Critics fear proposed federal law jeopardizes internet freedom

Congress is considering legislation that would carve out a new exception to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act causing widespread concern. Section 230 allows websites to run user content without concern for legal responsibility. The legislation allows state prosecutors to act against websites that host ads for sex with children. Those opposing the new law say that a federal law passed in 2015 already allows federal prosecution for websites hosting ads for sex with children. They also fear that these proposed changes to Section 230 could open the door to frivolous lawsuits. (Ars Technica, September 6, 2017, by Timothy B. Lee)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that while the Senate bill 1693 is attempting to fight sex trafficking particularly of children, it has the unfortunate effect of harming Section 230’s protections for online free speech and innovation. Section 230 establishes a shield from liability for content of website users essential for the stability of the websites. otherwise they could be sued out of existence or severely limited as venues for free expression.  (EFF, September 6, 2017, by Sophia Cope)

Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, September 7, 2017, criticizes Google for lobbying strenuously to stop SB 1693, calling its concern about frivolous lawsuits “a vague, poorly grounded fear.”