Should Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or other purveyors of internet content be liable for damages if they fail to ensure that what they disseminate is not inaccurate, libelous, or otherwise dangerous and pernicious?
There is a bit of law on this, but we are only now beginning seriously to consider this question. And only now are we beginning to understand that—since Americans increasingly rely on the internet for basic information—if the internet does not accurately reflect reality, our politics and our culture are at risk.
Given the American preference for free markets and a robust interpretation of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”), our federal legislators concluded early on that there ought to be no liability on the part of internet providers for materials posted by third parties. Thus, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
In plain English, our internet media giants, unless they themselves are the authors of the content they publish, have immunity from private lawsuits seeking damages.
This immunity is of course not extended to the publishers of other print media, online or...