by Eric Goldman, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University School of Law
In 1996, Congress became concerned that excessive liability would threaten the free flow of information over the Internet. To protect the Internet from this risk, Congress passed 47 USC § 230 (Section 230), which eliminates (with limited exceptions) the liability of online services for publishing third party content.
By any measure, Section 230 has been a remarkable success. Think about the Internet services you use daily, such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter, eBay, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Yelp. All of them publish third party content, and all of them have flourished because of Section 230’s immunity. Section 230 also promotes competitive markets by reducing entry costs. New entrants can challenge the marketplace leaders without having to match the incumbents’ editorial investments or incurring fatal liability risks.