Hi. My name is Michael Erdman. I created this blog (or “blawg”) to start a discussion among technologists, lawyers and other interested persons on the topic of legal liability on the Internet. Specifically, I am interested in identifying and analyzing with others the circumstances under which a website, blog, internet service provider, host, subscription service, or the like, may be liable for certain online “conduct.” I expect the conversations here to focus on cases that may trigger “immunity” under the section of the Communications Decency Act codified at 47 U.S.C. 230(c). I should note that I do not expect to devote substantial space to intellectual property topics in this area, but issues relating to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may be covered from time to time.
What exactly am I talking about? Here are a few current examples (beyond the typical defamation action filed against a website for the alleged display of libelous content submitted by a third party) of disputes relating to potential online liability, some of which may implicate Section 230, that I look forward to considering on this blog:
- Is an online bulletin board or roommate-finding site liable for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act that are displayed on the website?
- Is a matchmaking website subject to liability for civil rights violations in connection with features that allegedly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation?
- Is a retailer’s website subject to liability for features that allegedly violate the Americans With Disabilities Act?
- Is a website that advertises real property available for sale or rent subject to state real estate licensing laws, and, accordingly, liable for alleged violations thereof?
- Is a social networking website liable when a predator utilizes the site to exploit, and, in some cases, physically harm, a minor?
In order to sharpen my own familiarity and understanding of some of the more notable Section 230 decisions of the last ten years, I am in the process of creating short summaries of the dozen or so opinions issued by several United States Courts of Appeals and state Supreme Courts that have construed the statute. I will be posting these summaries on the blog as static webpages, accessible from links in the right-hand column. For the lawyers or law students out there, these summaries will resemble case briefs, and will hopefully help stimulate and encourage meaningful discussions among all participants about past decisions as well as future disputes, lawsuits and rulings relating to online liability.
I look forward to hearing from you. Welcome.