55 Academics and Advocates Urge NAFTA Trade Negotiators To Add Internet Immunity

55 scholars and organizations submitted a letter to NAFTA negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. encouraging them to incorporate Section 230-like protection into NAFTA’s proposed digital trade chapter. Here is the SCU media alert:

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Fifty-five Internet law experts and organizations have written a letter urging Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. trade negotiators to protect Internet businesses from being sued for content posted by others on their sites.

The letter comes as representatives from the U.S., Mexico and Canada are working on changes to modernize the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA.

In 1996, the U.S. enacted a law, called “Section 230,” that says websites aren’t liable for content posted on their sites by third parties. The letter asks negotiators to incorporate that principle into NAFTA’s next draft.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network,” they wrote. Since then, Section 230 has been “directly responsible for the success of major Internet companies” that millions of consumers rely on 24 hours a day, they wrote.

The letter explains how adopting liability protections like Section 230 would lower barriers to startup online companies, advance free speech, and protect sites publishing consumer reviews.

“The legal exposure of Internet businesses raises vitally important trade issues,” said Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute, who spearheaded the effort. “If all North American websites enjoyed protection like Section 230, it would strengthen the Internet across all of North America, which in turn would benefit every North American business from the largest giants to the smallest startups.”

For more information, contact Eric Goldman at egoldman@gmail.com or Deborah Lohse of SCU Media Communications, dlohse@scu.edu or 408-554-5121.

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I’ve written often about Section 230’s economic benefits. Someday I’ll finish my big academic paper on the topic. For now, a couple of supplemental links:

Expert Report on the Value of Consumer Review Websites and 47 USC 230

The Regulation of Reputational Information

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Other commentary:

* Michael Geist, Canada’s Missing Internet Provision: Why NAFTA Offers the Chance to Establish Long Overdue Online Speech Safeguards

* TechFreedom: NAFTA Negotiators Should Protect the Internet Economy, Users

* EFF: Could Platform Safe Harbors Save the NAFTA Talks?

* Committee for Justice: CFJ Urges NAFTA Negotiators to Protect Online Free Speech

* Bennet Kelley: Academics Call on Trump to Address Digital Trade in New NAFTA

* Response from Kevin Madigan in The Hill: NAFTA shouldn’t include outdated internet safe harbors

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Partially related: Variety: NAFTA Renegotiation Triggers New ‘Safe Harbor’ Copyright Battle