Citation

Free Speech Savior or Shield for Scoundrels: An Empirical Study of Intermediary Immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

Author:
Ardia, David S.
Publication:
Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review
Year:
2010

In the thirteen years since its enactment, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has become one of the most important statutes impacting online speech, as well as one of the most intensely criticized. In deceptively simple language, its provisions sweep away the common law's distinction between publisher and distributor liability, granting operators of Web sites and other interactive computer services broad protection from claims based on the speech of third parties. Section 230 is of critical importance because virtually all
speech that occurs on the Internet is facilitated by private intermediaries that have a fragile commitment to the speech they facilitate.
This Article presents the first empirical study of the section 230 case law. It begins by providing a doctrinal overview of common law liability for intermediaries, both online and offline, and describes how section 230 modifies these doctrinal approaches. It then systematically analyzes the 184 decisions courts have issued since the statute's enactment. The Article also examines how courts have applied section 230, finding that judges have been haphazard in their approach to its application.