a provider of access tools that filter, screen, allow, or disallow content that the provider or user considers obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable is protected from liability by 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2)(B) for any action taken to make available to others the technical means to restrict access to that material.Eric Goldman at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog has an excellent summary of the case and its significance. According to Goldman, the case is important for two main reasons:
The second point should seem pretty obvious to any user of a computer (how odd would it be if virus programmers could sue anti-virus software makers?) but things that are apparent in the real world aren't so obvious in the legal world, so it's good to see the Ninth Circuit set this precedent.
First, the Ninth Circuit's last two 230 opinions (Roommates.com and Barnes) have exhibited some hostility to expansive 230 readings. In refreshing contrast, this opinion gives a robust interpretation to 230's immunizations.Second, this opinion is terrific news for vendors of anti-spam/anti-spyware/anti-virus services. Although we have long suspected that they would be protected under 230(c)(2), this opinion codifies their immunization as Ninth Circuit law.