Section 230: What It Is, Why It Matters and How It Works

January 21, 2021 1:00 pm

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Title 47 of U.S.C. §230 (“Section 230”), has been a wide-ranging piece of legislation. Before 230, the common law held online forums and other digital locations liable for knowingly -- or intentionally -- allowing third parties to post defamatory material. Section 230 fundamentally changed the landscape. This presentation will provide an overview of 230, its scope, potential reforms, and practical considerations for practitioners.

Ryan E. Long is the principal attorney of Long & Associates PLLC in Santa Monica. He is a Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society non-residential fellow, Vice Chair of the Licensing & Transactions Group, CA Lawyers Association, and a cooperating attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He will address the following topics:
Ripoff Report hypothetical (5 minutes)
Common law vicarious content liability – What did the legal landscape look like before Section 230 was passed? How could hosts of content be directly or indirectly liable for potential libelous or defamatory content? (20 minutes)
Section 230 – What does the text of Section 230 say? What state causes of action have been preempted by the statute? What types of federal claims may plaintiffs still bring? How broadly has “interactive computer service” been interpreted? And does Section 230 apply to republished defamation? (20 minutes)
Reform – What reforms have been proposed to Section 230 and why? What are the various proposals that have been aired by various constituencies? (10 minutes)
Practical considerations – As general counsel for a social media company, or in representing a plaintiff against such a company, what are some recommended strategies? (5 minutes)

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