What if Section 230 is revoked?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both expressed interest in revoking Section 230

Both President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have expressed interest in revoking Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 says internet platforms cannot be held liable for content that third-party users post to their respective websites.

After Twitter added a fact-check label to one of the president's tweets about mail-in ballots and called his remarks on the subject “unsubstantiated,” Trump lashed out at the platform for its “ridiculous” decision and tweeted about revoking the law.

He signed an executive order on May 28 aimed at giving the government more authority to limit the law's “liability shield” for platforms that engage in user “censorship.” The order also calls for a closer look at the law's use of the phrase “in good faith” regarding platforms' decision to voluntarily “restrict access to or availability of material.”

Biden told the New York Times in January that the law should be “revoked, immediately,” but for reasons that differ from the president's.

WHAT IS SECTION 230?

“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms,” Biden told the Times. “It should be revoked because [Facebook] is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

The Democratic nominee wants internet platforms to be held liable for instances when users spread false information. In other words, while Trump wants to hold platforms liable for their editorial decisions, Biden wants to hold platforms liable for the user content they allow to be published.

FACEBOOK, GOOGLE DEFEND SECTION 230 LEGAL LIABILITY PROTECTION UNDER PRESSURE FROM CONGRESS

But tech experts say Section 230 is necessary for both safety and free speech, and removing it would be something of a disaster.

Facebook login on smartphone (iStock)

Professor Eric Goldman of the Santa Clara University School of Law, who has written extensively on the law, says the internet without Section 230 would look a lot like Netflix or the internet in foreign countries without laws like Section 230.

“For the last 20-plus years, we've enjoyed an internet that has been driven primarily by user-generated content,” Goldman told FOX Business. “If you look at the services we use on…an hour-by-hour basis, most of those are services that depend on Section 230 to enable users to talk to each other.”

He added that without Section 230, a new era of the internet would emerge.

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“I'm not quite sure exactly what that era is going to look like, but I believe this is going to look a lot like Netflix,” he said. “Instead of services publishing user-generated content, they're going to obtain professionally produced content that they pay for via licenses and then make available through paywalled access.”

Users would have access to a “giant database” of professionally produced content that they would obtain through a subscription fee.

“The United States is the outlier, globally, in terms of the innovation in user-generated content because of Section 230 and, to some extent, the First Amendment,” Goldman explained. “You take that away, and we're going to look a lot like the rest of the world, which is not nearly as robust and provides fewer channels for people to have a public say.”

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