Tinker with §230?


So, as we’ve been discussing, §230 can provide immunity for bloggers from lawsuits based on defamatory comments that have been posted by third parties.

Section 230, as it is broadly understood, also can immunize crowdsourced blogs where users post defamatory content – even where defamatory content is invited. And that immunity can even block a court order to remove content that has been adjudicated to be an invasion of privacy or defamatory.

Some people think, in this respect, §230 goes too far. Some people think it should be amended or tinkered with.

But most legal scholars in the cyberlaw area – the kind of people who were at the §230 conference I was at last week, believe §230 should not be messed with. Cyberlaw people point out, with well-supported arguments, that §230 has been an important factor in fostering a lot of internet innovation, such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Wikipedia, etc.

Section 230 has done far more good than bad, they argue, and they are right about that. Opening it up to re-engineering, they believe, will invite disaster.

Well, maybe.

But it should be borne in mind that §230 itself invites disaster.

There are women and men who are suffering an ongoing embarrassment because of content that has been rendered irremovable by §230. Those people may not be enough to compel the amendment of a law beloved by Silicon Valley. But the number of people left behind by §230 is growing. It won’t be the accumulated number of §230 victims that causes a change in the law, however. It will be one particular victim. One compromising picture of a U.S. senator’s granddaughter on TheDirty.com, for instance, could open the whole statute up for rethinking – whether scholars think that is a good idea or not.


One Response to “Tinker with §230?”

  1. Steve Stern says:

    This is a very interesting post and I hope it’s helpful to bloggers who allow comments (I don’t on “Glance”). It’s also interesting that Righthaven, about which you’ve written, is now apparently concerned with legal fees (LV Sun today), but that’s off point.

    What may be on point is that sometime this legislation is going to require change. In my view, it’s so far down the priority list in Washington that it won’t be in my lifetime.

    Notwithstanding the national publicity copyright litigation has received, and despite the apparent fact that only two relatively small newspapers in the nation are pursuing, it seems to me that online media could at least post an eminently visible notice at the top of their websites referring to copyright issues an briefly explaining at “x” percentage of a story may be reposted with appropriate attribution and a link. It’s beyond me why they don’t do that, though not so with the Righthaven matters which I truly believe were brought to develop a revenue stream for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.