Colleen M. Koch


Though popular MTV reality show Catfish makes online impersonation seem like a lighthearted and incredible harm, it is actually an undesirable cyber behavior that carries potentially serious consequences. Despite the seriousness of the problem, social networking sites have few incentives to stop the problem, largely due to the broad immunity they are granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which holds them entirely immune for the content posted by users of their sites. Moreover, few state statutes currently exist to address the problem, and those that do are largely ineffective. While civil liability could be a solution to the problem, as the law currently stands, most civil remedies are too costly to pursue given the relatively low damages available to plaintiffs. Thus, amending Section 230 to hold social networking sites liable for harmful online impersonation about which they have actual knowledge, in an amendment similar to that of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that holds websites liable for copyright infringing material they knew or should have known about, would allow and encourage both (1) stronger enforcement of existing terms of service agreements on social media sites, and (2) civil litigation to protect an individual's right to Internet safety and freedom when social media sites fail to do so. *