The 104th Congress enacted Section 230 as part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Designed to protect innovation and free speech, 230 allows online intermediaries that host or publish third-party content immunity from civil liability for that content free rein to do so regardless of the type of content. This has allowed the internet ecosystem to grow and thrive and has provided a forum for new applications and lively content. However, there is concern that the lack of accountability has contributed to problems from hate speech to terrorist content, to stalking, to foreign interference in U.S. elections, and allowing shady practices to flourish. In the 26 years since Section 230’s passage, technological advances have accelerated, and the internet harbors a wide range of content, applications, and services.

With a tremendous range of economic, social, and political activities taking place online, there are questions regarding whether the absence of legal liability is still a desirable policy and whether Section 230 rules inadvertently enable harassing or abusive speech and behavior. Are there any steps needed to update the legislation? What is the best way to preserve the positive economic and societal gains stemming from the internet while still protecting vulnerable populations? To explore these challenges, “The Section 230 Project” from Brookings convenes pre-eminent thought leaders from the Institution and expert guest contributors to inform the current policy landscape and chart a path forward.