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Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act (“CDA”) grants sweeping immunity to interactive computer service providers (“ISP”) against claims arising from content posted on their sites by third parties. Significantly, this protects websites from tort liability arising from content their users posted. For example, Twitter cannot be sued for defamatory language tweeted by one of its users. This immunity helped create the modern internet, allowing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google to flourish unrestrained from potential liability arising from the content their users share. Since the CDA’s passage in 1996, conversations around regulating the internet and protecting websites from liability around content posted on their sites has drastically changed in the last two and a half decades. Specifically, Congress’s historic interest in fostering the development of the internet free from the threat of liability has morphed in response to the current online environment; today, more and more lawmakers and commentators have recognized the disturbing amount of power these platforms and their unelected leadership teams wield. Former President Trump’s tweets that helped incite and organize violence on the Capitol in January is just one of the most grievous examples of content with terrible consequences where the platform that gave the content an enormous megaphone is protected from any responsibility of handing the user that megaphone. In light of renewed calls to amend or remove Section 230 immunity, it is worth considering how drastically the conversation has changed since 1996.

This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on April 5, 2021. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.

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