Defamatory speech online can be broadly distributed, continually republished, easily searchable, and eternally copied and cached. Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act 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,” carving out unprecedented zones of First Amendment absolutism on the Internet. Section 230(e) preempts states from taking action that is inconsistent with the Act, while simultaneously declaiming any effect on federal criminal law, intellectual property law, or electronic communications privacy statutes.
Actual speakers can be held legally responsible for defamatory words or images, but online publishers have no legal obligation to assist victims with identifying or locating defamers, no matter how harsh the words are or how profoundly damaging their consequences. The impact of decreased normative and practical disincentives for defamation facilitated by Section 230 falls harder on some people than others. Defamation targeted at groups may constitute hate speech, while defamation targeted at individuals can literally ruin lives. The panelists will address legal issues related to defamatory speech on the Internet, with a focus on intersections between online defamation, gender and race.
Business Meeting at Program Conclusion.