Will the CDA Save Social Media Companies?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 19, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's the blessing and bane of the internet, but it's as old as the Chinese parable of the farmer and his horses.

The horses go from one misfortune to the next, but the farmer sees a blessing each time. And so it is with internet service providers and the Communications Decency Act.

Internet companies get sued all the time, but that can be a good thing. It's up to the courts to give perspective.

Blessing of the CDA

For internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the CDA has been a blessing. Section 230 has been a legal shield from liability for users' content.

However, attorneys are always looking for a way around it. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has sued Facebook for posting job ads that discriminate against women.

"We can't let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago," said ACLU lawyer Galen Sherwin.

In a press release, the ACLU acknowledged that online platforms are not generally liable for publishing content created by others. But, the ACLU said, Facebook acts as a recruiter by delivering ads based on employers' preferences.

Bane of Litigation

The social media company says it prohibits discrimination, and has strengthened options to forbid it among users. That's a good thing.

The company announced in August that it was removing 5,000 advertising options to avoid misuse, but users can still choose their advertising targets based on age or sex. That's a business model thing.

Last year, the Communications Workers of America sued Amazon, T-Mobile and other major employers for violating age-bias laws by placing ads on Facebook that displayed only to younger people.

Outten & Golden, which filed the age-bias case, is co-counsel in the gender-bias case against Facebook.

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