cover image The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet

The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet

Jeff Kosseff. Cornell Univ., $26.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-5017-1441-2

Kosseff, a U.S. Naval Academy cyberscience professor and Pulitzer finalist for reporting, insightfully analyzes Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1995, which grants internet service providers near-complete immunity from lawsuits over content posted by their users. Kosseff convincingly argues that, without this protection, the risk of litigation would have chilled expression and discouraged the many beneficial services now available online. His account of how Republican Chris Cox and Democrat Ron Wyden drafted the section together provides an exceptionally clear picture of the legislative process, and his discussion of the cases in which federal courts adopted an expansive interpretation of Section 230 is both accessible and legally astute. Kosseff brings these cases to life with brief, well-chosen excerpts from courtroom arguments and illustrative details about the players, such as the first judge to issue an opinion, former naval aviator T.S. Ellis III, “notorious for writing long opinions that leave no fact or argument unaddressed.” Kosseff concludes by considering how best to guarantee internet providers’ rights and freedom of expression while simultaneously preserving the government’s ability to regulate dangerous content, such as content that facilitates human trafficking or compromises national security. Kosseff has a thorough grasp of his material, and readers will find his exploration of Section 230 balanced, timely, and consistently thought-provoking. (Apr.)