Today, after Twitter made a moderation decision to hide tweets that contained false information about the danger of COVID-19, President Trump tweeted, once again, calling to "REPEAL SECTION 230." It’s the latest in the administration’s nonsensical attacks on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that allows essentially all user-generated content on the Internet.
Fight for the Future’s SaveOnlineFreeSpeech.org campaign recently drove thousands of comments to the FCC opposing the Trump administration’s deeply silly executive order that would blow up Section 230 and put the Federal government in charge of dictating platform’s speech policies.
The group issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer (she/her):
Trump tweeting in all caps to REPEAL SECTION 230 makes about as much sense as someone organizing a protest to repeal the First Amendment. If he got his way, websites would become legally responsible for the opinions, videos, and memes posted by their users. Social media platforms would likely engage in mass censorship and banning of accounts rather than open themselves up to lawsuits for hosting controversial opinions –– Trump’s accounts would surely be among the first to go. It would strip users of key protections too. Who’s excited to get sued for retweeting something?
The reality is that lawmakers from across the political spectrum are deeply misinformed about how Section 230 actually works. It feels like every week there’s a new misguided proposal in Congress. But repealing Section 230 won’t do anything to hold Big Tech companies accountable or address the harms done by their data harvesting business models. And it won’t do anything to address concerns around biased moderation or the silencing of marginalized voices.
Repealing Section 230 would just make all the bad parts of the Internet worse while burning the good parts to the ground. It’s time to put this bad idea to rest and focus on putting actual policies in place to protect free speech and rein in Big Tech abuses, like enacting strong Federal data privacy legislation, restoring net neutrality, banning micro-targeting and harmful forms of algorithmic amplification, and breaking up monopolies.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is not alone in its quest to eviscerate Section 230. Vice President Joe Biden has also called to "revoke" the protections, and there are a slew of terrible bills in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans attacking this legislation. Fight for the Future has been leading the charge against some of the worst proposals, including the EARN IT Act, the companion of which was recently introduced in the House.