Tech enjoys a special immunity from liability. We should consider amending section 230. For the privilege of 230 there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube aren’t open platforms, they’re censors. TV personalities and politicians are calling for changes to section 230. The 1996 law that makes possible the internet as we know it. But they don’t seem to have a clue about what the law actually says, or who it really protects. The goal here Kim is not to get less speech, the goal is to get more speech. Section 230 allows for the free exchange of ideas on the internet. And it may be just as important to online free speech as the First Amendment. Section 230’s most important sentence reads as follows: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. But a lot of people have found creative ways of redefining what the law says. Big tech made effectively a bargain with Congress and a bargain with the American people. We’ll be neutral, we’ll be fair. We won’t be biased, and in exchange for that, we’ll receive what is effectively a federal subsidy. Neutrality is not a condition of the law. In fact section 230 was designed in part so that internet companies could discriminate by filtering out content that’s illegal, indecent, or just otherwise objectionable. Before section 230, online companies feared that any moderation would make them legally liable for user content. Section 230 explicitly says that’s not the case. Good faith and voluntary attempts to filter out unwanted posts and users are okay. Without section 230 it would be hard for companies to avoid lawsuits and criminal charges without either becoming cesspools of totally unmoderated speech, or banning user-generated speech entirely. They’re becoming de-facto publishers. They’re actually the messengers. They’re not the moderators of an open forum. There is no legal distinction in section 230 between a publisher and a platform. The word platform doesn’t even appear. What matters for legal purposes is who is responsible for creating particular web content. Judgment calls about user speech, however poorly executed and whatever ideological biases are apparent, just don’t affect whether a company is broadly protected by section 230 or not. Big tech has gotten these giveaways from government, this sweetheart deal from government, where they can’t be held accountable. Big tech enjoys a special immunity from liability. People like to pretend section 230 created a legal loophole. But the Congress that passed section 230 back in 1996 was explicit. Section 230 would not apply when it comes to federal criminal laws. And it would not apply to intellectual property law, which means that copyright violators and serious criminals do not get a free pass because of section 230. What the law does provide is limited protection from criminal charges brought by state or local law authorities and some immunity from getting sued in civil court. This immunity is lost if a company creates illegal content itself or if it edits content in a way that contributes to its illegality. And it’s lost if a company participates in illegal acts to obtain that content, or otherwise engages in or profits directly from some elicit action. In general, section 230 is meant to leave room for holding online operators accountable for their own sins, but not for those of their customers. If they’re gonna have this special immunity, that nobody else gets by the way, they should not discriminate. Section 230 doesn’t only benefit companies. As attorney Jeff Kossef, author of The 26 Words That Created the Internet, says, there are also significant free speech benefits to the public. Section 230 shields not just providers of digital services from litigation, but the users of these services too. Without it anyone could find themselves liable for retweeting, reblogging, or posting links to content that is later found to break the law. Yet for all the protections it provides to readers, writers, academics, shit posters, entrepreneurs, activists, and amateur political pundits of every persuasion, section 230 has somehow become a political pariah. The political class wants everyone to believe that the way the US has policed the internet for the past quarter century, has actually been lax, immoral, and dangerous. Don’t believe them. The future of free speech, and a lot more may depend on preserving section 230.