While President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks have pushed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into the spotlight, President-elect Joe Biden has also raised concerns about the important internet law.
And his latest administration pick, Bruce Reed, has a history of calling for the law to be repealed.
Section 230 shields websites from being held liable over what is posted on them by users. It’s been hailed as “one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the internet” and tech advocates and experts have warned that changes—or a repeal—of the law could have enormous consequences online.
Despite this, Section 230 has come under attack from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, most recently with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introducing a bill that would repeal the law in two years unless Congress acts.
Biden himself called for Section 230 to be “revoked” during an interview with the New York Times earlier this year. A few months before that, Biden said he thought “we should be considering taking away” Section 230 exemptions during a CNN interview.
However, since then, Biden hasn’t said much about the law.
While Biden has stayed mum, Reed—who Biden tapped to be his deputy chief of staff on Tuesday—has been vocal in his opposition to the law.
Reed was Biden’s chief of staff during his tenure as vice president and has been criticized by progressive groups.
Reed was a co-author of an essay that was published in a book “Which Side of History?: How Technology is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives” where he argued that Section 230 “hurts our kids and is doing possibly irreparable damage to our democracy.” The chapter also ran as an op-ed published by Protocol earlier this month.
In the essay, Reed and James Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media, outright call for “throwing out Section 230 and starting over.”
“Washington would be better off throwing out Section 230 and starting over,” they wrote. “The Wild West wasn’t tamed by hiring a sheriff and gathering a posse. The internet won’t be either.”
But they also lay out other options like having Congress “chip away” at Section 230 by starting to “limit it.” The two authors note SESTA/FOSTA as examples, laws that chipped away at Section 230 and have faced intense criticism for the impact they’ve had on sex workers. They also suggest possibly denying Section 230 protections for “specific wrongs.”
The op-ed itself also faced criticism from TechDirt.
Reed also went further during a virtual event held by Georgetown Law about the book earlier this month where he said “it’s long past time to hold the social media companies accountable for what’s published on their platforms.”
Reed being in a senior position for the Biden administration raises the question as to whether he would push for Section 230 reform. Shortly after Election Day, the New York Times reported that Reed was “leading” the campaign’s tech advisers.
Given his role in “leading” the campaign’s tech advisers, it seems likely Reed will have a voice on technology issues while in the White House.