Threats to Section 230 Threaten the Very Existence of Our Communities

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a frequent topic of conversation on Community Signal. As Patrick puts it, if you’re a community professional in the United States, “this is the law that places the liability for speech on the author of that speech, not on you as the [community’s] host. It allows you to moderate and remove certain content while not assuming liability for what remains. I like to think of it as the legal basis for our profession in the US, and it is an important legal protection against the wealthy and powerful who would happily take down an entire online community for one post they don’t like.”

Plainly, this is a law that protects our jobs, our communities, the people in those communities, and their right to have civil and safe discussions online.

For this episode of Community Signal, we invited past guests to share how Section 230 has enabled them to foster community and what changing Section 230 could do to the fabric of online communities.

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Big Quotes

“At The Times, Section 230 allowed us to build a modern news operation where we could have a public back and forth with our readers; an ongoing one. It gave us the chance to respect them by setting rules for engagement and privileging those who spent the time to be thoughtful about the news. By allowing us to pre-moderate, and not be legally liable for any mistakes we may have made in that process, [that’s] really what made our community operation at The Times economically feasible.” –@BasseyE

“As co-founder of a community software company, I personally rely on [Section 230’s] protection every day. If we go down the path of adding caveats and exceptions to Section 230, we risk losing it altogether. Yes, online content is messy – so is freedom, so is free speech. If we still believe in those things, we need to protect the innovators, not squash them under a burden of regulatory red tape or lawsuits.” –@rhogroupee

“Yes, online communities need to be moderated and cared for and that is the precise reason why Section 230 exists, to empower moderation without creating liability. If Section 230 goes away, the main groups to benefit will not be the most vulnerable users of the internet. It will be the huge platforms uniquely possessing the resources to be compliant with whatever new regulation that they will have helped to craft.” –@losowsky

“Without the protection of Section 230, a well-meaning person or organization may lose their right to maintain a clean well-lighted space for civil discussion and capitulate to every demand regardless of its merit. An organization facilitating online community may decide to close their community altogether deciding that the risk is not worth the benefit. Who really loses when we threaten the opportunities to build meaningful communities that can have a positive impact on people’s lives?” –@scottmoore

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