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The Little Piece of Law That Launched the Internet as We Know It

posted 22 Feb 2011, 10:49 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Feb 2011, 10:52 ]

Feb. 22, 2011 (Business Wire) — Want to learn more about the 26 words without which there might be no Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Google, Yelp or eBay?

A conference March 4 at Santa Clara University School of Law will explore the history, impact and future of 47 U.S.C. §230, the statute that helped lay the foundation for Web 2.0. The event is being held Friday, March 4 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Santa Clara University’s Benson Memorial Center, Mission Room.

The anticipated speakers at the conference are some of the best-known experts in Internet Law, including:

  • Former Congressman and SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, who co-authored and co-sponsored the law that became Section 230.
  • Ken Zeran, who unsuccessfully sued AOL after he was the victim of an early cyber-harassment attack via an AOL message board. The 1997 Fourth Circuit opinion in his lawsuit has become a seminal Internet Law case and is studied in most Internet Law courses throughout the country.
  • Chief Justice Alex Kozinski of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who authored the majority opinion in Fair Housing Council v., one of the highest profile cases where a Section 230 defense failed.
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Congresswoman whose district covers Silicon Valley
  • In-house counsel for leading Web 2.0 companies, including Alexander Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel, and Laurence Wilson, Yelp’s general counsel
  • Leading public interest lawyers representing Section 230 defendants, including Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group

Detailed event information can be found here:


Fifteen years ago, Congress passed the Telecommunication Act of 1996, a major reform of our telecommunications industry. Tucked inside that massive law was 47 U.S.C. §230, which basically says that Internet site aren’t liable for postings by users or other third parties – even if the third-party content is libelous, even if the website receives a takedown notice, and even if the website exercises editorial control over the content. The key operative provision, 230(c)(1), is a mere 26 words.

Now, those 26 words arguably have helped launch the biggest explosion of websites, services and innovation ever seen.

“Section 230 has played a huge role in facilitating user-generated content (UGC) websites and the Web 2.0 industry. The law helps websites run their businesses without fearing enormous liability for what their users do,” said Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University School of Law’s High Tech Law Institute.

The event is being co-sponsored by Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center, Stanford Law School’s Law, Science & Technology program, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy, the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Media Law Resource Center and the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Law Association.

About Santa Clara University School of Law

Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 975 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see