DOJ Letter: Section 230 Does Not Immunize Big Tech for Political Censorship

Basic primer.

The people who favor action against Big Tech fall largely into two camps

1. Section 230

2. Anti-trust

(I'm Team Anti-Trust myself.)

Section 230 specifically refers to a part of the generally defunct Communications Decency Act which immunizes dot com platforms for content. Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc are set to argue that changes to 230 would change the internet and benefit big companies more than small ones. They're not wrong about that, but Big Tech has already consolidated the internet into a handful of monopolies making disruption a matter of, "What have you got to lose?"

The CDA is defunct, and I'm all for trashing 230. I think any attempt to use it in a regulatory fashion is a dangerous tactic that will almost certainly lead to even more leftist control over free speech on the internet. But a lot of the conservative consensus, in and out of government, has consolidated around Section 230.

And this DOJ letter both mentions the Hunter Biden coverup and warns that political censorship is not protected by 230.

 The events of recent days have made reform even more urgent. Today’s large online platforms hold tremendous power over the information and views available to the American people. It is therefore critical that they be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power. And when they are not, it is critical that they can be held accountable. For example, the decision by two social media companies to restrict access to news content of significant public interest from the New York Post, a widely distributed journalism publication, is quite concerning. 

Under the current text of Section 230, an online platform that removes content in bad faith or that demotes the speech of others based on political viewpoint should not be entitled to immunity. That text provides immunity only for content removed “in good faith” because it is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable”— not merely because the platform operators themselves dislike or disagree with it. In the event that a victim were to file meritorious claims against an online platform in such instances, the Department would be willing to file a statement of interest to clarify that, under a proper reading of the statute, Section 230 does not immunize such conduct. 

There's no immunity there. But there never was. 

Of course Democrats are going to interpret anything they disagree with as being a fundamental threat. 

The DOJ also broadly hints that the legislative efforts should start from scratch. And that's common sense. The CDA, as mentioned, is null and void. It left behind 230 as its big legacy, even as its efforts to control adult material were struck down. 

Even if the CDA were around, the internet today is as different from the internet of the 90s, as American business in the 50s was from the way it is today.  

But the odds of Republicans and Democrats working together to produce meaningful regulation of Big Tech that is out of control, without giving government the power to throttle political dissent seems slim indeed.


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