Facebook whistleblower urges caution around changing Section 230

Posted December 1, 2021, 4:35 PM

Today the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing on several well-intentioned but misguided pieces of legislation that would alter Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a foundational law for online human rights and free expression.

During her opening statement, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen urged lawmakers to be cautious when considering changes to Section 230, and to consult with human rights experts about the harm done by SESTA/FOSTA, the last major change to Section 230, and the potential impact of 230 changes on human rights and free expression outside the US.

Here’s a transcript of what Frances Haugen said about Section 230:

“As you consider reforms to section 230, I encourage you to move forward with eyes open to the consequences of reform. Congress has instituted carve outs of Section 230 in recent years. I encourage you to talk to human rights advocates who can help provide context on how the last reform of 230 had dramatic impacts on the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in our society but has been rarely used for its original purpose. They should consult with the international human rights community who have seen first hand how authoritarian governments around the world can weaponize reductions in intermediary liability to silence dissent.”

These comments are in line with a letter, signed by more than 70 human rights, civil liberties, and LGBTQ+ organizations warning lawmakers about the enormous harm to marginalized communities that could result from careless changes to Section 230. 

“It’s irresponsible and unconscionable for lawmakers to rush toward further changes to Section 230 while actively ignoring human rights experts and the communities that were most impacted by the last major change to Section 230,” said Evan Greer (she/her), director of Fight for the Future, “The last misguided legislation that changed Section 230 got people killed. Congress needs to do its due diligence and legislate responsibly. Lives are at stake. Congress should pass the Safe Sex Worker Study Act, which would study the public health impact of SESTA/FOSTA, the last reform of Section 230, before making further changes to this foundational law that protects human rights and free expression around the world.”

  • Read more about the Safe Sex Worker Study Act here.
  • Read more about the sex work community’s concerns with changing Section 230 here.
  • Read Fight for the Future’s statement on the Energy & Commerce Committee’s hearing, which included zero witnesses who are experts on SESTA/FOSTA here.

###