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Congress enacted § 230 of the CDA in response to two cases in the 1990s that set forth contrasting standards for defamation liability in suits against ISPs related to users' activity on the Internet. In 1991, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that CompuServe, an ISP, was not liable for defamation because it simply enabled users to access the Internet. In 1995, the New York Supreme Court held that Prodigy, which provided a service comparable to CompuServe's, should be held liable for defamation. Section 230 reflects Congress's concern that imposing liability on ISPs may discourage self-regulation and impede the free flow of information over the Internet. Section 230, therefore, protects ISPs from liability for their users' activities, except in limited circumstances. Although § 230 provides federal immunity to a provider or user of an interactive computer service, it does not extend protection to an information content provider ("ICP"). Section 230(f)(2) broadly defines interactive computer services as entities that serve multiple users over the Internet, and both ICPs and ISPs are included in that definition. An ICP, unlike an ISP, creates or develops information published on the Internet. Once a company qualifies as an ISP under § 230(f)(2) and (c)(1), broad immunity from civil liability applies. A threshold question under § 230, therefore, is whether an entity qualifies as an ISP.


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24 Oct 2022
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  • Subject
    • Intellectual Property Law

    • Internet Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Intellectual Property and Technology Forum

  • Volume
    • 2003

  • Pagination
    • 1-29

  • Date submitted

    24 October 2022

  • Related URL