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January 2018

headshot of Santa Clara University School of Law Prof. Eric Goldman

headshot of Santa Clara University School of Law Prof. Eric Goldman

Scholars and Advocates Urge NAFTA Negotiators to Protect Free Speech Online

Media Alert

Fifty-five Internet law experts and organizations have written a letter urging Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. trade negotiators to protect Internet businesses from being sued for content posted by others on their sites.

The letter comes as representatives from the U.S., Mexico and Canada are working on changes to modernize the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA.

In 1996, the U.S. enacted a law, called “Section 230,” that says websites aren’t liable for content posted on their sites by third parties. The letter asks negotiators to incorporate that principle into NAFTA’s next draft.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network,” they wrote. Since then, Section 230 has been “directly responsible for the success of major Internet companies” that millions of consumers rely on 24 hours a day, they wrote.

The letter explains how adopting liability protections like Section 230 would lower barriers to startup online companies, advance free speech, and protect sites publishing consumer reviews.

“The legal exposure of Internet businesses raises vitally important trade issues,” said Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute, who spearheaded the effort. “If all North American websites enjoyed protection like Section 230, it would strengthen the Internet across all of North America, which in turn would benefit every North American business from the largest giants to the smallest startups.”

For more information, contact Eric Goldman at egoldman@gmail.com or Deborah Lohse of SCU Media Communications, dlohse@scu.edu or 408-554-5121.

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