Charlotte, NC — The push to eliminate Section 230 has gained a lot of attention in recent days. President Donald Trump has openly called for the elimination of this section of the Communications Decency Act. He repeated that call on Tuesday as he called for Republicans to get tough.
Of course, Trump was frustrated that McConnell blocked his checks. We also know that McConnell immediately introduced legislation that tied the increased payments to an investigation into election fraud and the repeal of Section 230.
So what is the big deal about Section 230? Why is everyone so focused on it?
Conservatives have latched onto this section as they want to hold social media giants accountable for the censoring and removal of posts. Twitter has openly declared war on President Trump’s tweets, labeling nearly every one of them as misinformation anymore. They have removed tweets and locked accounts that shared information, like the NY Post and the Hunter Biden story.
Conservatives argue that social media and tech giants are not equally applying the law to everyone and specifically targeting conservatives. That argument seems logical given the actions that these tech and social media giants take against conservatives. Even considering that, there is a consideration for Section 230 that must be given as it does provide protections for conservative media outlets as well.
You can read the full text of Section 230 here, but the concern specifically revolves around part C of the law. In this area, it states:
(c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
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.
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph.
The law provides protections from companies that allow posts on their websites. For example, you can comment on this article below, but The Liberty Loft is not liable for the statements you make. It gives protection to anyone that has a website, a social media platform, etc. The real issue comes down to section 2.
Conservatives have argued against the removal of posts and restriction of content based on their political views. The topics of obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, and harassing are pretty self-explanatory. All the questionable content would fall in the subject of “otherwise objectionable” which leaves much up to the imagination.
Some, like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo), have suggested more government oversight. If you are a conservative, you have to cringe when you hear these words which are suggestive of government regulation and big government control. That does not seem like a logical solution.
Section 230 was written long before the age of social media, and it seems likely that it should be revisited given the new nature of how information is shared online. Much has changed in how people interact online since 1996. Information is spread much quicker and in many more areas.
It seems more likely to me that the government should not be arguing for a full repeal of Section 230, but rather the elimination of the “otherwise objectionable” verbiage. To eliminate Section 230 entirely would create an absolute nightmare scenario. We are talking about increased liabilities on not just big tech and social media, but anyone that has a website that distributes information.
Conservatives and liberals alike would suffer at the elimination of the entire section. The part about what is objectionable could easily be removed and allow for the liability for removing things that someone simply does not like, in favor of free speech. As an example, you could make conservative comments anywhere you wanted, but unless those were excessively violent, harassing, obscene, or filthy, they would not be able to be removed.
When we talk about Section 230, we have to talk about it in a much bigger picture. If we simply eliminate it, it would rapidly eliminate conservative speech online. Conservative news outlets, like ours, would not be able to compete with the large media organizations as the liability suits would close everyone very quickly. It would be devastating for the sharing of information freely online.
The only two options that there are is to look at the “otherwise objectionable” clause to see if it needs to be removed or to start looking at alternatives, such as Parler, Rumble, MeWe, or any of the others that have been developed in recent years. Moving does not come without its challenges. Many businesses thrive off their social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, and others.
It would definitely take some time, development, and investment to get these platforms to a competitive nature with the big tech companies. Fortunately, we have options to leave them all, which may be the best option to save the liability protections that we all enjoy online.
JD Washington is the Editor-in-Chief at The Liberty Loft and host of The JD Washington Show. Be sure to subscribe to The Liberty Loft’s daily newsletter. If you enjoy our content, please consider donating to support The Liberty Loft so we can continue to deliver great content.