We commend U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker for spearheading Big Tech reform. Last week the Mississippi Republican subpoenaed the heads of Facebook, Google and Twitter for a hearing looking into reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230 gave Internet platforms immunity from slander and libel lawsuits. It was the first time in history a publishing entity was able to sell advertising and profit from its publishing activities yet have no legal responsibility for the content published. Congress, in its attempt a quarter-century ago to protect the infant Internet industry, created a monster. Now Internet platforms are among the richest, most powerful media institutions in the world, with zero legal accountability for their actions.
All traditional media outlets — newspapers, radio stations, television stations, etc. — are legally responsible for every word and ad in their publications. There are 500 years of libel common law protecting innocent citizens from media errors and abuse. But Facebook, Twitter, Google and other internet platforms get a free ride. Not only is this patently unfair to traditional media platforms, but it has allowed Facebook and Twitter to wield enormous power and destroy lives, yet have no accountability in our courts.
When victims of a terrorist attack sued Facebook for allowing the terrorists to plan and execute the attack on Facebook, it was Section 230 that got the suit thrown out. Facebook allows posts promoting child and teenage suicide, causing untold numbers of deaths, yet Section 230 prevents grieving parents from taking legal action. The list of abuses goes on and on. The more outrageous the posts, the more viral it gets. The more viral it gets, the more ad money Facebook makes. All of this is caused by Section 230.
We applaud Senator Wicker for leading this effort and hope it leads to a repeal of Section 230 so that social media platforms will finally be accountable for their abuses.