What is this “Section 230” thing anyway?
Section 230 refers to Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230). It was passed as part of the much-maligned Communication Decency Act of 1996. Many aspects of the CDA were unconstitutional restrictions of freedom of speech (and, with EFF’s help, struck down by the Supreme Court), but this section survived and has been a valuable defense for Internet intermediaries ever since.
What protection does Section 230 provide?
Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This federal law preempts any state laws to the contrary: “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.” The courts have repeatedly rejected attempts to limit the reach of Section 230 to “traditional” Internet service providers, instead treating many diverse entities as “interactive computer service providers.”
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