For the Sake of Free Speech, Keep Section 230

Conservative speech might be the first to go under the justification of increased legal risk.

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The only remedy Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Pallone Jr. offer for online harms is to turn the plaintiffs’ bar loose on tech companies, a curious solution for Republicans who historically favor tort reform. Eradicating or curtailing Section 230 will ensure that only those companies already big and rich enough to pay legal-defense bills will survive.

The First Amendment already ensures that social-media companies don’t have to carry any content they don’t wish, but Section 230 makes it fiscally safe to carry content they might not otherwise. Changing that should worry those concerned about the removal of online conservative speech, as those sentiments might be the first to go under the justification of increased legal risk.

Those same tech giants will also, inevitably, be the ones with seats at the table crafting a new regulatory regime during the 18-month window after repeal, likely leaving nascent and yet-to-be-founded firms at a disadvantage. Today’s most successful platforms benefited greatly from the liability shield, but they would have every incentive to deny it to future competitors.

Eliminating Section 230 won’t solve the already illegal harms the authors mention, but it will kill innovation that could result in better social-media options in the future. Better to avoid unintended consequences and increase funding to law enforcement rather than lining the pockets of trial lawyers.

Jessica Melugin

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Read the full letter on The Wall Street Journal.