CDT Asks Congress to Protect Free Speech Online, Preserve Section 230 of Communications Act

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined a bipartisan coalition of advocacy organizations, trade associations, investors, and legal scholars in voicing their strong support for Section 230 of the Communications Act and their opposition to a proposal from State Attorneys General to create a new exception to the law that would give them broad authority to prosecute the Internet’s intermediaries for crimes conducted by their users.

Section 230 allows Internet companies to host or transmit third-party content without being legally liable for the material that their users post and share. Because of Section 230’s protections, innovative online services such as YouTube, Facebook, and eBay can provide platforms for the content, commentary, and commerce of people in the U.S. and all over the world.

In a letter delivered to Congressional leadership today, the coalition stated, “Section 230 is the legal cornerstone of the Internet economy, enabling the unprecedented scope of lawful commerce and free expression that the Internet supports today. By substantially eroding this essential protection, the proposed amendment would jeopardize the continued growth of the entire Internet industry and the free expression rights of Internet users everywhere. We urge Congress not to go down this dangerous path.”

CDT President Leslie Harris said: “The Internet without Section 230 is like a free press without the First Amendment. The exponential growth of the Internet economy is a direct result of companies having a clear, unambiguous legal framework that promotes innovation and investment. Any fundamental change to Section 230 opens the door to prosecuting the messenger and will likely hinder many potential Internet breakthroughs.”

CDT Policy Counsel Emma Llanso added: “The proposal from the State Attorneys General is far from narrow and would have ramifications well beyond what they intend. This coalition welcomes an open dialogue around the very serious issue of child trafficking, and CDT is committed to work with the AGs to ensure they have the tools they need to prosecute criminals who engage in these crimes. But sweeping changes to Section 230 will imperil the Internet as a platform for free expression and collaboration. To preserve the open nature of the Internet, Section 230 must not be changed.”

To speak with either Leslie Harris or Emma Llanso about the importance of protecting Section 230 of the Communications Act, contact Brian Wesolowski at brian@cdt.org, 202-407-8814.