Most Section 230 reformers are motivated by a desire to constrain the power of large technology companies, but many proposals to reform Section 230 would do the opposite. They would shift power toward large technology platforms and away from people and governments, making it even harder for startups to compete with large platforms. This paper provides a typology of these power shifts, examining the specific ways in which reform proposals could increase the power of large tech platforms. The paper then offers alternative proposals for addressing some of the concerns raised by legislators that would instead shift power in the opposite direction: away from platforms and toward people and governments.

By Matt Perault1

  1. INTRODUCTION

The CEOs of a handful of tech companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter — have testified repeatedly in congressional hearings over the past eight months, responding repeatedly to questions about the existence of an offensive tweet, a horrific Facebook Group, or an objectionable YouTube video. Each time, the message from legislators has been the same: you have too much power to set the rules for speech on your platform, we don’t like the rules you set, and we don’t like how you enforce them. Democrats argue that tech companies censor too little, that harmful speech is allowed to run rampant on their platforms, posing particular harm to vulnerable communities. Republicans argue that tech companies censor too much, that

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