Jeff Kosseff

 Jeff Kosseff is an Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Law at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of Cybersecurity Law (Wiley), the first comprehensive textbook on U.S. cybersecurity laws and regulations, and in Spring 2019 he published The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet (Cornell University Press), a nonfiction narrative history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  He currently is writing a third book, also for Cornell University Press, tentatively titled United States of Anonymous Speech, about the history of the First Amendment right to anonymous speech in the United States, from the Federalist Papers to online postings. He received a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to research and write the book. Jeff has practiced cybersecurity and privacy law, and clerked for Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Michigan. Before becoming a lawyer, he was a journalist for The Oregonian and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

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The Book

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"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 twenty-six 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 unprecedented freedom of online speech. His keen eye for the law, combined with his background as an award-winning journalist, demystifies a statute that affects all our lives –for good and for ill. While Section 230, like all laws, may be imperfect, Kosseff maintains that it is necessary to foster free speech and innovation.



“The author’s background as a journalist and his current roles as a professor and a lawyer enable him to produce an engaging narrative that explains the law clearly and compels us to think about speech in the modern age and who is responsible when it is harmful.”
— The Washington Post
“Mr. Kosseff, who teaches cybersecurity law at the U.S. Naval Academy, has a fine gift for narrating convoluted court cases that made online platforms nearly invulnerable to lawsuits.”
— Wall Street Journal
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
Most people benefit from Section 230 every hour, but are unaware it even exists. Jeff Kosseff’s new book provides the first-ever comprehensive history of this monumentally important law. The book’s lucid and reader-friendly style will fully engage Section 230 newcomers; while the book’s many never-before-publicized details will enlighten Section 230 enthusiasts.
— Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University
So much of our life today―our reputation, networks, and livelihood―is mediated by our online presence. 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
The Twenty Six Words that Created the Internet provides a timely reminder that the questions we now face about platforms, speech, and harm are not new. A combination of detective work, investigative journalism, and historical documentation, Kosseff’s book is frank about the law’s shortcomings even as it is persuasive about its overall value.
— Daphne Keller, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
This book is important and timely. Kosseff clearly and concisely explains the complicated history of Section 230, and how its ‘safe harbor’ created the internet as we know it today. But he also acknowledges that Section 230 can shield terrible crimes and impose other social costs that we must mitigate.
— Brian L. Frye, University of Kentucky
Jeff Kosseff’s richly detailed history of Section 230 is a gift to anyone seeking to understand how the Internet became what it is, what it could have been, and what it could be.
— Mary Anne Franks, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, author of The Cult of the Constitution
Jeff Kosseff’s latest is essential reading. His deft and insightful work chronicles the unexpected tale of how just twenty-six words in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 changed online speech forever. All thoughtful lawmakers, tech executives, and concerned citizens need to grapple with how we got here.
— Cyrus Farivar, author of Habeas Data
Jeff Kosseff’s vital book helps readers imagine the history and remember the future of the Communications Decency Act 230. It’s an admirably readable and judiciously documented ‘biography’ of the uniquely American Internet law. The book couldn’t be globally more relevant, since cyberlaw is still evolving in many countries. Its contextual discussion of Americans’ 230 experience illuminates why and how the United States continues to serve as the world’s fascinating free-speech laboratory.
— Kyu Ho Youm, University of Oregon
Jeff Kosseff’s behind-the-scenes reportage spotlights the foundational law, Section 230, that made the modern internet possible. Kosseff emphasizes the law’s boundless virtues and just as helpfully acknowledges its occasional weaknesses. He shows how 230 has shaped an internet that empowers everyone to speak freely, to hold governments and powerful private actors accountable, and to build the next Facebook, Google, or Wikipedia.
— Mike Godwin, First Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer, former Wikipedia general counsel, distinguished senior fellow at R Street Institute
As the debates over the future of platform and edge provider regulation simmer, this book provides an important look at the 26 words that created the internet and protect the flow of speech online.
— Christopher Terry, Assistant Professor of Media Law, University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication
A comprehensive, thoughtful and greatly needed treatment of the the law that gave birth to the internet as we know it. This book is bound to shape the conversation about the nature of online activity for years to come.
— Joseph E. Kennedy, Martha Brandis Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law