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Bad Words and Good Samaritans: Defamatory Speech in Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  14 Beyond the defamation decisions, it is important to note that the courts have broadly defined service providers. As a result, the immunity conferred by Section 230 has been extended well beyond traditional ISPs like AOL or Prodigy. This explains why businesses like Kinko’s and Amazon.com—a copy shop and a web site selling books and other goods—have successfully used Section 230 as a shield against lawsuits. In Kathleen R. v. City of Livermore (2001), a California city successfully argued that its public library qualified as an “interactive computer service” because “library computers enable multiple users to access the Internet” (p. 693). Given that fact, the court held the city could not be sued for its failure to install filters on the library’s computers to protect minors like Kathleen R from sexually explicit content. While the courts have broadly construed service providers, Section 230 has also been extended to bar claims originating from third party content involving copyright infringement, invasion of privacy, and the distribution of child pornography. In Sotner v. eBay.com (2000), for example, the court held that Section 230 immunized eBay against a suit alleging that eBay knew that many sound recordings being auctioned on its web site illegally infringed on protected intellectual property. Along the same lines, in John Does v. Franco Productions (2000), the court held that Section 230 prevented Illinois State University football players who had been videotaped in various states of undress—without their permission—from suing ISPs that had hosted web sites where these tapes were sold. In Defense of Zeran’s Interpretation of Section 230 “Courts construing the CDA and the Zeran decision,” Pantazis (1999) notes, “have come to identical conclusions even when given strikingly different fact scenarios” (p. 554; Band and Schruers, 2002, p. 301). Despite the consistency of the results, there is growing criticism

Authors: Herbeck, Dale.
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14
Beyond the defamation decisions, it is important to note that the courts have broadly
defined service providers. As a result, the immunity conferred by Section 230 has been extended
well beyond traditional ISPs like AOL or Prodigy. This explains why businesses like Kinko’s
and Amazon.com—a copy shop and a web site selling books and other goods—have successfully
used Section 230 as a shield against lawsuits. In Kathleen R. v. City of Livermore (2001), a
California city successfully argued that its public library qualified as an “interactive computer
service” because “library computers enable multiple users to access the Internet” (p. 693). Given
that fact, the court held the city could not be sued for its failure to install filters on the library’s
computers to protect minors like Kathleen R from sexually explicit content.
While the courts have broadly construed service providers, Section 230 has also been
extended to bar claims originating from third party content involving copyright infringement,
invasion of privacy, and the distribution of child pornography. In Sotner v. eBay.com (2000), for
example, the court held that Section 230 immunized eBay against a suit alleging that eBay knew
that many sound recordings being auctioned on its web site illegally infringed on protected
intellectual property. Along the same lines, in John Does v. Franco Productions (2000), the court
held that Section 230 prevented Illinois State University football players who had been
videotaped in various states of undress—without their permission—from suing ISPs that had
hosted web sites where these tapes were sold.
In Defense of Zeran’s Interpretation of Section 230
“Courts construing the CDA and the Zeran decision,” Pantazis (1999) notes, “have come
to identical conclusions even when given strikingly different fact scenarios” (p. 554; Band and
Schruers, 2002, p. 301). Despite the consistency of the results, there is growing criticism


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