adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT
adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT

1 audiobook of your choice.
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
$14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $24.95

Buy for $24.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Did you know that these 26 words are responsible for much of America's multibillion-dollar online industry? What we can and cannot write, say, and do online is based on just one law - a law that protects online services from lawsuits based on user content. Jeff Kosseff exposes the workings of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has lived mostly in the shadows since its enshrinement in 1996. Because many segments of American society now exist largely online, Kosseff argues that we need to understand and pay attention to what section 230 really means and how it affects what we like, share, and comment upon every day.

The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet tells the story of the institutions that flourished as a result of this powerful statute. It introduces us to those who created the law, those who advocated for it, and those involved in some of the most prominent cases decided under the law. Kosseff assesses the law that has facilitated freedom of online speech, trolling, and much more. 

The book is published by Cornell Univesity Press.

"Kosseff has a thorough grasp of his material, and readers will find his exploration of Section 230 balanced, timely, and consistently thought-provoking." (Publishers Weekly)

"Kosseff's excellent and well-researched book should thus be read by anyone interested in online regulation. It is a joy to read." (Orly Lobel, author of You Don't Own Me)

©2019 Cornell University (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

More from the same

What listeners say about The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    21
  • 4 Stars
    14
  • 3 Stars
    1
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    19
  • 4 Stars
    10
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    18
  • 4 Stars
    9
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Wow. Just wow.

Every now and then you read a book you won't forget for a while. This is one of them.

An anonymous hoaxer created a fake sales page on AOL implying that a Seattle realtor was selling t-shirts and other merchandise mocking the Oklahoma City bomb victims. The realtor’s phone range off the hook for months with people berating him and issuing death threats. The realtor asked AOL to take down the page. AOL ignored him. He sued, and lost.

The mother of an 11-year old found that a stranger had induced her child to act out nude sex scenes with other children, and was selling the videos on AOL. She asked AOL to take down the page. They did not. She sued, and lost.

An actress discovered that a dating site had a bogus web page pretending to be hers, saying she was looking for one night stands and hoping to be dominated, and giving personal details about her home phone, child, etc. She was bombarded by obnoxious calls. She asked the dating site to take down the page. They refused, saying only the (anonymous) owner of the page could change it. She sued, and lost.

An art agent had a dispute with a building contractor working on her house. He wrote to a museum saying she was a relative of Heinrich Himmler (of course she wasn’t) and had many stolen European artworks stolen from Jews hanging on her walls (they were American and painted 50+ years after the war). The museum spread the rumor to a mailing list of ~1000 people. The agent asked the museum to circulate a retraction. They wouldn’t. She sued, she lost.

A housing website hosted advertisements where prospective room-mates could list who they wouldn’t consider, based on race, age, having children, being treated for mental health, etc. They were sued, but after a ten-year battle up and down through appeals courts, the website was held blameless.

In several of these cases, the injured party who lost their court cases had to leave their home and sometimes the state where they lived, to avoid persecution from mobs who read and believed the baloney published about them online.

All these scenarios are enabled by the Section 230 protection afforded to websites, enshrined in the 1996 DCA act. The clause has been in the news recently for political reasons, but the above examples illustrate the extent to which websites can host anything, anything at all, including content that would be completely illegal in a newspaper (housing ads with “No Irish need apply”, anyone?). As long as the website can sufficiently distance themselves from the authors of that content, they have blanket immunity. That distance can be quite short -- the site can pay fees to those authors, they can encourage and solicit content from such authors, but it seems that as long as the author is not actually on payroll, the content is fair game.

The book author is a trial lawyer who makes his living defending tech companies using Section 230. He is an unabashed fan, and lists the above items as *triumphs* of the law, and justifies it all by saying it supported the growth of the internet. He’s amazingly oblivious to how the internet thrives everywhere else, Europe, Canada, Australia, without such blanket immunity for website owners.

An inadvertent eye-opener is that when he describes all the case law for Section 230, he makes a point of naming the president at the time the presiding judge(s) were appointed, at least twenty times. Apparently in his eyes, judges are highly partisan and can be relied upon to carry out the wishes of the party that appointed them. One wonders how much this is an open secret in the rest of the legal profession.

I purchased this book hoping for a philosophical or moral discussion of the issues around freedom of publishing. It’s been quite a different experience, something akin to opening the garbage can and finding it crawling with maggots. If the author is correct, and since he's discussing his job it seems he must, content that would be criminal anywhere else is legal on the web, and a person or people injured by that content have no legal recourse. It’s as if Congress had decided in 1996 that while killing people is wrong, except doing it with a Taser is ok, because a new technology needs to be nurtured. Any lingering sympathy I had for Section 230 is gone -- ironically, the exact opposite of what the author intended.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Educational and Entertaining

The book is well organized, entertaining, and teaches the material in a sophisticated and interesting manner. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking into the history and development of Section 230.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A bit too much

For me, this book deals with na important and complex topic. But I found it annoyingly repetitious. The length could be reduced by a third and make it more readable.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

What a law review should be

This book, while written for a lay audience, will appeal primarily to lawyers and those who work for internet companies that rely on the postings of their users. It is a thorough and clear explanation of the history of Section 230, which dramatically limited the liability of internet companies for posting the words of their users. I especially appreciated the comparison between the pro-business U.S. laws and the pro-consumer European laws, which in part explains why the dominant internet companies in the world developed in the U.S. and not Europe. I am surprised but happy to find such a detailed legal history on Audible.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Timely account of speech and the internet today

Very detailed account of the creation of Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act. This is the original “safe harbor “ law that allows internet companies to post third party content with being legally responsible for the content. The biggest companies in the world relay on third party or “user generated “ content that it is very hard to think of what the internet works look like without it.
This very review would probably not exist with it the law.