Is the Internet Changing? - What to know about SCOTUS and Section 230

Author
samuelstapp
Published
February 24, 2023

The internet is a wonderful, exciting, and chaotic place. With how much it has shaped modern culture, it's hard to imagine our world without it. But the internet as we know it could be coming to a dramatic change. This is all due to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) deciding to revisit Section 230, a law that protects online platforms from user liability.

If you're a business owner, social media manager, or simply an individual that uses social media, this could change how you use the internet. So, buckle up, because we've put together all the important info you need to know.

What exactly is Section 230?

Section 230 is often referred to as the "26 words that created the internet." 

Why?

Because it's been credited with enabling the growth of the internet and the rise of user-generated content platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The law was passed in 1996 as part of the Communications Decency Act, and it clearly states that online platforms are not responsible for the content any of their users post.

However, Section 230 has also come under scrutiny in recent years because of an increase in hate speech and misinformation that's been published to these platforms. Which brings us back to SCOTUS's push to reform or repeal this impactful law.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have a lot to be worried about with this change. For years, Section 230 has provided a level of protection against liability for user-generated content. This means that companies have been able to build and promote their online presence without having to worry about the risk of lawsuits stemming from user comments or reviews. A change in this law would force brands to become more accountable for the content on their platforms.

A possible outcome of this is increased moderation and filtering of user-generated content. This would limit the free flow of information. As a result, brands may have to reevaluate their approach to digital marketing, focusing more on moderation and content management to minimize legal risk.

How does this affect users?

Ordinary social media users and individual content creators are also at risk. If platforms become more responsible for the content on their sites, it could lead to increased censorship and limitations on free speech. This could impact the ability of individuals to express themselves online, particularly on controversial topics or issues.

Additionally, if brands are held responsible for third-party content, it could lead to increased scrutiny and backlash from consumers. This could change how people interact with brands on social media.

Will this affect politics?

Section 230 has been a contentious issue between political parties. Some argue that it gives too much power to big tech companies and others claim that it is necessary for free speech on the internet. If the Supreme Court makes changes to this law, it could influence the way that politicians and policymakers approach online content and regulation.

One more thing to note: If brands become more responsible for user-generated content, they may be forced to take a stance on controversial issues that arise on their platforms. This could lead to increased pressure from consumers and advocacy groups to take action on specific issues or content, putting companies in difficult positions. It could also lead to more transparency and accountability when it comes to political advertising.

What should you do?

Big changes to online platforms means even bigger changes for users of the platform. Whether you're a digital marketer, social media manager, or an ordinary user, it's important to stay informed about changes to Section 230. After all, it did give us the internet as we know it today.

Need help strategizing your social media presence? We're here for you.

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