Happy Silver Anniversary to Section 230 of Communications Decency Act (“CDA” or “Section 230”), which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in February 1996. At that time, Congress enacted CDA Section 230 in response to case law that raised the specter of liability for any online service provider that attempted to moderate its platform, thus discouraging the screening out and blocking of offensive material. As has been extensively reported on this blog, the world of social media and user-generated content is supported by protections afforded by Section 230. Now, 25 years later, the CDA is at a crossroads of sorts and its protections have stoked some controversy. Yet, as it stands, Section 230 continues to provide robust immunity for online providers.
In a recent case, Google LLC (“Google”) successfully argued for the application of Section 230, resulting in a California district court dismissing, with leave to amend, a putative class action alleging consumer protection law claims against the Google Play App Store. The claims concerned the offering for download of third party mobile video games that allow users to buy Loot Boxes, which are in-app purchases that contain a randomized assortment of items that can improve a player’s chances at advancing in a videogame. The plaintiffs claimed these offerings constituted illegal “slot machines or devices” under California law. (Coffee v. Google LLC, No. 20-03901 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 10, 2021)).