How would a repeal of section 232 of Communications Decency Act affect the SDMB?

according to this, it would have a great impact overall websites with user-generated content (it starts out about sports websites but discusses web sites in general

Does anyone know how an MB like ours might be affected?

This board has always been aggressively moderated to limit liability, as if it never had any Section 230 protections at all. So I wouldn’t expect much should change.

I could see one change: the policy of leaving up posts that are moderated, rather than removing them. Granted, most would still be okay, but some stuff I could see possibly creating liability.

The issue with a Section 230 repeal is not that the possibility the SDMB might be held liable for posts that are found to be defamatory or otherwise actionable. Under Section 230, any attempt to sue the SDMB over user content is inherently moot. Without it, the SDMB will need to defend themselves from allegations on their merits even if the disputed content turns out to not be actionable, a considerably more complicated and expensive process. Effectiveness of moderation won’t change that.

If Section 230 were repealed without an equivalent replacement that provides the same liability shield to the SDMB’s owners, the SDMB would cease to exist.

Except in the Pit.

Really? What do you think you can say in the Pit that would cause criminal or civil exposure for the SDMB?

They allowed Internet bullying for example. And no, I am not going to get into details.

That’s convenient.

Agreed. No website would have comment sections without Section 230. Message boards are exclusively comment sections. As Cleophus points out, the effectiveness of the moderation is moot. There’s no viable business model if you have to make that argument in court.

What’s worse is that a Section 230 repeal would not strongly affect the big players. It would make starting a new social media type site too risky, but Twitter et al. are not going to suddenly close up shop. They make too much money on advertising and will have the money to defend themselves from what would be a new stream of nuisance* lawsuits as a cost of business.

*and again, nuisance lawsuits are the main threat. Things like some doctor getting butthurt over negative opinion comments on a review and suing Facebook over the alleged libel. Real defamation is rare.

So don’t go there. Easy as can beezy.

Twitter would not exist in its current incarnation without 230. It would have to change into some kind of paid PR broadcast thing. People willing to pay enough to post publicly that every post could be vetted (not cheap) and probably have to sign an agreement indemnifying Twitter against any lawsuit, which Twitter isn’t going to sign with someone without deep pockets. Randoms could, I assume, respond, but their response would not be publicly visible. Facebook would have to be something similar.

There’s no way a business lets you sign up for a free account and post stuff all over their website that they’re liable for. Twitter gets like $2/year in revenue per user. That doesn’t buy a lot of moderators or lawyers.

It’s not rare on social-media company scale. There’s probably actionable defamation thousands of times a day on Twitter. It’s just that there’s no point in suing some random Twitter egg. But if you could sue Twitter…

The absence of Section 230 doesn’t automatically mean websites are jointly liable for user content. The erroneous “platform vs publisher” dichotomy many conservatives interpret Sec 230 under is actually much closer to how things would work without it. The extent a particular moderation style or hypothetical bias constitutes editorial actions is an unexplored question simply because Sec 230 made it moot. Reviewing all submitted content on an individual basis is the last thing an existing website would attempt, because that certainly would be editorial in nature. The point is the largest social media websites will be able to fight it out while no one will have the practical ability to start new social media services (and, to be clear, message boards are social media too).

Cite? This is contrary to my understanding. You can sue both a newspaper who published and the person who wrote a defamatory article. My understanding is that 230 is the reason you can’t sue a website with a commenter who writes a defamatory comment. Is there another liability shield out there?

You are misunderstanding what I am saying. There are no pre-Sec 230 laws that would deem websites are always considered the publishers of user-submitted content.

With Section 230: There is a legally defined liability shield. The question of “who is the publisher” is moot with regard to the website operator. There is no need to examine how the operator interacts with user content.

Without Section 230: A website could be considered the publisher of user-submitted content. A website is free to argue the “platform vs publisher” distinction, but it may or may not be accepted. It will depend on specific cases and their facts.

Do you have a cite for this legal theory or is it your own? For example, prior to 230, did any publication successfully defend themselves by, say, publishing a random selection of letters to the editor and arguing that since they just provided a platform for the community to speak and exerted no editorial control, they couldn’t be liable as a publisher? That’s sort of the closest analog I can think of.

My understanding is that the only thing akin to a “platform” that exists outside of 230 is that of a common carrier, where no editorial control is exerted. The whole point of 230 is to create a middle ground between common carrier and publisher.