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Check Your Facts — Section 230

In terms of online posting, blogging or other forms of publication, you’re responsible for the content you provide.

On the other hand, if someone places a defamatory post on your blog or Web site, even if you do some minor editing such as deleting obscenities or shortening text, you have powerful protection under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. If someone wants to sue, they need to track down the originator, California’s Supreme Court concluded in an important Section 230 decision. However, if you develop, create or transform the content in question, then you can be held legally accountable. Also, if you solicit information in a content-shaping way, you could be accountable for related legal violations.

What’s especially unclear under this law is this: Does Section 230 protect people who re-post others’ content? Blogger rights and free speech advocates argue that it should. It will take time for legal challenges to wend their way through the courts and create bright-line rules. But the process has begun. In Pennsylvania, a state senator sued a woman for posting a newspaper story on her Web site on a claim the story was libelous. His suit was dismissed because the court found it was barred by Section 230.

For further information, see the new Citizen Media Law Project Primer on Immunity and Liability for Third Party Content.

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