Claims of misinformation, censorship place Section 230 in crosshairs

New York

Back in 1996, when the World Wide Web was just beginning to revolutionize the ways human beings could communicate, many of those helping to build the emerging online tech industry were filled with a boundless sense of optimism.

The core of this optimism was the confidence that the internet could be a truly open space for freedom of speech. It was an ethos embodied that year by a much-circulated and somewhat sly “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” by the cyberlibertarian essayist and Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow. He declared that the legal concepts of the world of matter, “concepts of property, expression, identity,” simply did not apply to the internet, a virtually pure digital space for freedom of speech beyond the “governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel.”

“We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or

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Biden advisor Bruce Reed hints that Section 230 needs reform

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden arrives for a meeting with his Chief of Staff Bruce Reed (L) June 22, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee | Getty Images

A law protecting the tech industry from being held liable for their users’ posts is on shaky ground as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to come into office.

Bruce Reed, a top tech advisor to Biden, said at a virtual book launch hosted by Georgetown Law Wednesday that “it’s long past time to hold the social media companies accountable for what’s published on their platforms.”

Reed, who was chief of staff to Biden during his time as vice president, has advocated for tech reform in his years outside government. He worked as a senior advisor for Jim Steyer’s non-profit Common Sense Media, which advocates for digital media issues impacting children, including content moderation reforms.

Common Sense Media has pushed for

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Trump to Congress: Repeal Section 230 or I’ll veto military funding

A man in a suit points from a small desk.
Enlarge / Donald Trump speaks from the White House on Thanksgiving Day.

President Donald Trump has long been an outspoken foe of big technology companies. And in recent months, he has focused his ire on Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields online platforms from liability for content posted by their users.

In May, Trump called on the Federal Communications Commission to reinterpret the law—though it’s not clear the agency has the power to do that. Since then, he has tweeted about the issue incessantly.

On Tuesday evening, Trump ratcheted up his campaign against Section 230. In a tweet, he called the law “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity.” He warned that “if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO

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What Is Section 230? Trump Threatens Veto Over 1996 Internet Service Shield


  • Section 230 protects internet services companies from indecent content posted by users
  • The bill passed in 1996, long before social media existed
  • The courts have routinely sided with social media companies in arguments against protection

President Donald Trump threatened to veto a defense bill over a 1996 law that shields websites from liability over content created by their users.

The president said he would veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act over Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which he called a “liability” that leaves national security and election integrity exposed to risk because of the protection it provides to “Big Tech”

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Trump threat to veto defense bill if Section 230 not revoked by Congress

  • President Donald Trump tweeted late on Tuesday night that he would veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless it included a repeal of Section 230.
  • Section 230 is the part of US law that grants broad protections to Big Tech companies to allow them to moderate their own platforms.
  • Trump has been trying to roll it back since Twitter first applied fact-checks to his tweets in May.
  • The NDAA is an annual defense spending bill worth roughly $740 billion, and Trump has already threatened to veto it if lawmakers go ahead with a plan to rename army bases named after Confederate generals.
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President Trump is trying desperately to get Section 230, the part of US law that protects Big Tech companies, revoked.

The president tweeted late Tuesday night that he would veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless it included a

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Trump threatens to veto major defense bill unless Congress repeals Section 230, a legal shield for tech giants

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto an annual defense bill unless Congress repeals the federal law that spares Facebook, Google and other social-media sites from legal liability over their content-moderation decisions.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie

© Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Trump delivered the ultimatum targeting the digital protections, known as Section 230, in a late-night tweet that marked a dramatic escalation in his attacks against Silicon Valley over unproven allegations that the country’s tech giants exhibit bias against conservatives.

“Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” Trump tweeted.

Unless the “very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” Trump continued, “I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent

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Social Media Section 230 Law: No One is Happy

What is Section 230?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gave social media giants like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Google, and YouTube broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

The law dates back to 1996 when no one could foresee the power of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

No One is Happy

The Wall Street Journal reports Social Media’s Liability Shield Is Under Assault

Democrats say the immunity has allowed companies to ignore false and dangerous information spreading online, since the companies generally aren’t liable for harmful content.

Republicans focus their ire on another aspect of Section 230, which says companies broadly aren’t liable for taking down content they deem objectionable. President Trump and others contend liberal-leaning tech companies have used that provision to block conservative views.

It may make sense for there to be liability for some of the

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Barack Obama said social media should be regulated and treated as publishers, as Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms face potential Section 230 revisions

Barack Obama talking on a cell phone: Former US President Barack Obama speaks at a Biden-Harris drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida on October 27, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

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Former US President Barack Obama speaks at a Biden-Harris drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida on October 27, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

  • Former President Barack Obama said there should be government regulations for social media firms since they make “editorial choices, whether they’ve buried them in algorithms or not,” he told The Atlantic in an interview.
  • Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are protected by an internet law called Section 230 which shields them from being liable for content that people post on their platforms. 
  • Republicans and Democrats alike have called for the law to be revised and for protections to be stripped for tech companies, which would majorly impact their businesses.
  • Tech companies have long argued that they shouldn’t be treated as publishers and that Section 230 is what protects free speech on the internet and without it, online communication would change as
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