Imagine an internet without social media, conversations, or the rich stores of free knowledge created by Wikipedia editors. An internet without content created and shared by anyone. That’s the internet we’d have without Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, which provides important legal protections for websites that host user-generated content.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee recently approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693, or SESTA), a bill intended to address online sex trafficking which would threaten core protections granted by Section 230. The House of Representatives has considered similar changes in recent months. As lawmakers reexamine parts of Section 230, it’s important to remember the law’s goal and essential elements.
The Wikipedia we know today simply would not exist without Section 230. User-driven projects could not thrive if websites were subject to greater liability for user content, and certainly could not be supported by a small nonprofit organization like the Wikimedia Foundation. For that reason, we have some serious concerns about the potential impact of SESTA and other amendments to Section 230. That’s why our Executive Director emphasized Section 230’s importance for Wikipedia’s hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors in a recent campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and why we submitted a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee expressing the importance of Section 230 for the Wikimedia projects. The current bill does not reflect the careful balance that preserves small, nonprofit community projects like Wikipedia.