The News with Shepard Smith

What is Section 230 and why do some lawmakers want to revoke it?

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Key Points
  • “Section 230 was created so that social media apps and other content providers on the internet could essentially provide content moderation while not being sued for any of the content that was created within their app or on their website,” Douglas said.
  • Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo informed lawmakers that she would explore changes to Section 230 if she was confirmed for the position of Commerce Department secretary.
  • The adtech expert explained that reforming Section 230 will likely be focused on bridging the gap between content moderation and the First Amendment.

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Section 230 explained

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act  has long been a target for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and ad media expert Mark Douglas told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" that it will likely "be a big part of the 2021 legislative agenda."

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo informed lawmakers that she would explore changes to Section 230 if she was confirmed, during a hearing on her nomination for the position of Commerce Department secretary on Tuesday.

"I think platform accountability is important ... but of course, that reform would have to be balanced against the fact that these businesses rely upon user-generated content for their innovation, and they've created many thousands of jobs," Raimondo said. 

Former President Donald Trump slammed Section 230 during a speech in Dalton, Georgia on Jan 4. "We have to get rid of Section 230, we have to get rid of Section 230, or you are not going to have a country very long," Trump said.

Douglas explained on "The News with Shepard Smith" that Section 230 protects social media sites, news sites in the comment section and essentially any site on the internet or mobile app where user-generated content exists.

"Section provides a provision where social media companies and other content providers on the internet can allow people to generate content while not being held legally liable for the words of their users," said Douglas, the founder and CEO of adtech firm Steelhouse

During an interview with the New York Times last January, President Joe Biden said, "...Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms."

Douglas said that there are basically two sides to Section 230. One side includes free speech advocates who believe "that all social media sites and all protections should only apply essentially if there's no content moderation." Then there are those who believe the opposite, that Section 230 "should cover any form of content moderation, regardless of who originated those policies and who are putting those policies in effect." 

The adtech expert explained that reforming Section 230 will likely be focused on bridging the gap between content moderation and the First Amendment. 

"There's a big gap between the U.S. Constitution, Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment, and what websites and social media sites can do in terms of content moderation, and so as we look forward in terms of reforms for Section 230, they're likely to be in that area of bridging the gap and allowing more free speech on the internet," Douglas said.