' Alex Miller | MTTLR

Political neutrality in content moderation compels private speech

Lots of online life today takes place on social media platforms. These platforms have become a place for communication of all types of ideas. Platforms establish community guidelines and moderate content for a variety of reasons. Congress saw a problem with platforms becoming liable for user content when they moderated “bad” content that was established in case law, so they passed section 230. This protects platforms from liability for content provided by users, while also allowing good faith moderation without revoking that protection. This protection has allowed platforms to create their own terms of service and define what type of content a user can post. If content violates the terms of use or is otherwise objectionable, platforms can remove it without fear of becoming liable as publishers of content on their site, instead of leaving all content untouched out of fear of incurring liability. Recently this section has come under fire. Specifically, because section 230 protects moderation that is not politically neutral on some of the biggest internet platforms. Several bills have been introduced to address this and mandate neutrality in moderation of content. The problem with this approach is that it will compel social media platforms to host content that they do not want to. Forcing a private company to do so violates their first amendment rights. The first amendment protects freedom of speech in the U.S. but section 230 provides enhanced protections. Congress conferred a benefit to internet platforms in the form of liability protections. These protections allow platforms to operate without fear of overwhelming lawsuits because of user posted content. It also allows platforms the freedom...