What Is Article 230 And How Does It Protect Big Tech

Recently you have probably heard them talk about Article 230 related to Big Tech companies. But what is it and how does it work?

Section 230 says 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" (47 U.S.C. § 230). In other words, online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. The protected intermediaries include not only regular Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but also a range of "interactive computer service providers," including basically any online service that publishes third-party content. Though there are important exceptions for certain criminal and intellectual property-based claims, CDA 230 creates a broad protection that should allow innovation and free speech online to flourish.

This legal and policy framework has allowed for YouTube and Vimeo users to upload their own videos, Amazon and Yelp to offer countless user reviews, craigslist to host classified ads, and Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking to hundreds of millions of Internet users. Given the sheer size of user-generated websites (for example, Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users, and YouTube users upload 100 hours of video every minute), it would be infeasible for online intermediaries to prevent objectionable content from cropping up on their site. Rather than face potential liability for their users' actions, most would likely not host any user content at all or would need to protect themselves by being actively engaged in censoring what we say, what we see, and what we do online. 

So if Big Tech is protected from what their users post on their platforms, why are conservative voices being silenced and removed? Article 230 clearly states they can't be held responsible for any of the material on their platforms. It even states in the article, to do what Big Tech is doing right now would be infeasible. So Big Tech can argue for them to censor would be impossible and at the same time they can argue they need to censor conservatives because they are dangerous. 

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