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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.

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  1. identicon
    Kieron, 12 Aug 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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