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What you need to know about Section 230

Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman, Brian Sozzi, Myles Udland, and Alexis Keenan discuss Section 230 ahead of today’s big tech hearing.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is set to begin a hearing where they're going to examine Section 230 once again. This is the law that essentially makes it OK for various social media platforms to have all kinds of content on their sites. And there are different laws governing them then govern traditional media. But I'm not explaining it very well. So let me bring in Alexis Keenan, because she will do a much better job of it. Alexis, what do we need to know about this law and why it's being scrutinized?

ALEXIS KEENAN: OK, Julie, sure, so yeah-- and you got it there. This is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This is the law that really made the internet what it is. It allows these platforms that host user generated content to go in and moderate what users post without the fear that they will have the type of liability that would attach to a company like ours, a media company, or a publisher, for that matter.

So this is actually the second time in the past month that these two CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, of Facebook and Twitter respectively, will face a congressional hearing to testify about this law. And it's really over that power that they wield, through this 230 law, that allows them to remove, amend, or just let a post stand. And so that power is under so much controversy these days. Because you have Republicans on one side, saying that they're not using this power correctly. Both sides, really, Republicans and Democrats, and folks in the middle, too, saying that the companies are misusing the power.

Liberals would like to see the power used more broadly, more aggressively, to take down content, while conservatives have argued that conservative viewpoints and thoughts-- speech, really, online-- is being taken down too aggressively. Now though today, the CEOs will be specifically asked to address their decisions to block an October 14 post by the New York Post. It's a story that was challenging President-elect Joe Biden and his representations that he made about his son Hunter Biden's Ukrainian business dealings.

Now Twitter has since said that it was wrong, their decision that they made to take down the URL of that post, to really block people from proliferating that story and sharing it online. Facebook took a similar action with that same story. But both CEOs here are expected today to really tout their moderation efforts, these policies that they've put in place to get information to people online, on their platforms, that can be relied upon. They'll be touting their efforts to get people out to vote and to make sure that the information that they're receiving online is as accurate as it can be.

$Now Twitter did share some advance notice of what its CEO Jack Dorsey plans to tell lawmakers today. One of his main points is that he does not believe that eliminating that 230 law will really address the concerns that lawmakers are going after here.