Republicans are crying “censorship” to pressure Facebook, Twitter, and Google to let them spread misinformation. But if they really got rid of Section 230, they’d be dragging everyone else down with them.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai appeared remotely before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday for yet another congressional hearing on content moderation and supposed anti-conservative bias.
The title of the hearing was “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?” Some conservatives say that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is the reason why the Big Tech companies can get away with “censoring” their content without facing legal repercussions.
That’s literally the opposite of what’s going on.
What is Section 230?
Basically, it protects tech companies from legal liability for what their users post on their platforms, with exceptions when it comes to illegal activity such as copyright infringement, sex trafficking, and other federal crimes. It puts the legal liability on the user who posts the content, not the company that hosts it.
Without Section 230, Big Tech companies would be more cautious about what’s allowed on their platforms. Some might even abandon user-generated content. Why allow it if the legal threats aren’t worth the trouble?
When they do take down or limit the reach of content, it’s their choice — they’re not required by law to do so. Section 230 gives companies the ability to moderate as they please. That’s why complaints about them violating the First Amendment are meritless. They have a right to not host certain types of content.
And it’s not just Big Tech that would be affected. Do you have a blog? Without Section 230, you could be held liable for what your readers say in the comments section.
Getting rid of Section 230 might lead to the censorship of everyone, in that nobody would be able to share their ideas and opinions on social media.
The same old story
We’ve heard most of what was discussed in Wednesday’s hearing before. I’ve covered congressional hearing after congressional hearing where Republicans spend the entire day grilling major tech CEOs on like perceived bias in big tech – despite .
The pressure from Republicans has often led to “overcompensation,” as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz correctly put it, from Silicon Valley. To curry favor with conservatives, will hire Republican operatives and provide a more lenient interpretation of its policies for personalities and organizations on the right.
But, that’s not what’s happening here. Republican lawmakers know what they’re doing.
Take Ted Cruz, for example. Earlier today, he was the congressional hearing like a boxing promoter hyping a heavyweight title match. It was Cruz, and ostensibly the conservative base, vs. Twitter, i.e. Big Tech.
Big Tech is starting to crack down on right-wing misinformation — although it still spreads pretty easily. If Republicans can’t get their way, it seems like they’re ready to watch the entire internet go up in flames.