Gary Shapiro is the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are debating a proposal that would dramatically limit speech on the internet. Backed by two powerful house leaders, the proposed “Legislative Proposal to Sunset Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act” would eliminate the protections granted to internet platform providers under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This legislation would deal a critical blow to the fundamentally American tradition of free speech and the internet as we know and love it.

As hearing sponsors Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Frank Pallone Jr. explained in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, the goal of Section 230 was “to help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information” by establishing the common-sense principle that responsibility for online speech lies with the speaker. Section 230 also ensures internet platforms can remove offensive or inappropriate speech without fear of liability. As the lawmakers acknowledge, it “helped shepherd the internet from the ‘you’ve got mail’ era into today’s global nexus of communication and commerce.”

Congress did the right thing in 1996 when it paved the way for the commercial internet to grow with Section 230, precisely so American innovators could create new services for Americans, by Americans. Now, House Committee on Energy and Commerce members of both parties are rushing through legislation that would strip the protections afforded by “the 26 words that created the internet.”

We no longer live in an era where news is delivered by a limited number of broadcast and cable TV channels. Social media and free exchanges of opinion online are a growing source of information for millions of Americans, and Section 230 helps keep those platforms vibrant, engaging, and useful.

Eliminating Section 230 would be a gift from Congress to trial lawyers eager to make a quick buck. In fact, without these protections, anyone could shake down or sue website owners for information posted or comments made by individual users. That would add a potentially crippling “litigation tax” to the cost of doing business for any site that allowed public commentary—and it will put the future of your favorite online services and thousands of other social media sites at risk

While proponents of this legislation like to frame it as pushback against Big Tech, the reality is that Section 230 protects innovators of all sizes, including small businesses and startups. It protects church bulletin boards, online newspapers, and microblogs. Moreover, it protects our free speech. If Section 230 is struck down or weakened, it will leave behind a bleak internet—either an oversanitized version or a free-for-all one. In short, sunsetting Section 230 will chill the free speech allowed by our dynamic internet innovation ecosystem, and eliminate the tools and functions that Americans love and rely on, making the online experience worse for everyone.

Additionally, claims that Section 230 stands in the way of efforts to stop child sex, drug trafficking, and other crimes online ignore the fact that these actions are already prosecutable. If something is illegal in real life, it is illegal on the internet.

Section 230 let us build an economic miracle, and now some in Congress would have us burn it down. Blowing up this legal framework would be shooting ourselves in the foot—and bestowing a tremendous gift onto America’s economic rivals.

As technology moves forward, it is true Congress has many complex issues to deal with, from AI to algorithmic accountability. While grappling with these issues, the one thing Congress should not do is take down the legal tent pole upholding U.S. innovation. This is the time for anyone and everyone who uses and relies on internet platforms to make their voice heard (thanks to Section 230)—and tell Congress “no thanks” to a proposal that would mean a bleak and limited future for the internet.

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