Consultation For Your Reputation

Section 230: Balancing free speech and accountability online

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Online Reputation Management |

For billions of people, the internet serves as a central hub for sharing information, communicating with their online community and engaging in commerce. Being such a highly interconnected social space, it can quickly get volatile without proper regulations in place. This is where the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 comes into play. At the heart of this legislation is Section 230, which has shaped the internet as people know it today.

Essentially, Section 230 features provisions that govern the way online platforms handle user-generated content. It grants online platforms immunity to any content that its users post. This begs a question that is burning in many people’s minds: does Section 230 strike the right balance between encouraging free speech and making tech companies responsible for harmful content they host?

The case against Section 230

Many victims of cyberbullying may argue that Section 230 has not kept pace with the changing dynamics of the internet. Critics of this legislation also contend that it may have invertedly empowered online platforms to elude the responsibility for harmful content that perpetuates cyberbullying. The argument is that major tech companies ought to do more to combat:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Misinformation
  • Online harassment

Furthermore, another school of thought contends that online platforms may be using the good faith moderation provision to censor user-generated content based on random choice or personal whim and without restraint in the use of authority.

The proliferation of extremist content in recent years has intensified calls for reform. Critics suggest that Section 230 ought to be reviewed and updated to give online platforms more responsibility for the content they host.

Striking the right balance

Many critics of Section 230 don’t really want to do away with the entire legislation. Rather, some reforms need to be made to strike the right balance between encouraging free speech and making tech companies responsible for the content they host.

Some propose that a good place to start would be to narrow down the scope of immunity for large online platforms because this is where a lot of cyberbullying happens. Critics suggest reforms to establish clearer guidelines for content moderation practices.

Section 230 has been a cornerstone of the online world for nearly three decades, but it’s not without its flaws. Victims of cyberbullying and critics argue that it does not adequately address the challenges posed by harmful and illegal content. Many people hope that the burning concerns regarding Section 230 will lead to actionable reform.