#1 – Efforts to Upend the Most Important Internet Law You’ve Never Heard Of

What’s so iAWFUL?

A seemingly small change to Section 230 could spell the end of user-generated content sites as we know them.

(Letter to Change Section 230)

In simplest terms, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects website operators from liability for content or commerce posted by users.

This protection made possible the development of sites like Facebook, Reddit, Yelp, WordPress and many others that enable user-generated content (UGC). The whole Web 2.0 revolution was premised on innovators being allowed to provide technical platforms without fear that they would be held legally responsible for all of the words and actions of anyone using their platforms.

This seemingly small change would make all UGC sites subject liable for any user post that violates any state criminal law – and there are lots of laws out there that would stop UGC sites in their tracks.

But State Attorneys General are asking Congress to amend Section 230 to allow prosecutions under any state law.

This seemingly small change would make all UGC sites subject liable for any user post that violates any state criminal law – and there are lots of laws out there that would stop UGC sites in their tracks.

If changed:

    • LinkedIn could be liable under Georgia law for comments posted to its site that “blackens the memory” of a person.
    • Yelp could find itself in trouble under Louisiana law if a restaurant reviewer showed “contempt” for the waiter.
    • StubHub and other ticket resale sites could be liable under Michigan law making it a misdemeanor to resell a ticket above its listed value.
    • AirBNB could be held accountable if a user rents a room in violation of New York ordinances.
    • Google could be liable for violating Michigan law if it displays an ad for a car to a 17 year-old.

Even worse, over 27,000 local sheriffs and prosecutors would have the authority to interpret and selectively enforce these legacy laws.

In essence, a seemingly small change to Section 230 could spell the end of UGC sites as we know them.  A patchwork of different state laws is the last thing that internet innovators need to contend with at this critical stage of the internet’s growth and evolution.

Status:

After learning of the importance of leaving Section 230 unamended, federal legislators are taking the time to better understand the importance of Section 230 and the implications of exposing UGC sites to state criminal laws.

Protecting the Law that Protects the Internet

/
State Attorneys General are asking Congress to amend Section…

Section 230 Exemption Threatens Internet Commerce as Much as Speech

/
An effort by state attorneys general to carve a major exemption…

The iAWFUL reflects the editorial views of the Executive Director of NetChoice and does not necessarily reflect the views of all NetChoice members.

Back to iAwful list