Section 230 Communications Decency Act Does Not Provide An Absolute Immunity.

July 2nd, 2009

Internet service providers often cite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as an absolute shield to liability for content on a website operated by them.  However, Section 230 carries with it numerous exceptions.

Eric Goldman at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog has identified three examples where websites will always remain liable for first party content.

The first is where the website operator posts their own content.  In these situations they are held liable because they are not simply a computer service provider but rather a content provider.  Just as a user can be responsible for the user generated content it provides, the website operator can be responsible and liable for that which it provides on a website.

The second example pertains to marketing representations.  In such instances where the website operator makes marketing representations, they may be liable under laws related to contract or false advertising.  These particular situations require the most in-depth analysis and legal knowledge.

Finally, the recent case of Barnes v. Yahoo held that a website may be liable under promissory estoppel if it promises, and therefore assumes an obligation, to remove third party content and fails to do so.  The question becomes how far reaching this decision will be.  For example, will a website operator be held liable when it promises to alter the user generated content or provide clarification of its own pertaining to that content?  Issues such as this are likely to arise, and a review of the specific facts pertaining to that user generated content or website operator actions is critical.

Ultimately, internet service providers that allow for user generated content must understand the limits of Section 230 Immunity. Contact an experienced internet lawyer today to understand the application of the Communication Decency Act to your particular matter.


© 2011 Traverse Legal, PLC. All Rights Reserved.
Traverse Legal on LinkedInTraverse Legal on FacebookTraverse Legal on Twitter
Events & Conferences:
  • International Trademark Association 2011, San Francisco, California
  • Cyber Law Summit 2011, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Game Developers Conference 2011, San Francisco, California
  • DOMAINfest 2011, Santa Monica, California
Recent Attorney Speaking Engagements:
  • South By Southwest 2010 SXSW Interactive Conference, Austin, Texas
  • West LegalEdcenter Midwestern Law Firm Management, Chicago, Illinois
  • Internet Advertising under Part 255, Altitude Design Summit, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Online Defamation and Reputation Management, News Talk 650 AM, The Cory Kolt Show, Canada Public Radio Saskatewan Canada
  • Alternative Fee Structures, Center for Competitive Management, Jersey City, New Jersey
  • FTC Part 255 Advertising Requirements, Mom 2.0 Conference, Houston, Texas
  • Webmaster Radio, Cybersquatting & Domain Monetization, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Notable Complex Litigation Cases Handled By Our Lawyers:
  • Trademark Infringement, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Cybersquatting Law, Trademark Law and Dilution Detroit, Michigan
  • Internet Defamation & Online Libel Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Trade Secret Theft, Chicago, Illinois
  • Cybersquatting Law, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Miami, Florida
  • Cybersquatting Law, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Eastern Dist. of Virginia, Alexandria
  • Stolen Domain Name, Orlando, Florida
  • Commercial Litigation, Tampa, Florida
  • Copyright Infringement and Cybersquatting Law, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Mass Tort Litigation, Los Angeles, California
  • Stolen Domain Name, Detroit, Michigan
  • Adwords Keyword Trademark Infringement, Los Angeles, California
  • Trademark Infringement & Unfair Competition, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Non-Compete Agreement and Trade Secret Theft, Detroit, Michigan
  • Mass Tort, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Mass Tort, Tyler, Texas
  • Insurance Indemnity, New York
  • Copyright Infringement, Detroit, Michigan