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Free Expression

Liability Protection for Internet Content Venues Threatened

Over the past few months, the Center for Democracy & Technology has joined a series of “friend of the court” briefs urging courts to broadly enforce a federal law that shields Internet website operators from liability for content posted by Internet users. This immunity from liability has been a vital underpinning of the explosion of user generated sites such as blogs and video sharing websites. Although many courts have broadly interpreted “Section 230” to protect these websites, an increasing number of cases challenge that protection. Earlier this week, CDT released an analysis of this trend and an overview of the arguments presented by CDT to the courts. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the website and held that Section 230 did not protect the site from a civil lawsuit. CDT believes that the court’s decision is an ominous indicator of the threats to openness and free expression online.