The Ten Most Important Section 230 Rulings

Search and Advertising, Media and Content, Internet and Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing

Article Snapshot


Eric Goldman


Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, Vol. 20, 2017 (forthcoming)


Under Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, websites are not legally responsible for content posted on the site by others. A few cases suggest that immunity does not extend to sites that encourage unlawful content.

Policy Relevance

Web sites’ immunity from liability is critical to the development of the Internet.

Main Points

  • Section 230, 47 U.S.C. § 230, is important to the growth of the Internet; of the top 10 most-visited web sites, nine rely on Section 230 to republish content created by others.
  • Section 230 ensures that a web site’s decision to publish, edit or remove third-party content would be protected by immunity even when the site has been notified by demand letters that the content was unlawful, and even when the site pays for the content.
  • Section 230 might not always protect sites from liability if the site requires or encourages users to post illegal content, but exceptions from immunity are narrow.
  • In Doe v. Backpage, the court ruled that Section 230 immunity extended to a site that posted classified ads, including ads for prostitution; federal lawmakers have considered changes to the law that would overrule this case.
  • Section 230 immunized social networking sites from liability for attacks by criminals or terrorists, when the sites is used by the attackers as a method of communication.
  • Section 230 protects providers of anti-spam, anti-malware, and anti-virus services from liability for blocking or removing content.
  • Generally, Section 230 does not immunize sites from liability for intellectual property claims; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Section 230 does immunize sites from liability for state intellectual property claims, but other courts disagree.
  • One case holds that Section 230 means that a site cannot be required to honor a court order directing the third-party author of a post to remove it, when the site does not allow removal.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article