Author: Tronserve admin
Tuesday 27th July 2021 01:46 PM
What's in the law protecting internet companies - and can Trump change it?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to reform a legal immunity for internet companies and follows through on President Donald Trump’s bid from earlier this year to crack down on tech giants.
The proposal aims to curb Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which offers big tech platforms like Alphabet’s Google GOOGL.O and Facebook FB.O protections from liability over content posted by users.
WHAT IS SECTION 230?
The core purpose of Section 230 is to protect the owners of any “interactive computer service” from liability for anything posted by third parties. The idea was that such protection was necessary to encourage the emergence of new types of communications and services at the dawn of the Internet era.
Section 230 was enacted in 1996 as part of a law called the Communications Decency Act, which was primarily aimed at curbing online pornography. Most of that law was struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, but Section 230 remains.
In practice, the law shields any website or service that hosts content - like news outlets’ comment sections, video services like YouTube and social media services like Facebook and Twitter - from lawsuits over content posted by users.
When the law was written, site owners worried they could be sued if they exercised any control over what appeared on their sites, so the law includes a provision that says that, so long as sites act in “good faith,” they can remove content that is offensive or otherwise objectionable.
The statute does not protect copyright violations, or certain types of criminal acts. Users who post illegal content can themselves still be held liable in court.
The technology industry and others have long held that Section 230 is a crucial protection, though the statute has become increasingly controversial as the power of internet companies has grown.
WHAT PROMPTED THE CREATION OF SECTION 230?
In the early days of the Internet, there were several high-profile cases in which companies tried to suppress criticism by suing the owners of the platforms.
One famous case involved a lawsuit by Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage firm depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” against the early online service Prodigy. The court found that Prodigy was liable for allegedly defamatory comments by a user because it was a publisher that moderated the content on the service.
The fledgling internet industry was worried that such liability would make a range of new services impossible. Congress ultimately agreed and included Section 230 in the Communication.