Close this menu

Amending Section 230 To Fight Illegal Gun Sales Forgets Federal Criminal and Firearms Laws

Section 230 has been pivotal in balancing digital free expression with online safety. It empowers us to connect with our families, our communities, our customers, and small businesses across the country without fear of criminals and bad actors taking advantage.

By holding platforms responsible for what they produce and users responsible for what they post, these common-sense rules of the road protect an internet by the people, for the people. Section 230 is a narrow, straightforward liability protection that shields lawful content, not unlawful content.

Today, NetChoice announced opposition to The Accountability for Online Firearms Marketplaces Act—a bill due to be introduced by Sens. Feinstein (D-CA), Blumenthal (D-CT), and Whitehouse (D-RI). Fundamentally, this bill forgets that federal criminal laws, such as federal firearms laws, are already exempted from Section 230. As a result, this bill could upend existing efforts to tackle illegal gun sales online for no benefit.

“Online businesses engage in robust actions to remove illegal gun sales from their sites, but this legislation puts those efforts at risk by upending the legal framework social media and e-commerce sites rely on to accurately identify and remove harmful content,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. “Like many other proposals to regulate online content, this bill wrongly assumes the desired outcome can be accomplished by simply changing Section 230.”

“This bill illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Section 230’s basic provisions. Today, Section 230 empowers law enforcement to hold online businesses and their users alike liable if they break federal criminal law, such as federal firearms laws,” continued Szabo.