33% of Technologists Think Section 230 Reform Will Stifle Free Speech by@ashumerie
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33% of Technologists Think Section 230 Reform Will Stifle Free Speech

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was written over 2 decades ago. Section 230 protects social media platforms from legal liability for third-party content posted by users of the platform. This served to encourage platforms to essentially filter their content. The second part of section 230 looked to rectify this and encourage sites to monitor the content posted on them. A majority of our readers believe that reforming section 230 will stifle free speech, as they believe it will force platforms to hold a brutal lens to third party content. On the other hand, a large group of readers (32%) believe it won’t improve the overall user experience.
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@ashumerie

Asher

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As the lead Image Reads; Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was written over 2 decades ago.

In 1996, Congress implemented provisions that served to protect social media platforms from legal liability for third-party content i.e content posted by users of the platform.

Section 230 is divided into two important subsections:

230 ( c ) ( 1 ) - 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.


When this provision was implemented by congress, some 26 years ago, we regarded the promise of the internet with some naivety. According to theHavard Business Insider, at this time, we lived in an age of technological optimism. We focused more on the many benefits of social media and less on its potentially harmful aspects.


Congress expanded on this section to encourage site policing following a 1995 ruling that no doubt would have made platforms reluctant to do so.The court rulingproposed that any platform that polices its site should be considered as the publishers of all third-party content generated on the site, making them legally liable for said content. The second part of section 230 looked to rectify this and encourage sites to monitor the content posted on them. It reads as follows;

230 ( c ) ( 2 ) - Service providers and users may not be held liable for voluntarily acting in good faith to restrict access to “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” material.


This served to encourage platforms to essentially filter their content.

While this was a seemingly airtight solution, there is a major loophole that lawmakers in 1996 might not have considered.

If you give platforms complete immunity from third-party content,  you effectively reduce the platform’s incentive to police this content.



As we already mentioned, back then, we were naive and believed in the goodness of people and the purest of intentions. But, we’ve learned a lot from experience since 96’.  For instance, most people remember Zuckerberg’s drawn-out duel with congress regardingFacebook’s alleged role in encouraging electoral malfeasance and the spreading of fake news.

We have learned that many times these mammoth platforms may prioritize the notorious “bottom line” ahead of user experience and good faith.

With this in mind, more people have recognized a need for congress to update section 230. Some have come up with potential guidelines on how to do so.


InHackerNoon’s weekly polls(10/24/22 - 10/30/22), we asked our community of 3-4+ million readers to tell us how they felt an update to Section 230 of the communications and Decency Act would affect social media platforms.  The results can be seen in the image below:

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PS: If you didn’t get the chance to weigh in on our poll, you can express your opinion in the comments or in an article of your own.

33% of our readers, who mainly consist of tech experts and professionals in their field, believe that reforming section 230 will stifle free speech, as it would force platforms to hold a brutal lens to third-party content.

On the hand, a large group of readers (32%) are all for reform as they believe it will improve the overall user experience. Some (21%) believe that it won’t change much and a smaller group (12%) believes that it will disrupt innovation.

Talking about free speech, we know about a certain billionaire that has preached its gospel on all the would-be rooftops in mars - Elon Musk.

Elon Musk’s Mission to Free Twitter


Mr. Musk has never shied away from his opinion that social media platforms need to be free of the restrictions of site policing. After his long-awaited $44 BillionTwittertakeover, he swung into action leaving noticeable changes to the tone of the platform in his wake.

For instance, the use of the N-word on theplatform jumped by nearly 500% - a very alarming number - since Musk’s takeover. Many banned accounts seem to have found new life under Musk’s regime.

Even though Must tweeted “The Bird is Free” on the morning of the 28th of October, 2022 (implying moderation to twitter’s content policies) He denies being responsible for some__restricted accounts resurfacing.__

He went on to clarify that - at this time - no changes have been made to Twitter’s content moderation policies. And as you would expect, He did so in another tweet on the 29th of October, 2022:

Final Thoughts

As Elon Musk settles into his new - long coveted - role, we recognize some similarities in the way Twitter is shaping up and the collective heartbeat of our HackerNoon readers regarding what free speech should look like in 2023. It seems like more people want platforms to feel like a “no-holds-barred” arena, where anyone can say anything they’d like at any time.

Bearing in mind that defining “free speech” is a nuanced and complex undertaking, what side of the divide do you currently lean towards?  “No-holds-barred”  or “intuitively policed”

Please share your thoughts in the comments and keep an eye out for other HackerNoon Polls.

Thank you!



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