Tech Companies Get a Free Pass on Moderating Content
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
In 1996, Congress faced a challenge. Lawmakers wanted the internet to be open and free, but they also knew that very openness could allow for noxious activity. Federal agencies could not tackle that problem alone—they would need help from tech companies. So Congress passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provided a shield from liability for platforms that tried to moderate “offensive” content. Then-Reps. Chris Cox and Ron Wyden saw it was a way to protect “Good Samaritans” trying to “clean up the internet.” As Wyden put it in 2018, Section 230 offered protection from liability in exchange for “being responsible in terms of policing their platforms.” Twenty-three years later, Section 230 has come under fire from both sides of the aisle—from conservatives who claim that tech platforms are unjustifiably filtering or blocking their speech and from liberals who think that the same companies are not doing enough to filter or block hate speech and extremism online.