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What Happens if the Law Starts Treating Facebook and Twitter Like Traditional Publishers?

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President Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz listen to the national anthem.

“No other sentence in the U.S. Code,” technology scholar David Post has written, “has been responsible for the creation of more value than” a little-known provision of the Communications Decency Act called Section 230. But in January, President Donald Trump‘s technology adviser Abigail Slater suggested that Congress should consider changes to the law. It’s not crazy to consider amending the provision, no matter the trillions of dollars resting on it. But the law itself is being mischaracterized and therefore misunderstood—including by the very legislators who’d be responsible for amending it.

Section 230 has a simple, sensible goal: to free internet companies from the responsibilities of traditional publishers. Sites like Facebook and Twitter host comments and commentary that they don’t produce, edit, or even screen themselves, and Section 230 of the act ensures that those companies can’t be sued for content they host for which they haven’t assumed responsibility. The law states: “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.”

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