Defamation in Cyberspace
Certain online communication services, particularly electronic message board systems operators, enjoy new and different legal protections than traditional media publishers.
Common Law Rule
At common law, one who “repeats” the statements of another is just as responsible for their defamatory content as the original speaker.
The above “liability for repetition” rule is subject to the general principle that to be held liable in defamation one must have “taken a responsible part in the publication.
Section 230: Protection for Online Service Providers
In Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“CDA made clear that “interactive computer services” should not be held liable as “publishers or speakers” of content posted by third parties. That Section provides:
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.
Section 230(c) resolved the debate about who is or is not a “distributor” or “publisher” in cyberspace.
Protections for Restricting Access
The CDA also added a “safe harbor” provision that gives service providers discretion and immunity for controlling or otherwise restricting access to content posted on their services. As Section 230(c) provides:
Section 230(e) generally preempts states from taking any action that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Act. However, the statute expressly states that it has no effect on federal criminal law, intellectual property law, and electronic communications privacy statutes.
Chapter 1 – Defamation
Internet Defamation and Online Libel
We have experience in resolving Internet defamation and online reputation issues for both speakers and victims of online defamation.