47 USC 230′s Legislative History

Photo credit: enameled house number two hundred and thirty // ShutterStock

Photo credit: enameled house number two hundred and thirty // ShutterStock

I had reason to revisit the legislative history for 47 USC 230, which was Section 509 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[FN1] For some reason, I had trouble retrieving it through typical Google searches, so I’m sharing it here for your convenience.

FN1: I routinely see the statute referred to as “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” including in the Wikipedia entry. The Communications Decency Act was Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and 47 USC 230 was in Section 509. So the more precise reference is “Section 509 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996″ or, a little less precisely, “Section 509 of the Communications Decency Act.”
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From House Report 104-458, the Conference Report from the House of Representatives dated January 31, 1996 (see page 193-94 of the PDF):

SECTION 509—ONLINE FAMILY EMPOWERMENT

Senate bill

No provision.

House amendment

Section 104 of the House amendment protects from civil liability those providers and users of interactive computer services for actions to restrict or to enable restriction of access to objectionable online material.

Conference agreement

The conference agreement adopts the House provision with minor modifications as a new section 230 of the Communications Act. This section provides “Good Samaritan” protections from civil liability for providers or users of an interactive computer service for actions to restrict or to enable restriction of access to objectionable online material. One of the specific purposes of this section is to overrule Stratton-Oakmont v. Prodigy and any other similar decisions which have treated such providers and users as publishers or speakers of content that is not their own because they have restricted access to objectionable material. The conferees believe that such decisions create serious obstacles to the important federal policy of empowering parents to determine the content of communications their children receive through interactive computer services.

These protections apply to all interactive computer services, as defined in new subsection 230(e)(2), including non-subscriber systems such as those operated by many businesses for employee use. They also apply to all access software providers, as defined in new section 230(e)(5), including providers of proxy server software.

The conferees do not intend, however, that these protections from civil liability apply to so-called ‘‘cancelbotting,’’ in which recipients of a message respond by deleting the message from the computer systems of others without the consent of the originator or without having the right to do so.