The Internet Will Not Break: Denying Bad Samaritans Section 230 Immunity

Citron, Danielle Keats; Wittes, Benjamin

What do a revenge pornographer, gossip-site curator, and platform pairing predators with young people in one-on-one chats have in common? Blanket immunity from liability, thanks to lower courts’ interpretation of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) beyond what the text, context, and purpose support. The CDA was part of a campaign — rather ironically in retrospect — to restrict access to sexually explicit material online. Lawmakers thought they were devising a safe harbor for online providers engaged in self-regulation. The CDA’s origins in the censorship of “offensive” material are inconsistent with outlandishly broad interpretations that have served to immunize from liability platforms dedicated to abuse and or those that deliberately tolerate illegality.