Mike Masnick posted an excellent article on this at TechDirt
States Attorneys General Want Special Exception To Blame Sites For Actions Of Users
from the that-would-be-a-very-bad-idea dept
One of the most important laws that has enabled innovation on the internet to thrive is Section 230 of the CDA. We've written about it many times. What it says is fairly basic: a website cannot be held liable for actions by its users. There are a few exceptions and caveats, but that's the basic premise. And it makes perfect common sense -- so much so that it's almost amazing that you need a law to say it. But, we do, because when grandstanding and moral panics come around, politicians and people with pitchforks love to blame third parties and intermediaries as if they're the problem. And, having intermediaries be liable for how users are using their services creates all sorts of problems. It makes it that much more difficult for companies to innovate, because they're taking on tremendous potential liability if anyone misuses their service. So, they then either don't develop an open service, or they have to invest heavily in services to filter/monitor/block any potential misdeeds (which also will lead to blocking legitimate uses as well).
Of course, the grandstanding politicians who jump on moral panics absolutely hate Section 230. They always have. As we've discussed in detail over the years, the type of politician that focuses on grandstanding on moral panics the most is always a state attorney general. They make grand public pronouncements against companies they don't like, often with absolutely no legal basis, and then browbeat them into a "settlement" just so the companies can stop having to deal with the AGs lying about them in public all the time. Chris Tolles, the CEO of Topix, gave a great detailed explanation of how various AGs ganged up on him, basically issuing a press release accusing him of doing horrible things, totally misrepresenting what the company did, but without naming a single law they violated (because they hadn't). In response, Tolles did what most people would think you should do in that case: explain to the AGs what Topix actually did, and why it was perfectly reasonable. In response, the AGs (more of them this time) issued another press release, taking direct statements that Tolles had told them further out of context, and making the company sound even worse. Eventually he "settled" because fighting them was costly.
We've seen this over and over and over again...