Monday, January 06, 2014

EFF summarizes efforts to weaken Section 230 by opportunistic politicians in 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation, as part of its “2013 in Review” series, offers an editorial perspective on attempts to chip away at or even eliminate Section 230 protections of Internet service providers and publishing platforms from downstream liability for what users post, without pre-screening which would be impossible, The piece, by Adi Kamdar, is here
The author discusses, foremost, the request by state attorneys-general to remove Section 230 protections from cases involving state laws.   There is a Section 230 provision for federal criminal law, especially child pornography, but liability exists only if the ISP actually knows that a legal violation has happened.  It does not have to pro-actively screen (although the possibility of screening for digital watermarks for known illegal images would sound feasible).  However, state laws, particularly in Washington and New Jersey, were so loosely worded as to leave places like Internet cafes or Starbucks open to criminal liability for what users did.
The article also discusses the case involving “The Dirty”, a gossip site, covered here Nov. 21, 2013. 

Some policy makers, at the state level, sound oblivious to the significance of the downstream liability protection, or don’t see user-generated conduct as connected to fundamental free speech rights when balanced against “collective” harm to the community (especially minors and especially women) because of the actions of some bad actors.  Everyone’s speech rights should be connected to having or sharing actual responsibility for others, they say.  

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