Secure Enterprise Messaging Insights

Section 230 and its Unintended Consequences

One of the latest hot-button issues on Capitol Hill has been the debate of what to do about Section 230. Conversations have been going on for months about the repercussions of the bill’s protections for Big Tech and whether it should remain intact, be amended, or removed all together. To understand the future of the policy, it’s important to consider its origins first.

The legislation was introduced in 1996 as part of the Communications Decency Act, when the Internet was in its infancy, stating 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.” The idea was to encourage more innovators to use the Internet without the fear of being implicated by wrong-doers coming to their sites. The world looked very different then, and the policy was created as a reflection of the times.

When looking at the context of when Section 230 was implemented, the technology landscape was vastly different. The first smartphone had been introduced just a few years earlier, but was a far cry from the technology we hold in the palm of our hands today. Social media wouldn’t be introduced for another year, and the giants we know today like Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t come around until the early 2000’s. In Q3 of 2020, Facebook reported that 3.21 billion people were using at least one of the company's core products (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger) each month. Part of this monthly use likely includes employees using apps like Whatsapp for business communication—especially as BYOD programs increase in popularity. Social media has drastically changed the world for people, both personally and professionally. Since the late 1990’s, the world of technology and social media has seen rapid change and Section 230 has become outdated, but how to address it remains a major point of contention.

Over the years, the legislation has received scrutiny, but recently efforts have ramped up in Congress. There is unanimous agreement that Section 230 needs to be addressed, as tech giants have emerged and taken advantage of the policy since it was originally created. As mentioned in Fortune, Section 230 offers the benefit of encouraging innovation, but simultaneously experts agree that there needs to be some liability for a site’s content. Primarily, lawmakers are looking for these giants to be held to a higher standard for regulating the content on their sites. As we look ahead to a new administration coming into office, we can expect a new approach to addressing Section 230 as well.

Social platforms have become some of the largest targets of Section 230 reform. Social media has unfortunately become a ground for some to take advantage of for hate speech, fake news and more wrong doings. Updates to the legislation would put more responsibility on the platforms to help prevent these things from happening. Some are even going so far as to call for full removal of Section 230, but industry experts caution against the implications of this.

As these conversations press on, it’s a reminder for enterprises to consider what kind of compliance standards they’re being held to. Regulations change every day, and businesses are expected to do their part to adhere to them. When considering your business continuity plan, ensure your employees are equipped with an enterprise-grade communications tool like NetSfere that is secure, end-to-end encrypted for privacy and fully compliant with national regulations. Click here to learn more about what NetSfere has to offer.