October 13, 2020
In an article on a contribution by Facebook to support efforts to administer the election, the Washington Post noted that Donald Trump recently tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!.” The piece then described Section 230 as “a part of U.S. law that protects social networks from litigation for their decisions regarding content moderation.”
Actually, Section 230 has nothing to do with protecting Facebook and other social networks from litigation over their content moderation. Facebook is a private network. That means, that just like the Washington Post it can make any decision it wants about the content that it carries.
What Section 230 does is protect Facebook from liability for defamatory content. This means, for example, if someone transmitted false assertions on Facebook that a person was a thief and a murderer, Facebook could not be sued. By contrast, if someone printed the identical claims in a Washington Post ad, the Post would face liability along with the person who bought the ad. Section 230 effectively allows Facebook to profit from being a conduit of libelous material.