AOL founder Steve Case was there in Dulles, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C ., when in 1996 the Communications Decency Act was transferred as one of the purposes of a major repair of U.S. telecommunications statutes that President Bill Clinton ratified into rule. Soon after, in its first test, a provision of that achievement which is to say that, “[ n] o provider or used of an interactive computer busines shall be treated as the publisher or talker of any information provided by another knowledge content provider ,” would famously save AOL’s bacon .
That wasn’t coincidental. In a wide-ranging call earlier today with Case — who has become an influential investor over the last 15 years through his firm Revolution and its early-stage, growth-stage, and seed-stage monies — he spoke about his involvement in Section 230′ s innovation, and why the thinks it’s time to change it.
We’ll have more from our interview with Case tomorrow. In the meantime, now he talks about the related legal protections for online programmes that took center stage yesterday or, at least, were supposed toduring the Senate’s latest Big Tech hearing.
In that early birthing stagecoach of the internet,[ we were all] figuring out what the rules of the road were, and the 230 requirement was something I had participated in. I do judge the first lawsuit related to it was related to AOL. But 25 several years later, it’s fair to take a fresh look at it –[ it’s] well placed to take a fresh look at it. I’ve not recently spent sufficient time digging in to really have a strong point of view in terms of exactly what to change, but I think it’s fair to say that what stimulated impression in those early days when very few people were online maybe doesn’t make as much sense now when when the entire world is online and the effects these platforms have is so significant.
At the same time, I think you have to be super careful. I think that’s what what the CEOs testifying[ yesterday] were trying to emphasize.[ It was]’ We get that there’s a desire to relook at it. We too get that because of the election season, it’s become a highly politicized issue. Let’s engage in this discussion, and perhaps there are some things that need to be modified to reflect the current reality . . . let’s don’t do it exactly in the heat of a political moment.’
When we started AOL 35 years ago, only 3% of parties are connected. They were only online about an hour per week, and it was still illegal, actually, for customers or businesses to be on the internet[ so] I spent a great deal of time on commercializing the internet , opening up consumers and transactions, figuring out what the freedom rules of the road were in terms of things like taxes on e-commerce. And generally, we were able to convince regulators and government leaders that a light touch for the internet determined sense, because it was a new idea, and it wasn’t clear exactly how it was going to develop.
But now, it’s not a new idea. And now it has a profound impact on people’s lives and our communities and countries. And so I’m not startled that there’s more more focus on it,[ though] it’s a little too bad that there’s so much attention right this moment because in an election season, things tend to get a little bit red-hot on both sides.
Tthere are legitimate issues that the policymakers need to be looking at and are starting to look at , not just in Washington, DC, but more broadly in Brussels. And I feel having more of a dialogue between the innovators and the policymakers is actually going to be critical in this internet third beckon, because the sectors up for grabs are most important aspects of our lives — things like health care and education and food and agriculture. And that’s really going to require not just innovation from a engineering standpoint, but thoughtfulness from a a policy standpoint.
I understand industrialists “whos got” frustrated by regulations kind of slowing down the tempo of information. I get that. Undoubtedly, some of the businesses that we back have suffered from that. But at the same time, you can’t not expect the government — which is elected by the people — to serve the people, including protecting the people .”