What’s Wrong with the Communications Decency Act?


On-line defamation is the fastest growing sector of Internet Law.  It’s just so easy to walk into a coffee shop, register an email account, and attack away.  There’s legislation in Washington DC that aims to make it tougher for garden variety defamation to stay on-line and to hold providers like Google, YouTube, and other content providers accountable.  There’s pros and cons to such legislation.

Until new legislation, it is easy to defame on-line and so it happens often.

What Legal Options Does One Have and Is it Good Enough?

Let’s assume the anonymous blogger stays anonymous which is typical in cases like this where it’s unsubstantiated name calling.  The only other option is to get Google to remove it from their index.  Google is indemnified from wrong doing in allowing the blogger to defame, copyright infringe, and trademark violate.  Under current law, Google is in a Safe Harbor.  Google rests behind section 230 of the Communications Decency act which protects and indemnifies internet providers like Google and Blogger (Google owns Blogger) from such third party rants.  I wrote all about this in a post called “Protect your Name“.

Another interesting consideration is questionable practices in how Google ranks their own assets (blogspot, youtube) compared to others.  Here’s a good read on that suggesting anti-trust.
A good read on the subject provided by PC World available here.

I am thinking much bigger.  Does Google have a legal obligation to establish some degree of validity – especially when it comes to anonymous posts using their blogger platform?   I am one of thousands dealing with trying to answer this pressing question.  There are bills in congress (albeit they are flawed – like SOPA) that attempt to deal with this issue.

Google does indeed have a legal responsibility and an ethical one, and perhaps most importantly, a practical one.  If Google is truly going to “organize the world’s information,” they must do so in a fashion that does not necessarily give more weight to their own products (like Blogger or Google Local).  The same algorithms and rules that apply to all sites should certainly apply to Google products.  This what companies like Yelp and Expedia, and guys like me, are trying to get Google to do.

In summary, the Communications Decency Act, section 230, was designed to encourage internet providers to create and populate content.  This is terrific!  I’m all for that.  The more the better.  But, the act should not completely indemnify providers that are expected to provide relevancy in a fair and equitable fashion.  I feel strongly a landmark case will soon change the law.



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