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Communications of the ACM

Law and technology

Internet Immunity and the Freedom to Code

230 buoy

Credit: Roman Art

The internet's freedom to code is in jeopardy. In 1996, Congress enacted 47 U.S.C. § 230 ("Section 230"), which says Internet services are not liable for third-party content in many cases. In practice, for over two decades, Section 230 has legally immunized coders' decisions about how to gather, organize, and publish third-party content.

Section 230 has become a political target by all sides, but reforming it will impair coding freedom. In this Law and Technology column, I explain how Section 230 came into existence, the effects it has had, and why technologists should rally behind it to preserve their ability to build the next generation of Internet services.


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