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Text of 47 USC 230
of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

See also, Cases Applying 47 USC 230


SEC. 230.  PROTECTION FOR PRIVATE BLOCKING AND SCREENING OF OFFENSIVE MATERIAL.

(a) FINDINGS- The Congress finds the following:

(1) The rapidly developing array of Internet and other interactive computer services available to individual Americans represent an extraordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to our citizens.

(2) These services offer users a great degree of control over the information that they receive, as well as the potential for even greater control in the future as technology develops.

(3) The Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.

(4) The Internet and other interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit of all Americans, with a minimum of government regulation.

(5) Increasingly Americans are relying on interactive media for a variety of political, educational, cultural, and entertainment services.

(b) POLICY- It is the policy of the United States--

(1) to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;

(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;

(3) to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services;

(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children's access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and

(5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.

(c) PROTECTION FOR `GOOD SAMARITAN' BLOCKING AND SCREENING OF OFFENSIVE MATERIAL-

(1) TREATMENT OF PUBLISHER OR SPEAKER- No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) CIVIL LIABILITY- No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of--

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

(d) EFFECT ON OTHER LAWS-

(1) NO EFFECT ON CRIMINAL LAW- Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair the enforcement of section 223 of this Act, chapter 71 (relating to obscenity) or 110 (relating to sexual exploitation of children) of title 18, United States Code, or any other Federal criminal statute.

(2) NO EFFECT ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW- Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or expand any law pertaining to intellectual property.

(3) STATE LAW- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any State from enforcing any State law that is consistent with this section. No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.


Cases Applying 47 USC 230

Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 958 F. Supp. 1124 (E.D.Va. 1997), affirmed by U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, CA-96-1564-A, 129 F.2d 327 (1997); U.S. Supreme Court, Cert. Pet. 97-1488, denied.  Court applied 230(c)(1) in holding AOL not liable for defamatory statement contained in posting in various AOL bulletin boards by an AOL subscriber.  Zeran's appeal to the Supreme Court was denied.

Doe v. America Online, Inc., Trial Court Case No. CL 97-631 AE; Decision: 1997 WL 374223 (Fla. Cir. Ct. June 26, 1997).  The Court applied 230(c)(1) in holding that AOL was not liable for statements made by an AOL subscriber in an AOL chatroom.  Plaintiff appealed to Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals.   (Case No. 97-2587.)  The appeals court affirmed the trial court decision, but certified several questions for review by the Florida Supreme Court.

Blumenthal v. Drudge and AOL, pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Case Number 97-CV-1968.  AOL has raised 230(c)(1) as a defense to Blumenthal's claim that AOL is liable for alleged defamation of content provider Drudge.  On 4/22/98 the District Court granted AOL's Motion for Summary Judgment based on 230.  The case proceeds against Drudge alone.

Aquino v. Electriciti, Inc., 26 Media Law Reporter (BNA) 1032, (Cal. Super. Ct., Sept. 23, 1997), case dismissed pursuant to 230(c)(1).

Lunney v. Prodigy Servs. Co., No. 21886194 (NY Sup. Ct. 1/13/98), appeal docketed No. 97-07342 (NY App. Div. Jan 29, 1998).  Prodigy's Motion for Summary Judgment was denied on state procedural grounds, without construing 230.

Mainstream Loudoun v. Loudoun County Public Libraries, pending in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria, Case Number   Defendant library system has asserted 230(c)(2)(A) as a defense to claim for an injunction barring it from using blocking software.  The Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss based on 230.

 

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