I wrote the law that allows sites to be unfettered free speech marketplaces. I wrote that same law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to provide vital protections to sites that didn’t want to host the most unsavory forms of expression. The goal was to protect the unique ability of the internet to be the proverbial marketplace of ideas while ensuring that mainstream sites could reflect the ethics of society as a whole.
In general, this has been a success — with one glaring exception. I never expected that internet CEOs would fail to understand one simple principle: that an individual endorsing (or denying) the extermination of millions of people, or attacking the victims of horrific crimes or the parents of murdered children, is far more indecent than an individual posting pornography.
Ron Wyden (D-OR) on the horror he hath wrought.
More specifically, Section 230 is the portion of the Act that explicitly states social media platforms (among others) are not publishers and therefore not liable for content posted by users to their sites.
Wyden’s point is that the whole “lulz freeze peach!” crowd is fundamentally wrong; freedom of expression on social media platforms is protected not by the constitution (i.e. the First Amendment), but by legislature. Which, of course, can be changed, limited, or revoked at any time. Without Section 230, everyone who’s ever been the target of, say, a Twitter hate mob could sue Twitter for facilitating it and that, fundamentally, the aggregate of all these lawsuits would put the company out of business.
It’s worth pointing out that Wyden thinks this would be a bad thing. YMMV.