November 2015 Bar Bulletin
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November 2015 Bar Bulletin

Backpage: Risky Business on the Internet

By Leah Snyder


Backpage: Risky Business on the InternetBy Leah SnyderThe Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 was passed to combat online pornography.1 Many of the provisions of the CDA were immediately struck down on First Amendment grounds.2 What remains is Section 230, an entitled "[p]rotection for private blocking and screening of offensive material."3 However, the provision acts to severely limit liability of websites for displaying offensive material. Subsections 230(a) and (b) contain findings and policy for the section.

Section 230(c), the meat of the statute, is entitled "Protection for 'Good Samaritan' blocking and screening of offensive material."4 There are two essential definitions provided in Section 230. First, "The term 'interactive computer service' means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet…." 5 Second, "The term 'information content provider' means any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service."6

Section 230(c) lays out the rules in two subsections:

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker

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.

(2) Civil liability

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