A group of attorneys general wants to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. If they succeed, website operators could be held responsible for user comments and posts. The AG coalition says they simply want the same rights as federal prosecutors, but free speech advocates warn that the proposed change could usher in a whole new era of Internet censorship.
What Is Section 230 of the CDA?
One of the most talked-about United States Internet laws is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Passed in 1996, and commonly known as the safe harbor provision, section 230 absolves U.S.-based website operators from liability if a third-party posts something illegal on their websites. Most often, section 230 cases deal with intellectual property violations and online defamation.
What Do The Attorneys General Want Changed In Section 230?
Section 230 of the CDA includes an exemption for federal crimes, which allows national prosecutors to bring charges against website operators in certain cases. Essentially, the cabal of AGs simply wants those extant rights extended to the state level by adding the words “ward or state” to the federal exemption provision.
Drug sales, child pornography and piracy, so the attorneys general argue, are the real issue at hand, arguing section 230 gives bad guys “immunity” from prosecution.
Why Is There Opposition To The AG’s Proposal?
Free speech is a pillar of American law. We take our right to voice our opinions seriously. So it should come as no surprise that a group of high-profile legal scholars, associations and companies wrote a letter voicing their displeasure with the AG’s plans for section 230. In the missive, opponents opined “Section 230 has enabled investment in countless revolutionary services that are responsible for a fifth of U.S. economi