The social media platform Reddit is now asking the Federal Communications Commission to reject a petition filed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Reddit says that accepting the petition “would change the very trajectory of the internet.”
After the petition was filed, the FCC has been reaching out to the public and collecting comments about the amendment. Reddit shared its opinion about the amendment and urged the FCC against making the amendment.
The current Section 230 gives online platforms immunity from the liabilities that stem from the posts made by their users and third parties. It has generally been described as one of the most valuable privileges that internet platforms have.
President Trump's executive order states the following:
“It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”
“When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.”
Some key points from Reddit's response, which is worth reading in full:
“As a small, privately-held company with limited legal resources, we will leave it to other Commenters to argue whether the Petition is retaliatory, unconstitutional, or fatally flawed in its gross misunderstanding of Section 230 and Congress's intent in passing it. Instead, Reddit's most valuable contribution in this matter comes from our status as among the most popular forum-based websites in America, and the primarily user-led way in which content moderation on Reddit happens.”
“It is our view that the debate on Section 230 too often focuses solely on very large, centrally moderated platforms—and individual grievances with them—to the exclusion of smaller, differently organized websites that take an alternative approach.”
“However, the most important point that we offer, as we hope to make clear in this filing, is that with regard to Reddit and other community-moderated websites, Section 230 protects our individual users just as much as it does us. Their continued protection is crucial to the viability of community-based moderation online.”
Reddit's argument is that the subreddits on its platform are generally managed by moderators who take it upon themselves to remove information that should not belong in their community. But if the petition gets accepted, every individual reader would be burdened with the additional responsibility of having to self-police themselves.
The platform has also presented a testimonial from LGBT subreddit moderators who explained the significance of Section 230 in allowing them to take down abusive content. The moderators had also said that changes to the section would affect their “ability” to keep their community safe for “marginalized users.”
“Imagine a universe where trolls could use Section 230 loopholes to sue based on the decisions of these individual moderators. That is the universe that the Petition is leading the internet towards,” the platform argued.
“To allow this to happen would change the very trajectory of the internet. The health of the internet, and users' right to create their own online spaces, hangs in the balance, and for these reasons, the Commission should not undertake a rulemaking proceeding based upon NTIA's petition.”