47 U.S.C. §230 provides a robust statutory immunity against website liability for user-generated content (UGC). This Article justifies Section 230 by identifying a previously under-explored policy justification for the statute. Section 230 helps websites generate non-public information about marketplace offerings and publish that information in ways that help consumers make better decisions. As a result, 230 helps the marketplace’s “invisible hand” work more effectively—a crucial social benefit that could be easily lost by modifying the immunity.
Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law and Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. Before he became a full-time academic in 2002, he practiced Internet law for 8 years in the Silicon Valley. His research and teaching focuses on Internet, IP and advertising law topics, and he blogs on these topics at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog and the Tertium Quid blog at Forbes. In 2012, Managing IP magazine named him to a shortlist of North American “IP Thought Leaders,” and in 2011, he received the “IP Vanguard” award (in the academic/public policy category) from the California State Bar’s IP Section.