Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is applied too broadly to social media companies in a recent letter. The law, which was passed at the beginning of the dot-com era, allows internet companies to avoid liability for content that has been posted by users on their platform. According to Thomas, “many courts have construed the law broadly to confer sweeping immunity on some of the largest companies in the world.”
According to a report by Axios, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that Section 230 of the CDA should be narrowed. Section 230 grants broad legal protections to social media companies with regard to content posted by users.
In a statement issued in response to a petition for writ of certiorari, Justice Thomas argued that Section 230 declares that social media platforms are not “publishers,” which means that they cannot be held liable for content posted by their users. Some industry analysts have suggested that platforms should be responsible for certain content on their platform, and for the censorship of content from their platforms, an act that makes them a publisher instead of a platform.
Enacted at the dawn of the dot-com era, §230 contains two subsections that protect computer service providers from some civil and criminal claims. The first is definitional. It 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.” §230(c)(1). This provision ensures that a company (like an e-mail provider) can host and transmit thirdparty content without subjecting itself to the liability that sometimes attaches to the publisher or speaker of unlawful content.
Justice Thomas went on to argue that many courts around the nation have construed the law too broadly, offering liability protection to some of the most powerful companies in the world.
“When Congress enacted the statute, most of today’s major Internet platforms did not exist. And in the 24 years since, we have never interpreted this provision,” Justice Thomas wrote. “But many courts have construed the law broadly to confer sweeping immunity on some of the largest companies in the world.”
Breitbart News reported in June that the Department of Justice was preparing a proposal that would repeal Section 230 of the CDA. A reversal would likely have a major impact on popular social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Stay tuned to Breitbart News for more updates on this story.