It’s recent events like the Italian trial of the Google employees which makes me quite thankful that in the United States we have an established principle like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Still, even that may not protect the employees from criminal liability like what occurred in the Google matter.
Briefly, Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others:
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.
In order to use this provision, there are three elements:
1. The defendant must be a “provider or user” of an “interactive computer service.”
2. The cause of action asserted by the plaintiff must “treat” the defendant “as the publisher or speaker” of the published information at issue.
3. The information must be “provided by another information content provider,” i.e., the defendant must not be the “information content provider” of the published information at issue.
Section 230 does not protect providers or users from all harms, for example it would not protect the provider or user from criminal copyright infringement, or from violating fair housing laws, etc. Still, the fact that it works as it does provides us with the modern internet we know today.