DOJ’s Section 230 Proposal Doesn’t Address Real Issues

September 23, 2020 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — The American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement in response to a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Justice to modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“The Justice Department’s outdated proposal will not solve the very real issues caused by Section 230,” said Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project. “As the internet has evolved, monopolistic corporations like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have used Section 230 to avoid responsibility for everything from selling dangerous products to promoting discrimination to spreading conspiracy theories to facilitating scams, stalking and harassment. To create a safe and open internet, policymakers should determine whether or not a business is shielded from liability by examining how it makes money, not because it uses a web server.”

Written in 1996 under a very different technological regime, Section 230 shields “interactive computer services” from liability for the third-party content on their websites. Today, Section 230 means monopolies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google can operate as ‘absentee owners,’ supercharging dangerous content across the internet and exploiting a legal framework that protects them from responsibility for how they make money.

Fixing this problem means reevaluating which companies receive Section 230 protections. If a company or website generates revenue by selling behavioral advertising, travel services, data collection, enabling commercial transactions, or otherwise monetizing the transmission of content, Section 230 should not necessarily apply. Instead the company or site should be regulated by sector-specific rules that apply to that particular line of business, as well as general torts and state criminal law.

For more information about Section 230, read Economic Liberties’ comment to the FCC and Addressing Facebook and Google’s Harms Through a Regulated Competition Approach,” Economic Liberties’ report on the issue.


Economic Liberties works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. AELP believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.