Report: AGs want federal law protecting Internet publishers, service providers amended

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 20, 2013

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) -- A group of state attorneys general wants Congress to amend a federal law that protects Internet publishers and service providers against libel suits and other actions.

IDG News Service reported earlier this week that the National Association of Attorneys General is circulating a draft letter and is planning to send it to federal lawmakers, requesting an amendment to the Communications Decency Act's Safe Harbor provision.

The 36 state and territorial attorneys general gathered in Boston Monday through Wednesday to discuss a variety of legal issues, including U.S. Supreme Court cases and recent decisions, online intellectual property crimes, tobacco policy and enforcement, veterans' issues, the Boston Marathon bombings and response, and the Safe Harbor provision.

Section 230 of the CDA states 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."

It is intended to give Internet service providers, or ISPs, and other suppliers of online services a measure of protection against libel suits and similar actions arising from statements made by people who use their services.

Basically, the law protects publishers and website operators from being held liable for content written by third parties.

The only exceptions are those cases involving federal criminal law, intellectual property law and electronic-communications privacy law.

According to IDG, South Dakota Marty Jackley told his fellow attorneys general Tuesday that the requested amendment would insert two words, "or state," where the statute exempts cases involving federal criminal law.

Currently, because of the provision, state attorneys general cannot prosecute cases over online content where state-level criminal laws are at issue.

Jackley, who is leading the effort to amend the Safe Harbor provision, along with Washington's Bob Ferguson and Missouri's Chris Koster, said the letter making the request could be sent to Congress as soon as July 8.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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