How the Fight Over Craigslist's 'Adult Services' Endangers the Open Internet

The law that essentially allows social media to exist is under assault by state attorneys general, Ryan Singel reports. In an effort to score political points by pillorying Craigslist, the AGs are going after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which just so happens to be a key part of the legal infrastructure underpinning the open web as we know it. It's a must-read piece of analysis:

For example, WordPress, Yelp, Google Groups, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, Topix, Yahoo, The New York Times and Wired.com are all protected under this law. Blogger isn't responsible for any libel posted on a blog it hosts; Twitter isn't responsible for someone using it to sell drugs; Facebook isn't responsible if a user posts an infringing photo; review sites like Yelp aren't held liable if a user posts a libelous review, and no news site is legally responsible for what a commenter says. Instead, in each case, the person who wrote or posted is legally responsible and can be sued or charged criminally.

The logic is clear: if an electronic service bore responsibility for the postings of its users, there would be no online discussion forums, no reviews on Amazon.com, no feedback on eBay, no blog hosting services, no user comments on news stories, and no Wikipedia, Twitter or Facebook.

The most recent assault on Craigslist for allowing thinly veiled ads for prostitution and for legal "adult services" has been led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, caught in a tight race for the U.S. Senate. Wired.com asked his office what it is that he actually thinks Craigslist has done to violate the law and how he would re-work CDA 230.

Read the full story at Epicenter on Wired.

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