Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) states 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.” Section 230 provides immunity to online service providers and intermediaries for the content created and posted by their users. It was enacted in 1996 in an effort by Congress to promote the development of the Internet and preserve its vibrant, noncompetitive market, stirring digital growth. When enacted, this law gave the Internet room to breathe as it evolved, while continuing to maintain an appropriate balance between the protection of individual rights online and online activity — intermediaries have no immunity under Section 230 from federal criminal law, intellectual property law, or communications privacy law.
Section 230 is acclaimed as one of the most important frameworks for internet regulation, yet it has been the subject of great scrutiny over the last 10 years. Most would agree that neither Facebook should be held responsible for each of their 1.65 billion active monthly users’ actions, nor should eBay be liable for the feedback posted by each of their 162 million buyers worldwide who use the platform for economic gain. Section 230 of the CDA is designed to promote market expansion for existing tech leaders, such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook, and also allows sharing economy pioneers such as Uber and Airbnb to prosper. But over the last year, this stalwart statute has been under attack from every angle. The last couple weeks have been especially trying for Section 230 as a myriad of creative claims have attempted to chip away at this foundational tool for protecting freedom of expression and the advancement of the Internet.