Reform of Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act was one of the few things Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed on during the 2020 presidential campaign, even if their motivations for doing so were diametrically opposed. The law grants broad legal immunity to "interactive computer services" for user-generated content and enables them to moderate that content without exposing themselves to liability for doing so. It's the reason Twitter isn't responsible for the all-caps pronouncements of your angry uncle, and the reason Yelp isn't responsible for his blatantly dishonest restaurant reviews.
Section 230 has become a popular punching bag—both for those who think the platforms aren't doing enough to respond and those who think they are doing too much. The odds that it will enjoy a second quarter-century are looking slim.
So what will the new year and the new administration mean for this key legal underpinning of the internet and the regulation of our speech on the virtual public square? With the fate of Section 230 hanging in the balance, and numerous proposed reforms swirling about, join Future Tense, the Duke Center on Science & Technology Policy, the Yale Information Society Project, and the Tech, Law & Society Program at American University Washington College of Law to consider what happens next.
Matt Perault, @mattperault
Director, Center on Science & Technology Policy at Duke University
Mike Godwin, @sfmnemonic
Visiting Fellow, the Information Society Project at Yale Law School
Member, Internet Society Board of Trustees
Author, The Splinters of our Discontent: How to Fix Social Media and Democracy Without Breaking Them
Director, Public Policy and Social Impact, Tumblr at Automattic
Jennifer Daskal, @jendaskal
New America ASU Future Security Fellow, 2021
Professor and Faculty Director, Tech, Law, & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law
Follow the conversation online using #Section230sFate and by following @FutureTenseNow. This Free Speech Project event is partnered with: