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Section 230

INCOMPAS Opposes Commerce Department’s Proposal to Redefine Language of Section 230

Liana Sowa

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Photo of Lindsey Stern from INCOMPAS web site

September 24, 2020 — Although much of the focus over proposed changes to Section 230 centers around how Big Tech enjoys immunity from liability for user-generated content, policy-makers should not loose sight of how rolling back Section 230 would hamper new entrants.

That’s the message delivered by officials at INCOMPAS, a trade group representing telecom competitors,  during a session of its virtual conference on September 16.

In particular, INCOMPAS is opposed the petition seeking to interpret Section 230 filed by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said Lindsey Stern, a policy advisor for the group.

The petition was filed at the Federal Communications Commission on July 27, 2020, and the FCC issued a public notice and sought comment on it. The time for public commenting ran from August 3 to September 2, with 15 additional days for reply comments.

”Regulation of online content would harm online innovation, investment and expression,” she said. That would make it very difficult for new companies to develop.

Section 230 allows for a free market to decide what services flourish, whether to offer wanted content or remove unwanted content, and to allow users to have their voices heard, she said.

Second, INCOMPAS believes that legislating is the job of Congress, not the FCC. While it is within the FCC’s jurisdiction to implement a statute by promulgating rules, the NTIA petition is asking the FCC to provide new interpretations of a long ago-passed statute.

“This administration should work with Congress, not the FCC,” said Stern. “The NTIA is asking the FCC to intervene when the statute has already been interpreted by the courts.”

Third, the FCC has a tradition of not regulating online content. Recently, the commission repealed the net neutrality rule and issued a restoring internet freedom order where it decided on light touch regulation, including broadband internet access services.

“It’d be weird to regulate information flowing over [broadband] and not [broadband] itself,” said Stern.

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