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Tech Check: The Google Antitrust Suit And Section 230 Edition

Google's offices stand in downtown Manhattan on October 20, 2020. The Justice Department and 11 states filed an antitrust case against Google that accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets,
Google's offices stand in downtown Manhattan on October 20, 2020. The Justice Department and 11 states filed an antitrust case against Google that accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets,

Section 230 is confusing. But it’s a law which many federal lawmakers, Republican and Democratic, agree has to change. Yes, you read that right. Bipartisan agreement in Washington.

So…what is it? The Verge defined it this way:

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996, says an “interactive computer service” can’t be treated as the publisher or speaker of third-party content. This protects websites from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, although there are exceptions for copyright violations, sex work-related material, and violations of federal criminal law.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA)  crafted Section 230 so website owners could moderate sites without worrying about legal liability. The law is particularly vital for social media networks, but it covers many sites and services, including news outlets with comment sections — like  The Verge. The Electronic Frontier Foundation  calls it “the most important law protecting internet speech.”

Speaking to  1A,Sen. Mark Warner said it’s time to reexamine Section 230, even though many tech companies have said they can’t operate in the same way without it. And this is what the president has said while out on the campaign trail.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2020

And there must be some collaborative energy in the air because Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Attorney General Bill Barr are  on the same side regarding the antitrust lawsuit the Justice Department filed against Google.

Here’s how Protocol broke down the suit:

The case, which was filed in federal court in Washington, marks the most aggressive action by the U.S. government against a tech company in decades. The DOJ accuses Google of leveraging its dominant position in search and search-advertising to elbow out rivals and disadvantage competitors.

The case revolves around some of Google’s antitrust weak spots: the exclusive, billion-dollar agreements that require mobile-phone manufacturers to keep Google as their default search engine, as well as Google’s decision to preload Google search on Android phones. The European Union  fined Google $5.1 billion over similar allegations two years ago.

In a blog post, Google Senior Vice President Kent Walker called the lawsuit “deeply flawed.”

If we change Section 230 — what do we risk? And what could be gained? And does this lawsuit represent the beginning of the end for Google as we know it today?

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