As freedom of speech and fake news take center stage in the international dialogue, The Internet Governance Forum USA 2020 took these subjects and who is responsible head-on. cPanel’s General Counsel, David Snead, was part of the online panel discussion on “Should online platforms moderate and be accountable for user-created content?”. Other panelists included Former U.S. Congressman Chris Cox, Berkley Professor Hany Farid, Syd Terry – the Legislative Director of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and Brookings Institution’s Nicol Turner-Lee. Moderated by the Internet Society’s Senior Policy Advisor, Katie Jordan, the panel focused on the Communications Decency Act (C.D.A.) of 1996 and if it was still a viable solution for today’s platforms.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230). This law holds users accountable for the content they post online, rather than shifting that responsibility to platforms hosting the online content.
The panel discussed the current state of social media and hate speech and offered solutions from amending Section 230 to new legislation. When asked about proposed broad changes to Section 230, cPanel’s own David Snead explained the positive impact of Section 230 for small business:
“Because small businesses do not have to immediately create a speech compliance program or some other kind of legislatively mandated way of running their business; they’re able to get online fast now. That’s one of the success stories of Section 230, and it is one of the success stories right now that we’re seeing with the pandemic. The one great thing that we’re seeing in internet business right now is just a flood of small businesses coming online. I like to use statistics for these kinds of things. In our business, our direct sales to small businesses have increased by a percentage month over month over month. For me, what this shows is that folks with side gigs who have lost their jobs are actually putting their businesses online right now. That’s what Section 230 has given to us. It gives folks the ability to put their businesses online in three months when they possibly would not have any income source. So the unintended consequences of these very broad brush attempts to deal with Section 230 are pretty profound, particularly from an economic standpoint.”
As David explained, this is a vital subject beyond just controlling conversations on social networks and could impact the internet as a whole.
Watch the entire discussion “Should online platforms moderate and be accountable for user-created content?”