Congress’s end run around a pillar of online free speech

Free-speech advocates  -- including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology—are afraid that a bill currently making its way through Congress could significantly weaken existing protections for online speech. In the United States, one of the most critical planks supporting free expression online is a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act known as Section 230, often referred to as the “safe harbor” clause. The EFF describes it as “the most important law protecting internet speech.” Section 230 states that “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.” In a nutshell, this clause gives any online service provider immunity from legal liability for the content that its members or users post (unless it involves either criminal activity or intellectual property).

The bill that the EFF and others are so concerned about is called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act or SESTA, which would amend Section 230. The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee this week.


Congress’s end run around a pillar of online free speech