Receptors of the innate immune system recognize conserved microbial features and provide key signals that initiate immune responses. Multiple transmembrane and cytosolic receptors have evolved to recognize RNA and DNA, including members of the Toll-like receptor and RIG-I-like receptor families and several DNA sensors. This strategy enables recognition of a broad range of pathogens; however, in some cases, this benefit is weighed against the cost of potential self recognition. Recognition of self nucleic acids by the innate immune system contributes to the pathology associated with several autoimmune or autoinflammatory diseases. In this review, we highlight our current understanding of nucleic acid sensing by innate immune receptors and discuss the regulatory mechanisms that normally prevent inappropriate responses to self.