Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Digital rights advocates are once again warning against repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Digital rights advocates are once again warning against repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. (Photo: Enes Evren/Getty Images)

Groups Urge Lawmakers Against Gutting of Section 230 as Big Tech CEOs Testify

"Of course Facebook wants to see changes to Section 230. Because they know it will simply serve to solidify their monopoly power and crush competition from smaller and more decentralized platforms."

Andrea Germanos

The same day a House committee held a hearing on social media platforms' role in promoting extremism and misinformation, a group of digital rights experts issued fresh warnings against gutting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a response to that problem.

The cautions were delivered Thursday at a virtual press conference hosted by Fight for the Future that explained why "blowing up Section 230" could end up amplifying the already massive power of large firms while hurting smaller platforms and marginalized voices.

Section 230, which says that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider," is seen by open internet defenders as pivotal for protecting freedom of expression and innovation online. 

As Reuters reported:

Some lawmakers are calling for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability over user content, to be scrapped or rejigged. There are several pieces of legislation from Democrats to reform Section 230 that are doing the rounds in Congress, though progress has been slow. Several Republican lawmakers have also been pushing separately to scrap the law entirely.

The digital event featured experts including Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, and Jennifer Brody, U.S. advocacy manager at Access Now.

"It's unclear to me what Section 230 changes to address disinformation will actually do to address the problems," said Ruane. She warned that it could lead to deployment of "ever stricter censorship regimes, which we know disproportionately silence people of color, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, other marginalized groups, and people who express dissenting views." 

Instead, Ruane said, approaches like "meaningful privacy restrictions" should be pursued.

"If we limit the data these companies can collect and then empower users to limit the ways that companies can use that data," she explained, "it will be harder and harder for disinformation campaigns to target people in the first place."

Video of the live-streamed conference can be viewed in full below:

Fight for the Future director Evan Greer, responding to testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg—who, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, addressed the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday—said Zuckerberg's support for reforming 230 was not surprising.

"Of course Facebook wants to see changes to Section 230. Because they know it will simply serve to solidify their monopoly power and crush competition from smaller and more decentralized platforms," said Greer. 

"Facebook can afford the armies of lawyers and lobbyists that will be needed to navigate a world where Section 230 is gutted or weakened," she added, "And they've shown repeatedly that they don't care about the impact that Section 230 changes could have on the human rights or freedom of expression of marginalized people—they are happy to sanitize your news feed and suppress content en masse in order to avoid liability or respond to public criticism."

Greer urged lawmakers to "take actual steps to address the harms of Big Tech, like passing strong federal data privacy legislation, enforcing antitrust laws, and targeting harmful business practices like microtargeting and nontransparent algorithmic manipulation."

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), in his opening remarks at the hearing, lashed out at the technology CEOs.

"You have failed to meaningfully change after your platforms played a role in fomenting insurrection, in abetting the spread of Covid-19, and trampling Americans civil rights," said Pallone. "Your business model itself has become the problem."

"The time for self-regulation is over. It is time we legislate to hold you accountable," he said.

In a letter to lawmakers in January, digital rights defenders including Fight for the Future warned against making "uncareful" reforms to Section 230.

Repealing the law, the group wrote, "would make it more difficult for web platforms to combat the type of dangerous rhetoric that led to the attack on the Capitol," and "certain carve-outs to the law could threaten human rights and silence movements for social and racial justice that are needed now more than ever."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Plan to Discharge Fukushima Water Into Pacific Gets OK From Regulators

The discharge could release a number of radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean, critics say.

Julia Conley ·


Stockholm Institute Says World Is at a 'Boiling Point' as Climate Crisis and War Rage

"The natural systems that support life on Earth have been breached, and the human systems remain plagued by inequalities."

Jake Johnson ·


Urging Renewable Transition, UN Chief Says Humanity Set to 'Incinerate Our Only Home'

"If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

Andrea Germanos ·


Big Wins, Tough Losses in Key Progressive Primary Fights

Tuesday's flurry of progressive victories, said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, demonstrates the growing strength of the left's electoral movement.

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressive Summer Lee Declares Victory With Slim Margin in PA Primary

"The people took on the corporations and the people won," Lee said in a statement.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo