Posted By: Rob Pollack
How We Got Here:
In the mid-1990’s, Internet service providers who hosted content on their websites were being held to the same standards as traditional publishers in many lawsuits, leading to a situation in which these Internet companies were forced to spend considerable resources and time policing content on their sites and removing objectionable posts. This high standard was retarding Internet growth and stymying one of the advantages of the Internet: that it was a place for freedom of expression and thought and a place where a vast amount of information could be mined.
If ISPs and interactive content providers were required to police their sites diligently by finding and deleting objectionable content, they would be in court quite often if they allowed for largely free expression on their sites, or more likely, they would stop allowing such free expression on their sites and the users would not be allowed to utilize the Internet in the way Congress wanted the Internet to be utilized. Without taking these steps, the ISP’s would be subject to liability for every single post on their websites and so websites would start to resemble more print-magazines than the Internet we know today. Like print newspapers, everything that is posted would be highly scrutinized, curated, and filtered for content without much room for error. This is not how Congress wanted the Internet to function, and so they decided that they had to take action legislatively to protect ISPs, but has that legal protection gone too far at the detriment of minors? This is the question we have to decide after more than 20 years of Communications Decency Act (CDA) dominance in the legal landscape.