A User's Guide to Section 230, and a Legislator's Guide to Amending It (or Not)
40 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 14, 2021
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes online service providers from liability for user content, is key to the business models of some of the nation’s largest online platforms. For two decades, the 1996 statute was mostly unknown outside of technology law circles. This changed in recent years, as large social media companies have played an increasingly central role in American life and have thus faced unprecedented scrutiny for their decisions to allow or remove controversial user content. Section 230 has entered the national spotlight as a topic of national media coverage, congressional hearings, and presidential campaign rallies. Unfortunately, not all this attention has accurately portrayed why Congress passed Section 230 or how the statute works. The misunderstandings of the law are particularly troubling as Congress is considering dozens of proposals to amend or repeal it. This Article attempts to set the record straight and provide a “user’s guide” to the statute, along with principles for legislators to consider as they evaluate amendments to this vital law.
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