WASHINGTON D.C., July 11 —­­ Today, a diverse coalition of civil society organizations, academics and other Internet law experts published a set of seven principles to guide conversation about amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In its current form, the law holds those who create content online responsible for the content they create, while protecting online intermediaries from liability for content generated by third parties, except in specific circumstances. Maintaining that fundamental arrangement is vital. As the principles statement declares: “we value the balance between freely exchanging ideas, fostering innovation, and limiting harmful speech. Because this is an exceptionally delicate balance, Section 230 reform poses a substantial risk of failing to address policymakers’ concerns and harming the Internet overall.”

The following quotes may be attributed to specific signatories:

“Washington is abuzz with casual soundbites about reforming Section 230—as if such reforms aren’t that big of a deal. In fact, reforming Section 230 could have seismic consequences for the Internet and our society. The principles announced today should help steer the conversation away from the biggest risks associated with amending Section 230.” 

  • Prof. Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law and the most prolific academic commentator about Section 230 case law

“Section 230 is the law that made today’s Internet possible. Without it, hosting user-generated content would be impossible. Today’s most popular social websites would never have taken off and the Internet would look basically like cable. The debate about Section 230 is almost entirely about political posturing rather than ‘fixing’ anything.”

  • Berin Szóka, President, TechFreedom

“Section 230 provides companies with a safe harbor to do what Congress cannot do under the First Amendment: decide to take down content that is offensive or otherwise not wanted on their platforms. Imposing liability on companies for their users’ content will incentivize platforms to err on the side of censorship, and threaten free expression online.” 

  • Sharon Bradford Franklin, Director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy, New America’s Open Technology Institute

“Section 230 has been instrumental to enabling free speech online for over 20 years. Understanding how it works, and why it matters, should be a prerequisite for any of today’s policy debates about content moderation, disinformation, or other online speech issues.”

  • Emma Llanso, Director, Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy & Technology

“The technology and Internet industry’s critics claim the law was designed to give a ‘special deal’ to the online industry. The assertion that the section was part of an ‘industrial policy’ that was somehow approved by a free market Congress in 1996 is balderdash. But online as well as offline, liability for user-generated content still accrues to the user.” 

  • Bartlett Cleland, President Innovation Economy Alliance

“Everyone who thinks seriously about the issues implicated by Section 230 can—and should—agree that it has been instrumental in the birth and growth of the Internet as we know it—both the immense good and the unanticipated bad. Efforts to update Section 230 should not deny its past successes, ignore reasonable concerns, nor co-opt the process to score costly political points. It is incumbent upon those seeking reform to offer ideas and proposals that reflect the reality and the complexity of the world they seek to regulate.” 

  • Geoffrey A. Manne, President, International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE)

“Governmental coercion isn’t the right way to improve online discourse or to ensure users complaints’ are heard. Would you want your political opponents deciding who gets to say what on social media? If that makes you uneasy, you should recognize the importance of these principles before endorsing any new law.” 

  • Jesse Blumenthal, technology and innovation policy lead for the Koch network

“The Internet flourishes when social media platforms allow for discourse and debate without fear of a tidal wave of liability. Ending Section 230 would shutter this marketplace of ideas at tremendous cost.” 

  • David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA)

“Section 230 protections for Internet platforms are what have enabled the prospering of a free and open Internet for decades. Making Section 230 protections contingent upon approval of government bureaucrats would be a grave mistake. Regulation must evolve as the Internet evolves, but creating new government powers that would be subject to the whims of whichever party occupied the White House would be bad for all Americans.” 

  • Kevin Glass, Vice President of Communications, National Taxpayers Union (NTU)

“These principles lay out an essential framework for dealing with the thorny issue of content moderation on private platforms. As the Supreme Court has said, ‘the Constitution protects us from best intentions,’ and a framework like this works to ensure that the Internet remains a place of innovation and the free exchange of ideas.” 

  • Andrew Langer, President, Institute for Liberty

“Nowhere in America has free speech thrived more in recent years than on the Internet. Members of Congress should resist trying to indirectly police speech practices they have no business regulating in the first place. Government intrusion on the Internet chills innovation and inevitably leads to unintended consequences.” 

  • Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks


Find this release on our website, and share it on Twitter. We can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See more of our work on free speech and Section 230 on our website, including:

  • Our op-ed “Some conservatives need a First Amendment refresher”
  • Our letter to AG Session “DOJ Inquiry re Tech Companies Bias is Misguided”
  • Our blogpost “Reality Check for Trump and Republicans Crying ‘Bias’”!
  • President Berin Szóka’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the filtering practices of social media platforms
  • Our statement on the passage of SESTA
  • Our statement on the takedown of Backpage and its implications for Section 230 and recent sex trafficking legislation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #226: The Fairness Doctrine: Next Generation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #214: Information Intermediaries in a Nutshell