In 1996, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to provide Internet service intermediaries with general immunity from liability with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. Congress wanted the commercial Internet to flourish, with great benefits to the U.S. economy, and therefore did not want Internet intermediaries to be burdened with the phenomenally costly task of having to monitor and referee third-party content.
Calls for Section 230 Reform
Of course, as we know, the commercial Internet has flourished since 1996 to the advantage of the U.S. economy, and some of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies are Internet intermediaries that host third-party content. But there have been some complaints about the immunity provided by virtue of Section 230. For example, there have been complaints that some Internet intermediaries should have been and should be more active in monitoring and removing false information posted on their sites that is designed to influence political elections. In the wake of these complaints, there have been suggestions that Section 230 is ripe for potential amendments.
Proposed Principles to Guide Lawmakers
In this climate, along comes a group of 53 academics and 28 institutions (e.g., the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute) with a recent document titled "Liability for User-Generated Content Online, Principles for Lawmakers ('Principles Document')."
The Principles Document begins by noting that policymakers have expressed concern about both harmful speech and the content of moderation practices of tech companies...