March 01, 2017

Section 230 as Gatekeeper: When Is an Intermediary Liability Case Against a Digital Platform Ripe for Early Dismissal?

When is an intermediary liability case against a digital platform ripe for early dismissal?

Jeff Hermes

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A new case lands on your desk. You give the complaint a quick read, and it seems your client is being sued because an online platform or service the client operates was used as the medium for a third party’s allegedly nefarious deeds. Being an attorney savvy in the ways of digital communication, your mind immediately leaps to section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), the alternatively praised and reviled federal law from 1996 that insulates “interactive computer services” from being treated “as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” (Another part of section 230 specifically protects active moderation of user content (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2)), but we focus here on the general immunity provided by section 230(c)(1).)

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