But if that’s the case, online speech can be drastically altered.


If a news site calls you a scammer, you can sue the publisher for defamation. But if someone posts that content on Facebook, you can’t sue the company — only the person who posted it.

This is thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be deemed a publisher or spokesperson for any information provided by other content providers”.

That legal phrase protects companies that can store trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wrong for something someone else has posted — whether their claim is legal or not.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have argued, for different reasons, that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have abused that protection and should lose immunity — or at least must obtain that right by meeting the requirements set forth by the government.

Section 230 also allows social platforms to moderate their services by removing posts, such as content that are obscene or violate the service’s own standards, as long as they are acting “in good faith”. “.


The history of this measure goes back to the 1950s, when bookstore owners were held accountable for selling books containing “obscene” content, which was not protected by the First Amendment. A case was eventually taken to the Supreme Court, which argued it created a “chilling effect” to hold someone accountable for someone else’s content.

That means plaintiffs must prove that bookstore owners know they’re selling obscene books, said Jeff Kosseff, author of “Twenty-Six Words that Make the Internet,” a book on Section 230. , said.

Fast-forward the next few decades as the commercial Internet begins to grow with services like CompuServe and Prodigy. Both offer online forums, but CompuServe chose not to censor it, while Prodigy, looking for a family-friendly image, did.

CompuServe was sued for that and the suit was dismissed. The prodigy, however, was in trouble. The judge in their case ruled that “they exercise editorial control — so you’re more of a newspaper than a newsstand,” Kosseff said.

That doesn’t sit well with politicians, who worry that the outcome will discourage internet startups from censoring. And Section 230 was born.

“Today, it protects both liability for user posts as well as liability for any content moderation claims,” says Kosseff.


“The basic thing we do on the internet is talk to each other. Maybe email, maybe social media, maybe message board, but we talk. And a lot of that conversation is triggered by Section 230, which says that anyone who allows us to talk to each other will not be responsible for our conversations,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University specializes in internet law, said. “The Supreme Court could easily obfuscate or dismiss that basic proposition and say that those who allowed us to speak to each other are responsible for those conversations. Then they won’t let us talk to each other anymore.”

There are two possible outcomes. Platforms could become more cautious, as Craigslist did after the passage of the 2018 sex trafficking law, which provides a Section 230 exception for material that “promotes or facilitates prostitution.” . Craigslist was quick to remove the “personal” part of it, which was not at all intended to facilitate prostitution. But the company doesn’t want to take the risk.

“If platforms are not exempt by law, then they are not risking the liability that can come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation, and threats,” said Kate Ruane, former Senior legislative adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union, currently working, said. for US PEN.

Another possibility: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms could drop censorship altogether and let the lowest common denominator prevail.

Such unmonitored services can easily be dominated by scammers, such as 8chan, a website notorious for its offensive and extremist content.

Any changes to Section 230 could have a ripple effect on online speech globally.

“The rest of the world is cracking down on the internet even faster than the US,” Goldman said. “So we are one step behind the rest of the world in terms of internet censorship. And the question is whether we can stand on our own.”

https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/what-is-section-230-supreme-court-case/507-03974737-272b-45b1-be4d-5b960d18f5ea What is Section 230? | king5.com

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing edmund@ustimespost.com.

Related Articles

Back to top button