In September, we wrote to you about SESTA, a bill which would weaken internet platforms’ intermediary liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Wikimedia Foundation favors safe harbor rules like Section 230, since they allow website hosts to act neutrally and avoid interfering with community governance. For that reason, we submitted a letter in support of the current legal framework to the Senate Commerce Committee. In October, in a House Judiciary Committee Hearing, Chris Cox gave a great summary of the importance of Section 230 for Wikipedia and similar projects.
Since then, a Manager’s Amendment to SESTA was released. The revised version of the bill makes some important changes over the original, but still makes troubling amendments to the protections granted by Section 230. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the Manager’s Amendment last Wednesday, and SESTA will now likely proceed to a full Senate vote at some point. Senator Wyden, one of the original authors of Section 230, has put a hold on SESTA, which means there is a pause before the next vote.
Last week, we published a blog post on Medium (and on our blog), highlighting the importance of Section 230 for Wikipedia's growth, and some core principles that lawmakers should keep in mind as they evaluate SESTA and similar bills. Section 230 has encouraged good-faith content moderation, under a single federal standard, and protected not only large websites, but also small startups and nonprofits. Congress should avoid disrupting the balance that has made projects like Wikipedia possible.
If you want to follow SESTA and Section 230 developments more closely, I recommend Eric Goldman's Technology & Marketing Law Blog. They are providing good quick legal analysis with each step for the bill.
Leighanna & Stephen--_______________________________________________Leighanna Mixter
Technology Law and Policy Fellow
1 Montgomery Street, Suite 1600
San Francisco, CA 94104
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