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?The pandemic has changed the way we travel, shop, make connections, and even buy new homes. User reviews, ratings, and profiles are vital to making informed decisions, and Section 230 is the law that makes all of that content possible. Internet Association (IA) hosted a panel on July 21 to discuss how online platforms are responding to new challenges presented by COVID-19 and how user-generated content will be a vital part of the road to recovery across the country. IA’s Senior Director of Federal Government Affairs Mike Lemon moderated the panel of industry leaders including:?

Melanie Goins

General Counsel at Care.com

Brad Young

Associate General Counsel and Vice President at Tripadvisor

Ken Wingert

Head of Federal Government Relations at Zillow

Section 230 Enables The Best Of The Internet

Thanks to Section 230, online platforms can host user-generated content, enforce community guidelines, and engage in robust content moderation efforts. The panelists said they see the value of Section 230 every day as they run their businesses.

How Section 230 Enables Content Moderation

Goins shared how Care.com relies on Section 230 protections to host essential information on caregivers’ backgrounds and enforce its terms of service. Choosing a caregiver for loved ones is an important decision for any family, and Section 230 helps parents on Care.com choose confidently. Section 230 empowers Care.com to engage in content moderation efforts to root out any misleading content uploaded to a caregiver’s profile. According to Goins, “the value proposition of our business would be impacted if we couldn’t use 230 to do the screening we do.”?

Young then explained how proactive content moderation also helps Tripadvisor build credibility and trust among its users. User-generated ratings and reviews are “how we set ourselves up to become the reliable voice in travel,” Young said. A travel site without honest reviews written by fellow travelers would look more like the curated and out-of-date guidebooks of the past. And that’s what would happen without Section 230.

Section 230 Is Even More Vital During COVID-19

Our panelists also shared how internet companies swiftly developed new tools to help users learn, work, and grow virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. These new capabilities are only possible because of Section 230. Young detailed how Tripadvisor was able to launch “Travel Safe” tools to help users find important health and safety information about hotels and restaurants reopening during COVID-19. Section 230 enables Tripadvisor to host this valuable content “without fearing for liability if an upset business complains when that content is on our site,” said Young. 

Wingert noted that while COVID-19 makes traditional open houses more difficult, Zillow has refined its 3D virtual tour capabilities to empower home buyers and sellers. Wingert noted that Zillow has seen an 800 percent increase in use of these tools since March. Virtual tours are user-generated, and consequently, Section 230 means that Zillow can confidently host them  without fear of additional legal liability.  

There was also discussion about how potential changes to Section 230 could threaten the thriving internet ecosystem we know today. Section 230 succeeds because it establishes a streamlined federal framework of liability protections. Revisions to 230 could mean that platforms would need to juggle different laws in each state. “If we’re spending all our time concerned with 51 different compliance regimes it really limits the ability of companies to innovate and come up with new products that customers are asking for,” Wingert said.

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