The Fragile Law That Protects Online Speech
Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act is responsible for the shape of the Internet as we know it today, by freeing website operators from needing to conduct a legal review of each and every user communication that crosses their systems.
And yet, the protection granted by Section 230 is both controversial and fragile. Judges are uncomfortable with the idea that websites can publish revenge porn, pay-to-remove mugshot galleries, and prostitution ads with impunity. State attorney generals have demanded that Congress amend Section 230 to give them broad new powers to bring criminal charges against social media sites, to use them as a choke point to cut off illegal content involving child trafficking. But what would limiting Section 230 mean for the future of peer-to-peer communication?
This panel will explore the controversy over Section 230, including the voices demanding its repeal or change and the consequences to online speech of yielding to such demands.
- What is Section 230, and how does it facilitate online speech by protecting Internet intermediaries?
- How reliable is the protection of Section 230 under current judicial decisions, especially given that the U.S. Supreme Court has never interpreted the scope of the statute?
- How does Section 230 work on an international level, in terms of parallel protection in other nations and with respect to foreign judgments against U.S. companies?
- Which interest groups are pressing for limitation or amendment of the protection of Section 230, and why?
- What would be the consequences to online speech if the protections of Section 230 were to be limited or amended in any substantive way?
- Jeff Hermes Digital Media Law Project @ Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society
- Ari Shahdadi Tumblr at Yahoo! Inc.
- Eric Goldman High Tech Law Institute @ Santa Clara University School of Law
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