Fake News, Social Networking, Facebook, Twitter, Trump, Section 230, Conspiracy, Deepfakes


The public concern over the spread of “fake news” on social media has increased over the last decade. Large social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter have attempted to address fake news by flagging it as misleading. Even former President Trump has seemingly exhibited a sense of paranoia over its spread. While the term “fake news” is often used as a political weapon to discredit unfavorable information and opinions, fake news refers to factually false or grossly misleading content likely designed to sway or entrench one’s opinion on a particular topic. The pervasiveness of this type of fake news on the internet is a growing threat that requires attention before it becomes indistinguishable from true information in both appearance and popularity.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) helped to create a digital environment where fake news can spread comfortably and pervasively. Section 230 provides broad immunity to Internet service providers (ISPs)—including social media sites—against liability for third-party content found on their platforms. Social media companies earn most of their revenue from advertisements on their websites, and their revenue increases in proportion with the amount of traffic on their platforms. Thanks to Section 230, social media companies profit from the presence of fake news on their sites because users generally find such news to be more interesting and attractive than reality. As a result, social media companies may be reluctant to remove fake news from their platforms because it increases their revenue and presents no obvious costs.

Recently, Section 230’s breadth has come under political and public scrutiny. Most notably, former President Trump called for the entire repeal of Section 230, and various legislative proposals suggest amending Section 230 to expose social media companies to increased levels of liability. However, the proposed amendments and other proffered solutions are unlikely to serve as a panacea, and the legislature is likely to find a better solution outside of the CDA.