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Libel Tourism Law Official... Including Important Nod To Section 230 Safe Harbors

from the this-is-good dept

We spend a lot of time discussing bad legislation around here, every so often it's nice to hear of some good legislation. Last month, we noted that an anti-libel tourism bill was making its way through Congress, which would protect US citizens from foreign libel judgments on laws that went against the First Amendment. Thankfully, that bill has now been signed into law -- and it may be even better than we initially expected. That's because, at the urging of folks such as Public Citizen, Congress inserted a bit into the law that also extends the important Section 230 safe harbors to this bill.

As you hopefully know, Section 230 safe harbors make sure that liability is properly applied. That is, it says you can't blame an online service provider for actions by its users. This is incredibly important if you believe that liability should be applied to the appropriate parties. However, very few other countries have such safe harbors, leading to regular lawsuits against service providers (often US service providers) for the actions of their users. Now, this law protects US service providers from such judgments.

Perhaps equally important as having this extension in the law is the discussion on the floor about including Section 230 safe harbors, because that's now a part of the Congressional record, where various elected officials make explicit the reasons why Section 230 protections make sense.
The purpose of this provision is to ensure that libel tourists do not attempt to chill speech by suing a third-party interactive computer service, rather than the actual author of the offending statement.

In such circumstances, the service provider would likely take down the allegedly offending material rather than face a lawsuit. Providing immunity removes this unhealthy incentive to take down material under improper pressure.
This is important, especially at a time when some have been attempting to seriously cripple Section 230 safe harbors by pretending they serve some other purpose outside of the proper application of liability.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    trilobug, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 5:10pm

    Hooray!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 6:09pm

    Since When Is The Rest Of The World Subject To The US Constitution?

    National sovereignty rules, OK.

     

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  3.  
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    abc gum, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Since When Is The Rest Of The World Subject To The US Constitution?

    "Since When Is The Rest Of The World Subject To The US Constitution?"

    It's not - obviously ... what's your point?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    MeNotU, Aug 12th, 2010 @ 1:04am

    Re: Re: Since When Is The Rest Of The World Subject To The US Constitution?

    When they're interacting with a US business that's located on US soil at the time of said interaction.

    If they don't like what's said on the US hosted site, it's up to them to filter it out of their country, not try to use their court systems to limit what a US citizen can say on a US hosted site.

     

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  5.  
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    abc gum, Aug 12th, 2010 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Since When Is The Rest Of The World Subject To The US Constitution?

    Agreed.

    I guess the title was sarcasm.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Kieron, Aug 12th, 2010 @ 6:08am

    I think you will find it’s a little more complicated. If the US Company has any assets in the country where the law suit is taking place an order against such assets can me made. There is argument that the CEO and the board could be made liable so making it difficult for them to travel to those countries. Or in the very rare cases of criminal libel it becomes even more complex

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2010 @ 11:30am

    I think you will find it’s a little more complicated. If the US Company has any assets in the country where the law suit is taking place an order against such assets can me made.


    If the US company has not taken any action inside the other country that breaks the other nation's laws, then there's no reasonable basis for such a seizure.

    But perhaps the fullest significance of the legislators' reasoning has escaped notice until now:

    In such circumstances, the service provider would likely take down the allegedly offending material rather than face a lawsuit. Providing immunity removes this unhealthy incentive to take down material under improper pressure.


    This same statement clearly can be used to argue for eliminating the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions, either entirely or in favor of notice-and-notice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2010 @ 5:51am

    How much was the bribe paid by Google to Steve Cohen?

    This is a ridiculous and horrible piece of law. It allows the judgment proof defamer an open license not only to smear victims, but to do so without hope of compensation. 47 USC 230 has been perverted by the courts to hold internet service providers immune for any civil suit except copyright infringement - an ISP not only avoids liability for defamation, but they also avoid liability for negligence under this corrupt and crooked law. Under this law, incompetent and corrupt companies like Google utterly avoid any form of accountability - because let's face it; it's not the penny-ante computer hobbyist with a webpage who was at risk here. It is a sad day when the US Congress tramples the rights of people over corporate interests. What I'd like to know is, how much was the bribe paid to Steve Cohen by Google to put this law into Congress?

     

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  9.  
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    Richard Hussong (profile), Sep 13th, 2010 @ 4:46pm

    Re: How much was the bribe paid by Google to Steve Cohen?

    The author of this comment is obviously not familiar with British defamation law, and its egregious misuse to silence critics of corporations and politicians. For instance, see the Guardian article "British libel laws violate human rights, says UN" or this New York Times article: "Britain, Long a Libel Mecca, Reviews Laws".

     

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  10.  
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    ChapterGrim, Sep 20th, 2010 @ 3:35pm

    WTH

    If the states can get away with forcing its law outside its borders, don't you think that'd irritate a lot of nations. Lets face it the US is hardly popular. Considering they have Extradition Orders in most countries they need to draw the line and fast. Sure stuff if you break a US law in US borders then no matter the crime you are under US jurisdiction. But if like Gary Mckinnon your in the UK when the crime is committed you are entitled to be tried by your fellow countrymen.

     

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  11.  
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    Harshad P. Desai, Nov 4th, 2010 @ 8:52pm

    Total dumbness.

    Tripadvisor is fine as long as it and it's supporting cronies have brain for commonsense.
    #1. It has obligation to put full infirmation of the writter. Otherwise it is obstructing justice. If an idiot writes something about Hotel X, the idiot has everything about Hotel X but Hotel X has nothing more than John Doe. USA doesn't work that way.
    #2. Tripadvisor is third party providing service. Ok. It's fine. I am for it. But if rent a room where someone is running brothel or cooking meth, for law enforcement / prosecution the location is important and has authority to take possession of the place not caring who owns it.
    #3. Trip advisor is okay but writer must provide all correct information. Trip Advisor must have system in place to not make it to board. Also, Tripadvisor must require total enchilada (example - an idiot is on road and finding nothing open at 2 in morning but still looking for $45 room
    and reluctant to pay $80, what do you expect from such idiots on tripadvisor ?).

    No matter what country, laws, etc; can stretch this, down the road TriopAdvisor will have to clean up.

    TripAdvisor has as much chances as new Tea Party (full of idiots)in USA.

     

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  12.  
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    sardar khan, May 23rd, 2011 @ 8:47am

    Does Libel tourism law have a retrospective effect?

    I have filed a libel law suit in Karachi, Pakistan for defamation against my former American employer. My boss while wrongfully terminating me had sent defaming emails against me. Could any one please enlighten me that this bill also applies on my law suit? Secondly, does this bill have a retropective effect as my law suit was filed in June 2010 while the Libel tourism law was passed in August 2010?.

     

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  13.  
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    HKlang, Aug 31st, 2012 @ 11:33am

    Re: How much was the bribe paid by Google to Steve Cohen?

    It's tongue in cheek... he's clearly angling for google to sue techdirt in uk.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    H Klang (profile), Aug 31st, 2012 @ 11:34am

    Re: How much was the bribe paid by Google to Steve Cohen?

    It's tongue in cheek... he's clearly angling for google to sue techdirt in uk.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    H Klang (profile), Aug 31st, 2012 @ 11:50am

    Re: WTH

    The US law in question only applies in the US. It just means UK actors will not get US cooperation in these libel prosecutions. They can still be pursued in the UK against UK assets of the US companies in question (ISPs, forums, search engines).

    Incidentally I agree with you on the McKinnon case.

    But if you believe on sovereignty grounds that McKinnon should not be extradited to the US for UK-based acts that reach into the US but are presumably crimes only in the US, then logically you should also believe that the US is not obliged to support US lawsuits against ISPs for hosting (not producing) libelous content in the US, even if the audience and victim are in the UK, and even if ISPs are liable in the UK -- because they also don't support those lawsuits when all actors are internal to the US.

    The producers of the libel can still be sued in the US, just not the host.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    H Klang (profile), Aug 31st, 2012 @ 11:55am

    Re: Total dumbness.

    Totally refreshing comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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