Articles Tagged with Section 230

Online Platforms Provided Significant Discretion Over What They Choose to Delete on Their Systems

Section230c-300x156On 11 March 2021, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously upheld a ruling issued from the Southern District in New York that dismissed a lawsuit brought by James Domen and Church United alleging Vimeo discriminated against them for deleting the Church United’s account from its online video hosting platform.   Both the lower court and the appellate court found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) immunizes Vimeo from this lawsuit.

James Domen and Church United alleged that Vimeo discriminated against them on the basis of their religion and sexual orientation when it deleted Church United’s account from Vimeo’s platform.   The district court concluded that Vimeo deleted Church United’s account because of Church United’s violation of one of Vimeo’s content policies barring the promotion of sexual orientation change efforts (“SOCE”) on its platform. This policy, in turn, fell within the confines of the good-faith content policing immunity that the CDA provides to interactive computer services.

The Future of Section 230 and its Impact on Innovation, Free Speech, and Democracy

Please join the SF Bay Area Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC) on Monday 8 March 2021 for a tech policy webinar on the topic of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), the 26 words that created the Internet 25 years ago this month.  47 USC Section 230 is the law that in many cases protects Internet users, social media, and other Internet companies from legal liability for the speech of third-parties that they repeat or amply in their posts or emails or on their websites and online platforms. The law has fueled the growth of the Internet and generated billions of dollars of value from an online economy, even creating entirely new categories of business models, often involving user generated content.  Section 230 has given US tech companies a significant legal advantage over their competition in foreign countries that do not provide such legal immunities for the online speech of third-parties.

While Silicon Valley was built on the protections afforded by Section 230, there exist many calls to reform or repeal the law, which has also played a role in the spread of online disinformation and other dangerous content that can cause harm offline.  Several legislative proposals have recently been made in Congress to amend Section 230, including a proposal from several Democratic Senators that would curtail the immunity for paid content and wrongful-death actions and aims to enforce antitrust and civil rights laws online.  Meanwhile, some Republicans call for repealing Section 230 altogether, because of grievances over content moderation on tech companies’ platforms.  Unsurprisingly, civil liberties groups urge caution on Section 230 reform due to the law’s promotion of technological innovation and freedom of expression and the potential for reform to open a pandora’s box of unintended consequences.

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