In February, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases about content moderation by online platforms such as social media networks. The cases—Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh—both have relevance for the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which since 1996 has broadly held internet platform services not liable for content shared by their users. Section 230 is considered by many to be crucial to the business models of social media companies, which have thrived on controversial user content, and a substantive change in its legal interpretation could affect how such companies recommend content, among other things.

How could a ruling that imposes liability on internet platforms change their business? To find out, Chicago Booth’s Kent A. Clark Center for Global Markets polled its US Economic Experts Panel.

Kenneth Judd, Stanford
“Platforms would impose new rules, which would impose a burden on all users.”
Response: Agree

Larry Samuelson, Yale
“If the liability is sufficiently demanding and enforced, we can expect a significant reduction in total content. It is less clear that the overall usefulness of the content on the platform will be reduced.”
Response: Agree

Richard Schmalensee, MIT
“A substantial effect would require substantially stricter standards.”
Response: Agree

Aaron Edlin, University of California at Berkeley
“It depends upon how much content is eliminated and the positive or negative value of advertising next to that content. Consider that Musk reportedly lost, rather than won, boatloads of advertising revenue (in part) by loosening content restraints.”
Response: Uncertain

Robert Shimer, University of Chicago
“Less content but higher quality could raise user engagement and hence ad revenue.”
Response: Uncertain

Daron Acemoğlu, MIT
“These platforms are playing the roles previously performed by newspapers, but without editorial responsibility. Legal liability would push them toward responsible publishing, especially toward less algorithmic boosting of the most questionable content to maximize user engagement.”
Response: Agree

Anil K Kashyap, Chicago Booth
“But some legit content will be pulled back too.”
Response: Agree

More from Chicago Booth Review

More from Chicago Booth

Your Privacy
We want to demonstrate our commitment to your privacy. Please review Chicago Booth's privacy notice, which provides information explaining how and why we collect particular information when you visit our website.