A Cautionary Tale on Internet Freedom Carve-Outs

Conservatives and liberals in the new Congress seem eager to continue a campaign against the rougher edges of the internet. But anyone seeking to hold internet platforms responsible for the problematic ways in which some people use them — through fake or biased news, incendiary speech, or even lawbreaking — would be wise to look at the history of such efforts.

1996’s “Section 230” of the Communications Decency Act is often credited as the law that gave us the internet. The legislative intervention protected early intermediaries including search engines, message boards, payment processers, and internet service providers (ISPs) from being considered “publishers” of their users’ content. This in turn protected internet platforms from legal liability when they inevitably could not (or would not) control the expression of millions of people...

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