- In 1996, Congress enacted a powerful statutory immunity for user-generated content, located at 47 U.S.C. 230 (“Section 230″). Section 230 says that websites aren’t liable for third party content except in three specific situations: intellectual property, communications privacy and federal criminal prosecutions. Over the past 16 years, courts have interpreted Section 230′s immunity broadly, giving online providers a robust and predictable way to avoid liability for what their users say and do. As a result, Section 230 has become the foundation for the entire user-generated content industry–and all of the social welfare that goes along with it.
- Recently, the Washington state legislature enacted one such law in an overzealous effort to shut down online child prostitution. Even worse, the statute indirectly provided a roadmap for other legislatures to enact other laws that could eviscerate Section 230. Last week, in Backpage and Internet Archive v. McKenna, 2:12-cv-00954-RSM (W.D. Wash. July 27, 2012), a federal judge rejected the Washington legislature’s efforts, turning the case into a major victory for Section 230 and user-generated content.
- Reported by Eric Goldman through Forbes