Many of us use the internet every day to work, connect with friends, and consume/post digital content. What you might not know is that a short section in a twenty-five-year-old statute is largely responsible for the internet as you know it today—a massive hub for innovation and free speech.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides immunity for websites that publish third party content. Section 230(c)(1) explains that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Section 230(c)(2) further provides protection for operators who remove or moderate obscene or offensive material in good faith.
Section 230 removes the risk that online services will be found liable for third party behavior or their reasonable reaction to such behavior. The removal of this risk instills confidence in investors and enables countless personnel on the internet to moderate content. Most importantly, Section 230 empowers individuals like you and I to freely express ourselves online.
Is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act Still Good Law?
Though the Communications Decency Act itself was ruled unconstitutional, Section 230 was deemed severable and remains good law.
What Doesn’t Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act Cover?
The U.S. is a safe haven for websites that want to host controversial and/or political speech because of Section 230. However, Section 230 still requires internet providers to remove federally criminalized material, including instances of intellectual property infringement and electronic privacy violations. The Section was recently amended to require the removal of material violating federal and state sex trafficking laws. There have been increased conversations surrounding the breadth of Section 230 as our nation grapples with issues of online hate speech, misinformation, and BigTech’s influence on politics.