Dershowitz on Defending the Constitution: Urge Congress to Act on Section 230

July 16, 2021 Updated: July 17, 2021

Americans can reach out to members of Congress on curbing Big Tech’s power by altering Section 230 as well as use smaller, upcoming social media platforms to bolster competition, according to law professor Alan Dershowitz.

“Make sure that their members of Congress are sensitive and do something about 230. Subscribe to alternate platforms than the big three and try to create competition, and just expose this, make it, bring it to the public, make it clear to everybody that this is a great threat to the marketplace of ideas and freedom of speech,” Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor and constitutional expert, told The Epoch Times.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields Big Tech, including Facebook, from most lawsuits because it bars website providers from being liable for information “provided by another information content provider.”

As the platforms have gained increasing market share in recent years, and taken increasingly aggressive moderation actions like banning President Donald Trump in January, calls to alter the law have grown. Trump sued the platforms last week.

Opinions on how to alter Section 230 differ. Dershowitz suggests giving companies a choice.

“You can check the box. If you’re just going to be a platform and you don’t censor, then you get to 230 exemption, but if you’re going to be like The New York Times or CNN and decide what goes on and what doesn’t go on, then you have to be treated like The New York Times and CNN; you could be [sued] if what you put on the air is defamatory or in other ways subject to legal restrictions,” he said.

It’s not clear what the Constitution says about the matter, which is why the Trump suit “is an important one, because it may finally give us the answer,” added Dershowitz.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a George H.W. Bush nominee, has written about his opposition to what he describes as courts having “departed from the most natural reading” of the section by “giving Internet companies immunity for their own content.” As of now, the opinions of the other eight justices remain unclear.

Big Tech companies have largely agreed that Section 230 needs altered and made recommendations to members of Congress on what changes to make. No reforms have yet been passed by the House or the Senate, both currently controlled by Democrats.

Besides filing an affidavit in the Trump case, Dershowitz recently sued CNN over alleged defamation and Netflix over a portrayal of him in a show about Jeffrey Epstein.

“I’m actively involved in trying to make the marketplace of ideas more open to dissenting and diverse views,” said Dershowitz, who will soon participate in a panel discussion about defending the Constitution held by The Epoch Times.

The law professor also penned a book about how “Big Tech progressives” and universities created a new culture of censorship. The “Case Against the New Censorship: Protecting Free Speech from Big Tech, Progressives, and Universities,” was published earlier this year.

“It’s an exposure of the new type of censorship, but comparing it to the old censorship,” he said. “The old censorship was by the government, we won all those cases because the First Amendment was on our side. I litigated many of the most important First Amendment cases of the 20th century, and we won them all. But now the censorship is coming from private parties that have their own personal rights and they think of themselves as do gooders and so it’s much harder to fight against the new censorship, and so this is a book that describes ways of fighting against it, and what the problem is.”

Panel discussion: Defending the Constitution: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever
Date: Monday, July 19, 2021
Time: 6 p.m.–8 p.m.
For more information about the panel discussion, please visit epochevents.us.

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