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Arlington, VA – Today the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing examining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has consistently argued that erosions to Section 230 would have dire consequences for the digital free speech rights of every American.
AFP Senior Tech Policy Analyst Billy Easley issued the following statement:
“Section 230 preserves that individuals, not the tools they use, are legally responsible for harmful behavior online. Section 230 is not a shield for those who break the law online and the Department of Justice can still prosecute anyone who violates federal criminal law, whether on a website or not. As we’ve seen recently, European and Chinese standards of free speech are increasingly being adopted by American companies. From that standpoint, it’s more important than ever that Congress protect free speech. Eroding 230’s critical protections sets up a scenario where political powers dictate what is fair or unfair when it comes to free expression online. That should startle everyone.”
Easley was featured in The Resurgent earlier this year where he outlined the dangers of a top-down government approach to moderating online content. Read the full op-ed here.
AFP also recently joined several academics and civil society groups in providing lawmakers with principles to consider when addressing liability for user-generated content online. Read the full statement of principles here.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a core free speech protection that provides appropriately limited liability to online intermediaries. Congress stated in Section 230 that “the internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.” They adopted Section 230 to preserve that diversity. Internet businesses are required to comply with all federal laws, like any other business, but Congress recognized that users should be held accountable for their actions online, not the tools they use.