2014 Schedule
Interactive: March 7–11  •  Film: March 7–15  •  Music: March 11–16

The Fragile Law that Protects Online Speech

#sxsw #fragilelaw

Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act is responsible for the shape of the Internet as we know it today, by freeing website operators from needing to conduct a legal review of each and every user communication that crosses their systems.
And yet, the protection granted by Section 230 is both controversial and fragile. Judges are uncomfortable with the idea that websites can publish revenge porn, pay-to-remove mugshot galleries, and prostitution ads with impunity. State attorney generals have demanded that Congress amend Section 230 to give them broad new powers to bring criminal charges against social media sites, to use them as a choke point to cut off illegal content involving child trafficking. But what would limiting Section 230 mean for the future of peer-to-peer communication?
This panel will explore the controversy over Section 230, including the voices demanding its repeal or change and the consequences to online speech of yielding to such demands.



Ari Shahdadi

General Counsel


As General Counsel for Tumblr, Ari serves as the head of Tumblr's Legal, Trust & Safety, and Policy functions and as a member of the Tumblr senior executive team. He previously worked in private practice at Gunderson Dettmer and at Fish & Richardson, P.C. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and Bachelors and Masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT.


Eric Goldman

Professor & Dir

High Tech Law Institute @ Santa Clara University School of Law

Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law, where he is also Director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute. His research and teaching focuses on Internet law, intellectual property and marketing law.

Before becoming a full-time law professor, Eric practiced law in the Silicon Valley for 8 years, first as a technology transactions attorney at Cooley Godward LLP and then as General Counsel of Epinions.com, an Internet start-up company. Prior to Santa Clara, he was an Assistant Professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley Law School and the University of San Francisco Law School.

He blogs on Internet law matters at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog and the Tertium Quid Blog at Forbes.


Jeff Hermes


Digital Media Law Project @ Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Jeff is the Director of the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP) at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. At the DMLP, Jeff coordinates a suite of online legal resources for independent journalists and digital publishing ventures, engages in advocacy on behalf of free speech interests, and researches critical issues affecting the flow of important information to the public.

Prior to joining the Berkman Center, Jeff assisted a wide array of clients in First Amendment, media, intellectual property and Internet law issues as a partner in the litigation practice of Brown Rudnick LLP and later as counsel to Hermes, Netburn, O'Connor & Spearing, P.C. in Boston. Over the last fourteen years, Jeff has represented an international media network and its subsidiaries, major metropolitan newspapers, local broadcasters on television and radio, Internet-based publishers and social media networks. He has written for numerous publications and spoken at a wide array of events on media law and other issues.

Jeff received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1997, and received his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton University in 1994.

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