April 06, 2022

The Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology held its 2022 Spring Symposium on April 1, 2022. The program, 25 Years and 26 of the Internet's Most Controversial Words: Section 230 and the Modern Internet, invited students, faculty, and guests to hear from experts providing in-depth analysis and exploration of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Katie Koopman (3L), Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology (JLT), Vol. 30, welcomed attendees and provided a brief overview of the aims of JLT. As the publication's title suggests, JLT is committed to exploring and publishing scholarship on issues related to technology and the law. As technology regularly redefines the legal field, the questions posed by the symposium regarding Section 230 are more relevant than ever. Koopman also took the opportunity to say a special thank you to the members of the JLT Executive Board for all of their hard work; Professor Elizabeth Winston for her guidance as faculty advisor; and Dean Steven Payne, the administration, faculty, and staff for their support.

Prior to the start of the panels, Representative Chris Cox, one of the authors of Section 230, provided keynote remarks. Cox is an attorney and politician who served as chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a 17-year Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, and a member of the White House staff in the Reagan Administration. Following his tenure at the SEC, he joined Bingham McCutchen LLP as a partner in the firm's Corporate, M&A and Securities practice, and also served as president of Bingham Consulting LLC. In 2014, Cox became a partner with Morgan Lewis and president of Morgan Lewis Consulting LLC, and in 2020 he retired, becoming of counsel at the law firm. He currently serves on the boards of several organizations. After lightly noting the particular timeliness of the symposium as People Magazine just announced Section 230 as the “Sexiest Law of the Millenium,” Cox used his time to set the scene for the day’s discussions. Cox began by sharing the origin story of Section 230, giving historical context for why it was needed and what it was originally intended to do. He then took a step back to give his broader opinion on the questions posed by the symposium's two panels.

Panel 1: Can Freedom of Speech and Content Moderation Coexist?

In the first panel of the symposium, Mary Graw Leary, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research, provided opening remarks. The panel provided a diversity of views and perspectives, breeding interesting conversation. After opening remarks from each panelist, they took time to look more closely at the different marginalized voices that are a part of the debate, how to bring all stakeholders together to address issues in Section 230, and to give final comments on the question posed by the panel's title.

Moderator: Mary Graw Leary, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research and Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

Panelists: KJ Bagchi, Senior Policy Counsel, New America Open Technology Institue; Allison Hayward, Head of Case Screening, Oversight Board; Yiota Souras, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and Leslie Garfield Tenzer, Luk-Cummings Family Faculty Scholar, Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law

Panel 2: Repeal or Amend? Section 230 and Governing Internet Liability Moving Forward

In the second panel, Will Rinehardt moderated a lively conversation about the current legislative landscape surrounding Section 230. Panelists discussed the range of possible ways to address concerns about how Section 230 currently operates — providing each of their thoughts on the effects caused by reform or repeal.

Moderator: Will Rinehart, Senior Research Fellow, The Center for Growth & Opportunity at Utah State University

Panelists: Neil Fried, Principal, DigitalFrontiers Advocacy; Jeff Kosseff, Associate Professor of Law, United States Naval Academy; Geoff Manne, President & Founder, International Center for Law and Economics; and Kate Tummarello, Executive Director, Engine

Following the panels, Koopman offered thanks to each of the panelists and the audience for their time. She ended the session with the final thought, “I think everybody who was in attendance today, virtually and here in person, has a more solid understanding of Section 230’s impact [and] I hope that everybody feels as though they are a little closer to solving these hard questions. I’m not really sure that there is an easy answer to any of it, but at least we’ve spent the day engaging in respectful debate about the answers."