US law and comments on websites

David Ardia, on legal liability for comments online from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard, talks about CDA 230, the section of the Communications Decency Act that provides some protection to people who run web sites.

Joshua Benton from the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University says:

I wish every managing editor in the country could see this 20-minute video. I’ve heard so many misconceptions over the years about news organizations’ legal ability to police, manage, or otherwise edit the comments left on their web sites. They say “the lawyers” tell them they can’t edit out an obscenity or remove a rude or abusive post without bringing massive legal liability upon themselves — and that the only solutions are to either have a Wild West, anything-goes comments policy or to not have comments in the first place.

That’s not true, and hasn’t been true since 1996.