Some of the most prominent internet companies have formed the Internet Works coalition to promote Section 230, a key internet law.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives companies immunity for content users upload or post on their sites. As a result, companies like Facebook, Twitter and others cannot be held legally liable for an offensive post, picture or the like.
In recent years Section 230 has come under fire, culminating in President Trump threatening to veto a defense spending bill unless Section 230 is revoked. While President-elect Biden has not weighed in on Section 230 directly, his former top tech advisor has said its time for changes to the law, throwing in question the law’s status even with a change of administration.
Internet Works, however, is working to help educate lawmakers about the role of the law. Automattic (maker of WordPress), Cloudflare, Dropbox, eBay, Etsy, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Medium, Nextdoor, Patreon, Pinterest, Reddit, Snap Inc., Tripadvisor, Vimeo and the Wikimedia Foundation are all members of the coalition.
“These well-known internet companies and nonprofits launched Internet Works to elevate the voice of stakeholders across the digital economy and work with policymakers to preserve the benefits of Section 230, the foundational internet law that enables the United States to lead the world in innovation and robust job growth in the technology sector,” said Josh Ackil, Spokesperson for Internet Works. “Internet Works members rely on CDA 230 to make their platforms safe for users and support free expression. This coalition brings new voices and diverse perspectives to Washington’s current Section 230 debate, which too often focuses on the largest internet platforms.”
The wide range of companies making up the coalition illustrates the far-reaching impact of Section 230. While many think of social media platforms as the primary beneficiaries of the law, companies like Dropbox also benefit. As a cloud storage provider, should Dropbox be liable for whatever a customer chooses to use that storage for? If Dropbox should be liable, then what measures should they be expected to take to verify the content they host? What privacy protections will customers be able to expect, or not expect, as a result of those measures?
Whatever happens with Section 230, it’s clear there are significant challenges to addressing the problems of a modern internet.