Aug 11, 2023

The Internet Dilemma

Matthew Herrick was sitting on his stoop in Harlem when something weird happened. Then, it happened again. And again. It happened so many times that it became an absolute nightmare—a nightmare that haunted his life daily and flipped it completely upside down.

What stood between Matthew and help were 26 little words. These 26 words, known as Section 230, are the core of an Internet law that coats the tech industry in Teflon. No matter what happens, who gets hurt, or what harm is done, tech companies can’t be held responsible for the things that happen on their platforms. Section 230 affects the lives of an untold number of people like Matthew, and makes the Internet a far more ominous place for all of us. But also, in a strange twist, it’s what keeps the whole thing up and running in the first place.

Why do we have this law? And more importantly, why can’t we just delete it?

Special thanks to James Grimmelmann, Eric Goldman, Naomi Leeds, Jeff Kosseff, Carrie Goldberg, and Kashmir Hill.

Reported by - Rachael Cusick
Produced by - Rachael Cusick and Simon Adler
with mixing help from - Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by - Natalie Middleton
Edited by - Pat Walters


Kashmir Hill’s story introduced us to Section 230.

Jeff Kosseff’s book The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet ( is a fantastic biography of Section 230

To read more about Carrie Goldberg’s work, head to her website ( or check out her book 
Nobody's Victim (

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Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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