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The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  13 reviews
As seen on CBS 60 Minutes

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.

Did you know that these twenty-six words are responsible for much of America's multibillion-dollar online industry? What we can and cannot write, say, and do online is based on j
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Hardcover, 328 pages
Published April 15th 2019 by Cornell University Press
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Rajiv Srinivasan
I picked up this book after Donald Trump held hostage the Defense Authorization Bill in exchange for a repeal of Section 230 of the CDA. This is a little known statute with absolutely unbelievable consequence to our modern economy. There is now 25 years of case law that Jeff Kosseff outlines in brilliant form in this book. How can one law simultaneously encourage and promote the #metoo movement, protecting women as they protest against the most powerful men in society; protect the vile, racist, ...more
Nicolaus Stengl

An excellent legal, cultural, and historical analysis of a single sentence, one which is even more relevant today: “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.”

Here we read about the obscenity laws of the 20th century, the early days of the Internet, and thus also the ways and means by which disinformation can be spread.



John Hoole
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: free-speech
An opinionated and very useful primer on the history of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - a law passed by Congress in 1996 that enabled the development of the modern internet by shielding service providers from being sued for the inaccurate, illegal, defamatory, stupid shit they provide as user-generated content. Kosseff summarizes that the law specifies "that companies will not be considered to be the speakers or publishers of third-party content, and they will not lose that prote ...more
Jon
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not sure what I was hoping for when I got this book, but it wasn't what I expected (not necessarily a bad thing). A detailed summary of how federal legal protection was provided to companies' web sites -- protecting them from content posted by others -- and how that created both a surge in internet use and a myriad of so-far unsolved problems. The book may be a little too exhaustive in outlining the relevant cases (all of this ended up in court). I could've used more concise summaries, especiall ...more
Mike Warren
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Internet has transformed our lives and upended American commerce. As it functions in the United States, the Internet is likely the greatest platform for free speech in the history of the world. Websites like Facebook and Twitter have changed, for better or worse, how we interact with each other, and digital marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Spotify have put a remarkably wide range of products and services at our fingertips. None of this, argues Jeff Kosseff, would have been possible without ...more
Kappner C. Boles
Great history of liability limitations on the internet

I learned a great deal about the history of legal battles around limiting liability for internet platforms. The book presents a balanced view of the many implications that any particular policy choice might generate. There is no path that does not create some unfairness or other negative consequences and I now have a better understanding of these trade offs.
Kevin Jennings
This was a great review of the Section 230 part of the law the governs the internet. It basically explains why exists, what its implications are and what are its limits. Really great if you are interested in what "free speech" on the internet means. Literal Goodreads could not exist without Section 230 and I wouldn't be writing any reviews anywhere on the internet without it either. ...more
Geoff
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely thoroughly researched and very interesting book about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, told through First Amendment decisions prior to its enactment and the various legal challenges to the law over time. I would have loved a bit more opinion on the future of the law, but what's there is very good and appropriately nuanced in its presentation. ...more
Marc F.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent biography of Section 230 documenting the origin, impact and implications beyond the mass media sound bites. Take the time to read this, especially if you want to advocate a position. Be educated before you exercise your American right if “Free Speech”.
Jacob Mainwaring
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t finish but was able to get the main takeaway. The book goes into great detail about the history and future of section 230 of the communications decency act, which regards internet platforms as distributors, rather than publishers, of content. In other words, they are seen more as phone companies than as newspapers, which means they are not liable for the information posted on their sites. The goal of this clause was to encourage platforms to moderate and remove objectionable/obscene con ...more
Riley Holmes
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting exposition of various important court cases related to freedom of speech and liability in the early days of the internet.
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Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects website owners from liability from stuff that their users post. (Intellectual property claims, child porn, and violations of federal criminal laws are not covered by 230.) Kosseff traces the legal background in the US that produced the perceived need for 230—courts had started to suggest that websites could be liable for user-supplied content if they enforced content policies but missed a particular bad post, but not if t ...more
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