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.

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  1. icon
    Richard Hussong (profile), 13 Sep 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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