What Does This Mean for the Future?
While the lawsuit has yet to get under way, Facebook may have to pull off some impressive legal gymnastics to come away with its reputation unscathed. Of course, this is a multi-billion dollar company, so no lawsuit is going to be the death of it, but this case could set a precedent for social media regulation.
Facebook has undergone a fair amount of punishment within the past couple of years, including the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed. Profits remain untroubled, but Mark Zuckerberg and his team won’t want to spend any money they don’t have to, nor contend with further reputational harm.
We’ve previously argued here on Tech.co that Section 230 may be a tiny clause, but it’s one that near enough rules the internet:
“It’s rare that a single subsection of legislation receives so much attention and is debated with so much vigor and, often, venom. But this single section of the Communications Decency Act 1996 determines how every single one of us interacts with the internet on a day-to-day basis.” – Tom Fogden, Tech.co senior writer
There is broad consensus that Section 230 is no longer fit for purpose. The internet was a very different place in 1996, when the clause was originally written. Indeed, the Communications Decency Act runs to well over 100 pages but Section 230 makes up less than 700 words of the behemoth bill.
With social media platforms now so dominant in online life, it’s little surprise that their owners are facing calls for ever-greater scrutiny over the responsibility their owners may face for behavior on their platforms. The plucky little clause from 1996 may yet be due for revision.