House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi made her stance on internet freedom of speech clear in a recent interview when she stated that tech giants should be regulated by the government rather than being allowed to regulate themselves.
In the Speaker’s mind, companies such as Facebook were responsible for the Democrats’ loss in 2016. She complained that tech companies aren’t actively promoting Democrat priorities such as LGBT rights, gun restrictions and the like because the tech companies wanted to get President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed. While the House Speaker’s rambling could be easily dismissed as hot air, the fact that she has a specific plan in mind to censor the internet is cause for alarm for anyone who believes in freedom of speech.
Pelosi’s ire is specifically directed at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This little-known law is actually the foundation of internet-based freedom of speech as it ensures that service providers are not held liable for content uploaded by users. This means that courts and companies cannot prosecute corporations such as Google and Facebook for failing to remove content that infringes on a copyright and/or is offensive in some way.
Unfortunately, Rep. Pelosi and those who agree with her either don’t seem to realize that Section 230 is integral to a vibrant internet. Instead, the House Speaker had the call to call Section 230 a “privilege” that the government can and should consider taking away if service providers don’t regulate their portion of the internet in accordance with the federal government’s wishes.
The removal or adaptation of Section 230 is guaranteed to end badly. Any company that could be held criminally liable for content posted by users will naturally censor a great deal of the content in question in order to avoid legal hassles. Memes would almost immediately become a thing of the past due to the fact that most of them use copyrighted material. Users who quote a famous author could have their content removed. Politically incorrect content on topics such as abortion, homosexuality and vaccinations would very likely be removed.
Naturally, Section 230 hasn’t prevented internet service providers from censoring content on their own. Conservatives have long complained that social media sites are blocking their posts and, in some cases, even banning certain people from their platforms. However, anyone who considers the alternative to Section 230 will quickly realize that turning control of internet free speech over to the Federal government is even worse than leaving it in the hands of tech corporations. Allowing the federal government to decide what can be posted on Facebook and Twitter would mark the end of free speech as it exists today. What is more, Google would not be immune from the adaptation of Section 230, which means that people who fail to abide by government regulations may not be able to get a site listed on the world’s primary search engine.
In the end, the move to adapt or get rid of Section 230 would not hurt large social media sites and search giants, but rather ordinary people who want to share information.
~ Liberty Planet