Revise Section 230 to Make Our Internet More Open & Free
Washington, D.C. — The American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement in response to an announcement by Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai that he intends to move forward with rulemaking to clarify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“While we have reservations about the process, timing and integrity of this announcement, we believe there are serious problems with internet governance linked directly to the overly expansive manner in which courts have interpreted Section 230,” said Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project. “We believe policymakers should revise Section 230’s protections so corporations are regulated based on what a company does, not on whether it’s online.”
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.