Resolution Protecting Online Platforms and Services
WHEREAS, the Internet has created millions of new American jobs and generated billions of dollars in revenue for American businesses;
WHEREAS, online platforms enabled users to generate, upload, and share their own content, and this capability has become a core component of the online experience;
WHEREAS, ALEC’s principles of limited government and free markets suggest that the government should continue to take a light-touch approach to regulation online platforms and services;
WHEREAS, online platforms are businesses that should be allowed to operate in ways that best serve their users — and the government should not interfere with these businesses in order to advance a particular belief or policy;
WHEREAS, even if online platforms were to exhibit political bias in content display or moderation, the First Amendment protects this exercise of editorial discretion from government intervention;
WHEREAS, ALEC’s principles of limited-government and free markets oppose the use of antitrust law for political purposes;
WHEREAS, even the threat of legal action can significantly affect the exercise of speech rights protected by the First Amendment, and thus also raises constitutional concerns;
WHEREAS, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is a federal law limiting the liability of online platforms and services for content that they themselves did not share in creating and has been vital to the growth of user-generated content and free expression online;
WHEREAS, Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act ensures that websites will not be held liable as publishers for how they arrange, promote, or prioritize content, unless they are responsible for creating it;
WHEREAS, Section 230(c)(2)(A) of the Communications Decency Act limits the liability of online platforms for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable”;
WHEREAS, Section 230 limits the government’s ability to prosecute social media companies in parallel with the First Amendment’s protection of editorial discretion;
WHEREAS, Section 230 does not shield online platforms from liability for violations of federal criminal law or intellectual property law; and
WHEREAS, the sheer volume of user-generated content hosted by online platforms is so vast that, as Congress presciently recognized in enacting Section 230, imposing legal liability for content moderation decisions will significantly chill content moderation or simply cause online services to decline to host user-generated content;
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, ALEC finds that any antitrust action against any online platform or service must not be initiated based on its viewpoint or the procedures it uses to moderate or display content. Any antitrust suit should be based solely on a bona fide violation of antitrust laws, which require proof of economic injury to consumers through a reduction in competition.
THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, ALEC finds that it is well settled that the First Amendment restricts the government from regulating speech or restricting the publishing rights of online platforms or services, including the right to curate content.
THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, ALEC finds that online platforms and services do not lose Section 230 protections solely by engaging in moderation of content created by other individuals, and, indeed, Section 230 was intended to encourage such moderation by limiting second-guessing of such decisions.
THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, ALEC opposes any amendment of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that would reduce protections for the rights to freely speak, publish or curate content online, as the law already enables prosecution of online platforms and services for violations of federal criminal law or intellectual property law.