Unregulating Online Harassment Essay

By Eric Goldman

I posted a very short essay to SSRN called Unregulating Online Harassment. This essay recaps and expands some of my remarks from the Denver University “Cyber Civil Rights” Symposium last November. I previously posted a lengthy recap of the conference.

The essay provides a high-level defense of 47 USC 230–in its current form and without any embellishments–as a response to the way the immunity rankles many advocates against online harassment. If you can believe it–and it may be hard to do so given how many times I’ve blogged about 47 USC 230 cases–this brief-‘n’-breezy essay is actually the first time I have written about 47 USC 230 in the (quasi-)academic literature. The publication specs make the essay almost embarrassingly glib as a contribution to the academic discourse; it’s only about 1,000 words and has almost no footnotes, so it’s neither industrial-grade nor the final word on this topic. However, I find that people are more likely to read short academic works than the big battleship pieces, so perhaps a piece like this has a place in the academic canon despite its format limitations. I promise a different but more industrial-grade academic defense of 230 when I get around to writing up my regulating reputational systems research.

Adam Thierer and Berin Szoka of PFF posted a response to the essay, praising 230 as “the very cornerstone of Internet Freedom, since it makes possible an online ‘utopia for utopias.'” My favorite part of their post (other than the link love, of course!) is a BCG-like four-quadrant matrix of pressures to deputize online intermediaries to intervene on third party content.