Communications Decency Act Section 230 and How the PLAN Act Could Change it

For over 20 years, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA230) has served as the legal foundation of American internet innovation, enabling user generated content to flourish, such as eBay’s auction marketplace, YouTube’s user-generated video platform, and home sharing listing pages on Airbnb. 

CDA230 fosters a free and open internet by clarifying that the users who create content – in our case, Airbnb’s host community – are treated as the content publishers – offering hosts the ability to describe their listing in their own voice, while offering platforms like Airbnb the ability to provide a safe and accountable marketplace. This important distinction enables Airbnb to engage in content moderation that makes our community the trusted marketplace that it is, for the benefit and reliability of Airbnb hosts and guests.

Ensuring User Safety and Enhancing Experience

Because of CDA230, Airbnb is able to use editorial discretion and remove objectionable material to provide safe, positive experiences for hosts and guests, which is why there have been over 500 million guest arrivals through Airbnb’s trusted accommodation marketplace. For example, CDA230 authority enables us to:

  • Ensure User Safety: The safety of our community is our priority and to that end, Airbnb has strong Community Standards to ensure safety and foster belonging. CDA230 allows Airbnb to moderate content proactively and reactively to keep  our community safe in both online and offline interactions.
  • Provide User Reviews: After each stay, our two-way blind review system prompts guests and hosts to review each other. This system, supported by CDA230, ensures honest feedback and increases our community’s trust in the marketplace in accordance with our Content Policy
  • Prevent Discrimination: Our Non-Discrimination Policy allows for everyone in our community to feel welcome and respected, and CDA230 allows for Airbnb to develop and utilize tools to scan for, review, and take down discriminatory content.

Maintaining a Competitive Lodging Marketplace

Airbnb leverages technology to provide consumers access to more than 7 million unique places to stay in more than 100,000 cities and 191 countries and regions. These listings are offered by our users, who create the content of their listing and decide when to share their space and how much to charge. This model, supported by CDA230, gives our hosts the ability to generate supplemental income with their extra space, and gives our guests a wide variety of accommodation at all price points.

Each of the 100,000 cities where Airbnb hosts list their space has their own needs and priorities for short-term rental rules in their community and Airbnb remains a committed partner in supporting reasonable regulations that address these needs. CDA230 allows Airbnb to work with cities worldwide on sustainable, scalable, and tailored solutions to help jurisdictions curtail bad actors and enforce their laws. Airbnb and our community have championed regulatory solutions in communities across the country that provide governments with the tools they need to effectively enforce their own unique local short-term rental rules, collect taxes, boost their economy, and rein in bad actors while preserving hosts’ ability to earn meaningful income.

The PLAN Act Could Jeopardize Hosts’ Ability to Share Their Space

CDA230 allows Airbnb hosts to increase the supply of lodging in their community, bringing more options for consumers on pricing, convenience, amenities, and sustainability. Despite the benefits that CDA230 provides to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and competition in the lodging industry, recently introduced legislation in Congress would undermine the law. 

Representative Ed Case, a former hotel executive, has authored H.R. 4232, the Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods (PLAN) Act, which would amend CDA230 to effectively require online short-term rental platforms to police users’ listings on behalf of cities. In short, contrary to the spirit and letter of CDA230, the PLAN Act would make these platforms liable for user-generated content.