Debate: Should We Reform Section 230 To Rein in Big Tech? | Opinion

Recently, after the New York Post, the nation's fourth-largest newspaper, published reporting implicating the overseas exploits of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his troubled son Hunter, Facebook and Twitter immediately took steps to suppress the story. As of this writing, furthermore, it has been over two weeks that the Post has been locked out of its own Twitter account. The fallout has refocused attention on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, an early-Internet era legislative provision intended to provide legal immunity to many websites for third-party content posted on their platforms.

Is it finally time to reform this provision, once and for all, or would such reform efforts actually be harmful and/or counterproductive to advocates' stated goal—to protect the ideological diversity and robustness of online speech?

Will Chamberlain of the Internet Accountability Project debates Matthew Feeney of the Cato Institute on Section 230 reform in our latest Newsweek "Debate of the Week." We hope you enjoy the exchange.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor, a syndicated columnist and a research fellow at the Edmund Burke Foundation.

William Barr

Reform Section 230 Now

Some slopes really are slippery. Two years ago, Twitter banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform, claiming that his account had "violated its abusive-behavior policy." This month, Twitter locked the accounts of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the official Team Trump campaign account and even The New York Post, over the publication of emails strongly suggesting that Hunter Biden peddled influence and sent kickbacks to former vice president Joe Biden. In other words, Twitter is running interference for the Biden-Harris ticket.

Something is wrong, and it looks like there is finally momentum to use legislation to bring these arrogant tech behemoths to heel. Perhaps signaling the beginning of the end for this kind of corporate control of democracy, the Senate Judiciary Committee just voted to subpoena Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to come before Congress and explain their companies' electoral interference.

Hawley

Leave Section 230 Alone

In 1996 Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which includes Section 230. The law provides interactive computer services with immunity from liability for almost all harms created by third-party users. It has promoted innovation and entrepreneurship, allowing start-ups to experiment with new ideas and products without having to employ a large team of lawyers tasked with policing forums, comment sections and event pages. Unfortunately, this widely misunderstood law is under bipartisan attack. Critics of "Big Tech" should proceed with caution when considering Section 230 reform.

At the core of Section 230 is personal responsibility. The law states that you—not the service you use to share content—are responsible for what you post. There are a few exceptions, but by and large Section 230 leaves the responsibility for online posts with the appropriate agent: the user.

Logos for various large technology companies
Logos for various large technology companies DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images