Website Proprietorship and Online Harassment
67 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2009 Last revised: 6 Nov 2015
Date Written: March 6, 2009
Although harassment and bullying have always existed, when such behavior is conducted online, the consequences can be uniquely devastating. The anonymity of harassers, the ease of widespread digital dissemination, and the inability to contain and/or eliminate online information aggravate the nature of harassment on the Internet. Furthermore, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides website sponsors with immunity for content posted by others and no incentive to remove offending content. Given the unique nature of cyber harassment, ex post punitive measures are inadequate to redress grievances. In this Article, I propose the imposition of proprietorship liability upon website sponsors who fail to adopt "reasonable measures" to prevent foreseeable harm, such as cyber harassment. I also introduce several proposals to deter cyber harassment that would qualify as reasonable measures. These proposals incorporate contractual and architectural restraints; limits on anonymity; and restrictions on posting certain types of digital images.
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