Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Good Samaritan of Cyberspace

Among the internet-reliant countries in the world, only one country has expressly legislated to protect ISPs and ‘interactive content service providers’ from liability arising from third party content. And I swear this sentence will make sense in the succeeding paragraphs.

The U.S.A. Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act (CDA) which contains the most celebrated defense in the history of internet liability defenses: Section 230 which says 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." This is often called the Good Samaritan Defense, aptly called as such because it protects the messenger (the Internet Service Providers and Interactive Content Service Providers e.g. forum owners, blogsite moderators and their circle of friends) from potential suits arising from the contents posted in their sites.

The internet is an open field of anonymous opinions/contents and the government saw the need for regulation. The birth of the CDA resulted to a rich case law which upholds the broad protection among website owners otherwise liable for incriminating posts and comments. In the overall picture, this affirms the primacy of free speech over any other governmental interest in the regulation of cyberspace activity.

Fifteen years later from its enactment (the Act was passed in 1996), no country has followed suit. Why? Don’t the rest of us mere mortals need a Good Samaritan in our midst?

In a country which has very limited technological resource capabilities (I even doubt that we have the tracing the ISP number technology down already. I’m not judging. Just doubtin’), the legislation of a Good Samaritan Rule will reinforce the prevailing air of a free libel zone here in our locally based fora. Anyone can go post anything incriminating but still be able to get off scot-free. So following that logic, anyone can be incriminated or defamed but no legal cause of action will prosper in our courts.

Of course, I’m exaggerating (perhaps to compensate the mundaneness of my opening line). We can expect US jurisprudence to have set parameters already in the recognition of the Good Samaritan defense (but because this is not Senior Legal Research, I will not delve into). But as for me, I just expect a law, any law (please RP internet gods, give us a law!), which addresses the nexus of free speech and internet governance. Amen.


Entry # 5

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