The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Adam Candeub & Eugene Volokh, "Interpreting 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2)"


Still more from the free speech and social media platforms symposium in the first issue of our Journal of Free Speech Law; you can read the whole article (by Michigan State law professor Adam Candeub and me) here, but here's the abstract:

Section 230(c)(2) immunizes platforms' decisions to block material that they "consider[] to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable." The ejusdem generis interpretive canon suggests that "otherwise objectionable" should be read "to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words."

In this instance, the similarity is that all those words refer to material that was traditionally viewed as regulable in electronic communications media—and was indeed regulated by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, as part of which § 230 was enacted. And restrictions on speech on "the basis of its political or religious content" were not viewed as generally permissible, even in electronic communications.