Feb 1, 2023

Is Section 230 Going To End Reddit As We Know It? — Hany Farid Weighs In

From MIT Technology Review

How the Supreme Court ruling on Section 230 could end Reddit as we know it

By Tate Ryan-Mosley

A legal provision tucked into the Communications Decency Act, Section 230 has provided the foundation for Big Tech’s explosive growth, protecting social platforms from lawsuits over harmful user-generated content while giving them leeway to remove posts at their discretion (though they are still required to take down illegal content, such as child pornography, if they become aware of its existence). The case might have a range of outcomes; if Section 230 is repealed or reinterpreted, these companies may be forced to transform their approach to moderating content and to overhaul their platform architectures in the process...

Wikimedia, the foundation that manages Wikipedia, is also worried that a new interpretation of Section 230 might usher in a future in which volunteer editors can be taken to court for how they deal with user-generated content. All the information on Wikipedia is generated, fact-checked, edited, and organized by volunteers, making the site particularly vulnerable to changes in liability afforded by Section 230...

To be sure, not all experts think the scenarios laid out by Reddit and Wikimedia are the most likely. “This could be a bit of a mess, but [tech companies] almost always say that this is going to destroy the internet,” says Hany Farid, professor of engineering and information at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Farid supports increasing liability related to content moderation and argues that the harms of targeted, data-driven recommendations online justify some of the risks that come with a ruling against Google in the Gonzalez case. “It is true that Reddit has a different model for content moderation, but what they aren’t telling you is that some communities are moderated by and populated by incels, white supremacists, racists, election deniers, covid deniers, etc.,” he says. 


Hany Farid is a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and Departement of EECS. 

Last updated:

February 17, 2023