LIABILITY PROTECTION ON THE INTERNET
WHAT IS IT?
Section 230 is one of the most important technology regulations in the United States. It is a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that allows for websites to host content that isn’t theirs and not be held liable for that content. In short, it is what makes the internet function. Without it, websites like YouTube and all social media platforms would not be able to host any content in fear of being sued. It also allows companies to moderate the content uploaded on their services.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Section 230 is what allows you to search and find information on Google, see content recommendations across the web, and list items on eBay. It is crucial to the operations of the online world and is therefore considered the foundation of the Internet. It’s referred to as “The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet” for good reason.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
By weakening liability protections, our economy would suffer:
lost in annual GDP 
jobs eliminated 
of investors would be uncomfortable investing in internet businesses 
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE?
The Dangerous Algorithms approach that Representative Eshoo co-authored would require all algorithms to sort information purely via reverse-chronological and alphabetical order. This would result in the elimination of the trending page on all social media platforms. On platforms like YouTube, this would mean that all videos would be sorted by time-posted and would benefit channels that post more frequently. This system favors quantity over quality and would make it exponentially harder for smaller users to grow on YouTube and favor those who have the facilities to post 10-15 videos a day—thus rewarding large companies and hurting the “little guy.” Not to mention that all these changes would negatively impact the user experience because searching for desirable content would become nearly impossible for the average consumer.
I believe that misinformation spread on platforms is a big contributor to many of the political and social clashes we have seen in recent years. That is why companies should be able to prove that they have adequate systems in place to moderate content that is blatantly false or illegal. If they can prove that they have systems in place capable of handling that type of content, they should be able to keep their Section 230 protections.
What do you think?
1. Dippon, Christian (2017). Economic Value of Internet Intermediaries and the Role of Liability Protections (PDF) (Report). NERA Economic Consulting. Retrieved via Internet Association.
2. Le Merle, Matthew C.; Davis, Alison; Le Merle, Felix O. (2016). The Impact of Internet Regulation on Investment (PDF) (Report). Fifth Era. Retrieved via Squarespace.