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Section 230 Is Not Broken

DOCUMENT

Section 230 Is Not Broken

Commonly referred to as Section 230, this language was incorporated into the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (often known as the Communications Decency Act) by then Reps. Chris Cox (R-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Section 230 provides broad — but not absolute — protection for Internet intermediaries from legal liability for user-generated content, making Section 230 the core protection for free speech and innovation online.

Keeping Section 230 intact means Internet intermediaries that host third-party content are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what their users say and do. Specifically, Section 230 provides immunity to platforms against liability under state law, whether criminal or civil, and against liability under federal civil law. But Section 230 has important exceptions — it doesn’t provide immunity against prosecutions under federal criminal law, or liability based on intellectual property law, communications privacy law, or certain sex trafficking laws.

In passing Section 230, Congress made the deliberate choice to protect online free speech and innovation, while also providing discrete tools to go after culpable companies. The world has changed in many ways, but online innovation and the speech it enables is more important, not less, than it was two decades ago.

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