Maybe more so than any other piece of tech legislation, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has really been taking a beating by members of Congress as of late whether by democrats who want to see it reformed, or republicans who seem intent to repeal it entirely.
A bipartisan bill seeking to narrowly reign in websites for failing to report illegal drug sales or threats of violence is the latest to open this historically messy and complicated can of worms. Creatively called the “See Something, Say Something Online Act,” the draft is soon to be introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and and John Cornyn (R-TX) as a way to hold platforms like Facebook and Google—or really, any site with some degree of user-generated content—responsible for any illegal purchases that might be happening on their platforms. Under the draft, the companies behind these sorts of platforms would be required to report any potentially shady purchases to local authorities, or risk being held liable for that failure.
“The protections afforded to the tech sector under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act have given rise to innovation and the U.S. tech sector,” Manchin said in a statement. “But it also has a dark side, shielding companies from the proliferation of illegal content on their platforms.”
“It’s time to amend Section 230 to reflect the way that the Internet impacts our society today—both good and bad—because even one opioid sold online is too many,” he added.
To give a brief recap of what Section 230 actually entails, it broadly insulates websites so that they aren’t held liable for what users post on them. Effectively, it allows sites—particularly social media companies—to function without being sued on the daily.