Section 230 of the 1996 Communication Decency Act is a provision of the U.S. law that provides a legal framework for social media companies to operate. The law shields online platforms from legal liability for user-generated content. Essentially, this means that companies cannot be held liable for any information shared by users of their platforms.
The law has been criticized for being outdated, as it was written years before the multifarious cyberspaces like Facebook or Twitter existed. Now, however, experts see Section 230 as potentially promoting the spread of disinformation and misinformation, while providing a safe harbour for social media companies. It has also led to conversations about moderation of content on social media platforms and how that may lead to the infringement of the First Amendment.
Mark Anfinson, media attorney and adjunct professor of Media Law at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul says it is a double-edged sword. American society will have to deal with the law at the detriment of social media platforms becoming polluted with false information, he says. In the video below, he speaks about the impact of the law on society and how he views the role it plays in promoting the spread of disinformation.