Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In 1996, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which fueled the rise of the modern internet and technology giants Facebook, Google and Twitter. That law contains a provision that has emerged as one of the nation’s most hotly contested issues.

Section 230 allowed these companies to largely regulate themselves, shielding them from liability for much of the content their users post on their platforms and granting companies legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.

The key part of the provision—sometimes called the “26 words that created the internet”—reads, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

What that boils down to: Individual users can be sued for content they post, but generally the platforms cannot, at least not successfully.

There are exceptions