What Is Section 230?

US Flag What is Section 230?

With the government taking executive action against social media, the phrase “Section 230” has become popular once again.  We explain where it came from.

What is Section 230 and why is it important?

Before the internet, newspapers and televisions were the way we gathered information and they had to be held responsible for what they published.

Once the internet came around, social websites popped up and everyone was invited to contribute their opinions and thoughts.

Those websites were first considered “publishers” like a newspaper and had to moderate the content their users contributed until they just couldn’t keep up anymore.

Lawsuits were filed for things that were said and judgements were made against the service providers who were trying their best to moderate this content but weren’t succeeding, so our government had to step up and figure out how to address this new problem.

They settled on adding Section 230 to the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Some people have called it the “26 words that created the internet”.

Here’s what it says:

“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.”

This helps to protect website owners from being taken to court because their website displayed what a visitor or member uploaded to their website (such as a picture) or what they said in their comments or posts. It does not protect criminal content such as copyright violations, but it does protect the ability to have a flourishing social aspect to a website.

If this protection were to be taken away completely, the internet as we know it would change. Blogs could be held liable for any random comment that someone posted on their articles.

Companies that provide a service where a user can upload items to be displayed publicly, chat systems, message boards, social media, etc, would be held liable for whatever their users decided to send over their system.

As we all know, not all users will adhere to the rules and there are hundreds of millions of internet users. How would a service provider even know what was being sent until it was too late?

If we didn’t have this legislation in place, you would no longer be able to comment on an article you liked unless the website owner was willing to moderate all comments (some have time, some don’t).

I can’t imagine any kind of free social media would be able to exist anymore, so you would not be able to easily share pictures or comments or stories online unless you have and maintain your own website.

Even if you did share on your own website, you might or might not want to be responsible for your visitors’ actions so the social aspect of the internet would be cut back drastically.

Section 230 is under scrutiny on a regular basis by our government because bad actors are always finding a way around the rules to attack others and cause trouble.

While it probably does need some changes since the internet is constantly evolving, we need to make sure that our freedoms are also not thrown out at the same time.

Please keep an eye out for announcements, changes, or votes on Section 230 and make sure that your local representatives are representing you!