Nancy Pelosi Warns That Democrats May Do Away With Section 230, the Law That Protects Freedom of Speech and Expression Online

Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats don’t exactly have a great view of tech firms nor protecting freedom of speech online.

In a new interview, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has issued a stern warning to major tech firms.  She may prepare to do away with Section 230.

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the most important law protection of freedom of expression and innovation on the internet, states,

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.

In short, this law protects online intermediaries – i.e., Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, etc. – from being held legally responsible for what users say and do.  Section 230 also protects ISPs and online services which publish third-party content, including bloggers which host comments on their sites.

Calling the law “a gift” to tech firms, Pelosi hinted House Democrats will likely remove the immunity provided by Section 230.

It’s a gift to them and I don’t think that they’re treating it with the respect that they should, and so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy… I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it.  And, it’s not out of the question that that could be removed.

Pelosi’s statements came right before the European Union’s final approval of the Copyright Directive.

Under the new bill, the Copyright Directive – specifically, Article 13 – would apply to all European for-profit platforms, including websites and apps.

All online platforms would have to install upload filters, continuously checking for copyright infringement, except under three of the following criteria:

  • Platform/site available to the public for less than 3 years.
  • Annual turnover falls below €10 million ($11.4 million).
  • Fewer than 5 million unique monthly visitors.

As hinted at earlier, the removal of Section 230 would allow lawmakers to specifically target free speech on social media.  Section 230 doesn’t require neutrality from platforms.  So, if done away with, expect politicians from minority and even majority parties to immediately target users on social media platforms.

In short, this could mean law enforcement officials may openly prosecute tech firms for users who post dissenting opinions and content.

On the music industry side, should Spotify or Apple Music upload music from an artist with unflattering lyrics about a certain politician, for example, lawmakers may openly sue or prosecute said user, along with the service.