Section 230, which says that websites aren’t liable for third-party content, has developed an increasingly bad reputation. In December, President Trump vetoed a critical $740 billion military funding bill because Congress didn’t include a repeal of Section 230. Other Washington, D.C., insiders have criticized Section 230 as facilitating online “censorship” or a “gift” to Big Tech. Not surprisingly, after the withering criticism our elected politicians have directed towards Section 230, many Americans have become skeptical of the law.
Unfortunately, Section 230’s plummeting reputation reflects widespread and significant misunderstandings about what the law says. Section 230 simply says that bad actors online are accountable for their wrongdoing, but others don’t share that responsibility.
For most people, Section 230’s allocation of responsibility makes intuitive sense. Indeed, a survey conducted earlier this year by the Knight Foundation and Gallup confirmed this common-sense principle.
The pollsters first asked survey respondents if they supported Section 230. A small majority said no. Then, the pollsters asked which approach survey respondents thought was best:
• “Change [Section 230] and allow people to sue internet companies for content posted on their websites by an individual that causes them harm,” or
• “Keep the law so that people cannot sue internet companies, but only the individual who posted the content on the website that causes them harm.”
An overwhelming majority (66% to 31%) favored keeping the law rather than changing it. In other words, even if people oppose Section 230 by name, most people actually agree with Section 230’s consequences.
The Knight/Gallup survey result exposes a troubling