Section 230’s implications radiate far beyond speech. This essay discusses the ways 230 has affected state and local governments. In particular, it outlines how platforms use 230 to chill and slow regulatory efforts aimed at addressing the market failures platforms themselves create. For example, when Airbnb moves into a city, the short-term rental platform tries to use 230 to externalize the costs to public safety and housing affordability it inflicts on communities. As the case law related to 230 continues to grow, change, and diverge, the scope of 230 only becomes more confusing to local and state lawmakers. Congress must act to clarify this extremely important law and return it to its origins as a law that protects platforms from speech-related torts. Such a move is urgent and necessary to make this pillar of the modern Internet work better for all involved.
By Abbey Stemler1
When people think about Section 230, content moderation is what often comes to mind. Less discussed are 230’s implications for state and local governments. When platforms’ digital operations spill into physical spaces, regulators on the ground must respond to the inevitable market failures created. Airbnb is a clear illustration of this. When the short-term rental (“STR”) platform comes to a town, issues of safety, taxation, and housing affordability all must be addressed. Yet, Airbnb and similar platforms have and will continue to use Section 230 in all its ab...