Episode 144.3
Jan 7, 2020

What’s the big deal about Section 230? (And your 2020 predictions)

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Is it time to revisit Section 230? If we got rid of it, what kind of rules would replace it? And what platforms would even be left?

The potential for real war in 2020 might make the trade disputes of 2019 seem quaint and distant.

But cast your mind back, if you can, to just three weeks ago, when the fate of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement seemed to rest in part on a semi-obscure passage of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

That passage, Section 230, says online platforms are not legally liable for what people say or do in the spaces they run. Trillions of dollars in company valuation and the sharing of content as we know it rests on the rule. The new trade pact extends those same protections to Mexico and Canada, a move that’s drawn support from American tech giants and free speech advocates abroad, and skepticism from some lawmakers.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others want to reserve the right to change the rule amid an era of deep fakes, election meddling and radicalization by algorithm.

So is it time to revisit Section 230? If we got rid of it, what kind of rules would replace it? And what platforms would even be left? Last summer, we asked Jeff Kosseff, a professor of cybersecurity law at the U.S. Naval Academy and the author of “The 26 Words That Created the Internet.”

After revisiting that interview, we finish up our annual predictions by hearing from all of you.

We’re back with a brand-new episode next week! And there’s more: Our daily Alexa explainers and email newsletters keep coming. Subscribe here.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Jody Becker Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Sam Anderson Associate Producer