Section 230 and Social Media

ANA Law & Public Policy Virtual Conference attendees: Scroll down for CLE materials

Lawyer Robert Corn-Revere reviewed section 230 and challenges that have recently been raised to the regulation.

Words of Wisdom

"The need for the protection from this kind of liability is greater today, in many ways, than it's ever been. ... Because of the changes to the internet and because of the growth in internet communications, the need for protection from potential liabilities is really greater now than it's ever been."
     — Robert Corn-Revere, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Key Takeaways

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has been called "The 26 words that created the internet." The 1996 regulation allows platforms to post third-party speech without facing liability for the content of that speech. (It also applies to good faith efforts to moderate content, whether or not that content is constitutionally protected.)

Lately, however, calls for reform of the regulation have come from all quarters, including from former President Trump, then-candidate and now current President Biden, and both Republicans and Democrats in congress. Numerous states have also made efforts to regulate online platforms.

Some critiques of Section 230 include the following assertions:

  • The law has outlived its relevance, being laid down 26 years ago, eons in internet time.
  • It was originally created to foster competition among small companies, but it now largely supports Big Tech.
  • The current use of algorithms to restrict content or make it available is very different than the curation of content originally envisioned by the regulation.

Some of the proposed reforms include calls to do the following:

  • Remove protections for ads/paid content.
  • Limit protection against claims based on algorithmic recommendations.
  • Require disclosure and reporting of moderation practices.
  • Require political neutrality or limit the right to moderate or exclude users.

Lawyer Robert Corn-Revere argues, however, that section 230 is more important now than ever. Online platforms are making countless decisions about what to post. Indeed, every hour, 250 million posts are made on Facebook, 21 million tweets are issued on Twitter, and 30,000 new hours of content are uploaded to YouTube. If these platforms were liable for each of the posting decisions they made, it would obviously have a severely chilling effect.

CLE Materials

Source

"Section 230 and Social Media." Robert Corn-Revere, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Eric D. Reicin, president and CEO at BBB National Programs. ANA One-Day Conference: Law and Public Policy Virtual Conference, 4/27/22.

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