The impact on the public sphere has been dramatic, to say the least. In removing so much liability, Section 230 forces the prominence of a certain type of business plan that is not based on the only information available in a particular service but on paid arbitration for access and influence. So we end up with a deceptive “advertising” business model and society as a whole is locked in a 24/7 competition for attention. A polarized social media ecosystem. Recommendation algorithms that mediate content and optimize engagement. We’ve learned that what humans are most engaged with, at least from an algorithmic perspective, are the rapid emotions associated with the fight-or-flight response and other high-risk interactions. In privatizing the public square, Section 230 inadvertently makes deliberation between citizens equal before the law impossible, creating perverse incentives that encourage wildly thought-out speech and thereby effectively suppress thoughtful speech.
Then there are the economic imbalances. Online platforms that rely on Section 230 often collect personal data without appropriate compensation to achieve their business goals. Section 230 often effectively places personal data under protection even if the material should be protected or prohibited by copyright or other means. Hold the infringed party accountable by requesting a takedown notice. The shift in the sequence of events related to liability is equivalent to the difference between opt-in and opt-out in privacy. This may seem like a technical issue, but it’s actually a huge difference that can cause huge harm. For example, workers in information-related industries such as local journalism have experienced a sharp decline in financial success and prestige. Section 230 makes a world of data dignity functionally impossible.
Until now, content moderation has tended to be about seeking attention and engagement, often disregarding stated company terms of service. Rules are often designed to maximize participation through incitement, which can mean harming individual and social well-being. The excuse is that this isn’t a review, but really isn’t it? Arbitrary rules, doxxing, and cancel culture make it indistinguishable from censorship between sane and well-intentioned censorship. At the same time, the amplification of inflammatory speech and the free speech of bad actors encourage mob rule. All of this is being done under the liability shield of Section 230, which effectively gives tech companies carte blanche to engage in short-sighted, selfish behavior. Disdain for these companies—which have found a way to be more than operators, but not publishers—is the only thing everyone in America can agree on right now.
transaction known Because the unknown is always scary, especially for those who have the most to lose. Since at least some of Section 230’s network effects were foreseen when it was enacted, it should have a sunset provision. but it is not the truth. Rather than focusing solely on the damage that cutting 26 words will produce, it is useful to consider the potential positive effects. When we imagine the world 230 years from now, we discover something surprising: a world worth living in, filled with hope and renewal.
In a sense, this has already happened. Some companies are now taking their own steps into the 230-year future. YouTube, for example, is working to build alternative revenue streams beyond advertising, and top creators are getting more revenue options. Taken together, these voluntary initiatives point to a different, more publisher-like self-concept. YouTube seems to be ready for the post-230 era. (On the other hand, a company like There will be laws to protect it. This means that dating sites can choose to charge a fee rather than rely on a 230-style business model. The existence of these exceptions shows that there will be more examples in the post-230 world.