🇺🇸 The obscure tech law both Biden and Trump want to change

As America prepares for election day, there’s rare agreement between Joe Biden and Donald Trump regarding a legal subject: It’s about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

  • Section 230 focuses on online speech: Passed in 1996, it protects “computer services,” i.e. online companies, from being held legally liable for illegal content published by third parties on their platforms.

  • Section 230 is considered by many to be too broad: Although Facebook and Twitter ban hate speech, these critics say the companies don’t have enough incentive to moderate potentially harmful content. Section 230 also gives them relatively wide discretion for choosing which content is objectionable and can be moderated, so long as they don’t violate the First Amendment.

How Trump and Biden want to adjust Section 230

The Trump administration outlined an executive order in August 2019 that would have allowed users to file complaints regarding Section 230 to the FCC, which would then have been required to investigate them and potentially strip Section 230 protections. The order was never filed, and the administration has only mentioned Section 230 occasionally since then.

  • Republicans and Democrats, more generally, have expressed the need for more clarity and transparency on how tech companies share their content moderation practices.

The Verdict

Even Mark Zuckerberg wants reform. He said he would like to see Facebook regulated as a cross between a telecommunications firm and a newspaper.

Change will come at some point in the future and possibly the near future. The Senate is convening a hearing on Section 230 today.