Lame Duck Repeal of Section 230 Would Damage Free Speech and Innovation, Says ITIF

December 2, 2020

WASHINGTON—In response to President Donald Trump’s threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it does not repeal Section 230, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released the following statement from ITIF Research Analyst Ashley Johnson:

Holding up the NDAA in an effort to kill Section 230 is a terrible idea that politicizes national security at the expense of free speech and innovation in the Internet economy.

Section 230 is a foundational law of the Internet that has enabled greater communication, discourse, and innovation online. Although there are good reasons to consider updating it, repealing the law entirely would threaten the countless online business models that rely on Section 230 to offer their services to billions of consumers around the world.

Because Section 230 shields online services from liability for their users’ speech, these services can moderate content on their platforms in a way that best protects users’ safety and freedom of expression. Taking away that shield would force services to remove controversial forms of speech, including unpopular political views, that could get platforms in legal trouble. In addition, companies that rely on user-generated content, such as e-commerce sites with user reviews, would see their business models threatened.

Various stakeholders disagree on whether and how to amend Section 230, and Congress should carefully consider any changes. Calls to rapidly repeal the law without a nuanced debate stem from a lack of understanding of the law’s function and importance, and ultimatums like President Trump’s are not a productive way to move forward in this important ongoing debate.