Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (also known as CDA 230) is the law that enables every facet of the modern internet. If lawmakers rewrite or repeal Section 230, it would severely hurt millions of internet users – including small businesses.
Section 230 creates legal protection for websites and services that host and organize user-generated content, from third-party online marketplaces to discussion forums, online review sites, and social media, from being held liable for the user-generated content, but these websites and services are allowed to moderate (i.e., remove) content that they deem offensive, outside community guidelines, illegal, etc.
Without this important protection, online companies will be forced to choose between over-policing or turning a blind eye to all content on their sites. All of the online services we use daily would change in ways that would make them less useful to small businesses, and some may even cease to exist.
This would mean that the millions of small restaurants, hotels, retailers, and even local dry cleaners that depend on online reviews and social media to validate a business’s quality and draw customers could lose one of their most valuable marketing tools.
Finally, the small businesses that operate their own websites that allow customers to post feedback or encourage customers to comment and build a community will be at serious risk of lawsuits, and either have to hire an army of lawyers to review the content, allow harmful comments to go unmoderated, or shut down those parts of their websites.
Unfortunately, both Republican and Democrat lawmakers have their sights set on content moderation and reforming Section 230. The adverse impact on small businesses of repealing Section 230 needs to be taken into account, as they are not afforded the level of invulnerability larger companies have.