It’s not a shitposting police, but it still sucks.
Elizabeth Warren’s plan to fight disinformation online isn’t going to stop your friends from tweeting that pee is stored in the balls, even though some people on Twitter are worried that it might. But her plan is still worrying.
The reason why a lot of the internet can legally function is due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 states that providers and users of an “interactive computer service” won’t be treated as the publisher of “any information provided by another information content provider.” In short, it means that if you post a picture of pig poop balls in the replies to someone’s tweet, they won’t be able to sue Twitter for hosting that image. Because Twitter or Facebook aren’t liable for whatever weird shit you post the internet has become a bastion of creativity and also a quagmire of unreliable information. While Ted Cruz can’t sue Twitter for its users spreading a joke that he’s the Zodiac Killer, the families of Sandy Hook, Connecticut also can’t sue YouTube for hosting Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories about the 2012 shooting.
Section 230 is what gives social media the ability to function at all, but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its own limitations. Lawmakers have realized we do need to revisit Section 230, but their legislative approach hasn’t been helpful. The 2018 SESTA-FOSTA laws created an exception in Section 230 that made online platforms legally liable for conversations about sex work, which did not lead to the collapse of trafficking but a dissolution of the tools that sex workers use to keep themselves safe.