Posting Someone Else's Defamatory Article Isn't Defamation In California

from the good-decision dept

We’ve pointed out in the past why section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes a lot of sense, even as lawsuits keep trying to limit the scope. The idea is that you can’t sue someone for defamation just because they’re the easy target if they weren’t the ones who actually said the defaming content. The law clearly protects service providers who simply host a platform — but what about cases that involve more proactive participation? Back in 2003, a US court of appeals held that forwarding on an email that someone else wrote was still protected — even though the person doing the forwarding chose what emails to forward. The fact that the forwarder did not write the original email protected him, according to the court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in the case, so the law isn’t totally settled (though, the ruling will guide others in the same district where the case was last heard).

It appears that there was a similar case in the state courts in California, involving two doctors suing a woman who posted articles in various forums that the doctors felt were defamatory. The problem was that while the woman did post the articles to the forums, she was not the original author of the articles — and thus claimed that she should be immune from defamation charges. A local court found in the woman’s favor, saying that not only were the doctors public figures, but that section 230 protected the woman from being sued over comments she didn’t make. A California appeals court disagreed and overturned that decision. However, the California Supreme Court has weighed in and reversed the ruling again, saying that the woman should not be liable since she did not write the offending content. The ruling noted that section 230 isn’t just to protect service providers, but also users of the services. It’s a good decision that, once again, highlights that you can’t just sue the easiest target for defamation if they weren’t the ones actually responsible for the statements.

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Comments on “Posting Someone Else's Defamatory Article Isn't Defamation In California”

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dorpus says:

California Justice for you

So in California, are people allowed to fabricate whatever accusations they want, and not be guilty of anything?

This comes from the state where an old man killed 10 people and made 70 more fly through the air at a Farmer’s market, issued a hollow apology in court to the effect of “haha I’m sorry”, and will get to end his life from natural causes, without spending a day in jail.

At the time of the accident, a mother was not allowed to go near her dead 3-year-old daughter, while forensics cops let the body lie in the sun for hours. That’s California justice for you.

Rico J. Halo (user link) says:

Re: California Justice for you

I couldnt agree more. I live about an hour from where that happened at Farmers Market. When he was asked on the scene why he did it he responded that they should have got out of his way. Calif is a very liberal state, of course its soft on crime. I think anyone over 60 should have to take a written AND actual driving test every year. And Im 51 so it wouldnt be that far off for me.

Brad says:

Dorpus, you're still an idiot

Do you even read the stories, or just spam every one with a half-assed comment.

In California, if I read an article that talks about, say, Dr. Dorpus being a known molester of patients, and turn around and post that on another page, I’m not held liable. The original author of the story is.

By contrast, if I post it and claim it to be my own knowledge, then get sued and say “well, I read it someplace else” I am still responsible, since I claimed them to be my own.

Sort of like how you claimed an old man’s apology was “haha I’m sorry” when in fact it was his physical health that kept him out of jail, a standard applied to all prisoners at the time of their sentencing. Sending that man to jail would have been a death sentence, which isn’t what the court felt he deserved. Also, it would have put the burden of his health and medical expenses on the taxpayer, rather than on himself.

Think, then speak.

Spartacus says:

What the hell... let's go OT

Geezus, that article about the fogey going donkeykong on the farmers market is
1) funny as hell
2) disturbing on many many levels
It is ridiculous that he didn’t go to prison. I cannot imagine the rage the families of all 80 people who were killed or injured by the pure idiocy and borderline criminal insanity of this man. If it’s a death sentence to send him some place where he won’t rampage through hundreds of people in his freakin La Sabre then it’s nothing less than he deserves. Send him to prison and let his old carcass rot in a cell and make him buy his own medicine to try and keep himself alive through all the futt bucking he’ll get. Everyone involved agrees he was “calloused and showed enormous indifference to human life“. He could have run himself into another vehicle but instead he chose to plow through crowds of people to save his own decrepit ass. Send the R-Tard to prison and let him die thinking about the 10 people he chose to kill (murdered).

dorpus says:

If person A slanders person B, claiming to quote a story that person B wrote, what happens then? The law fails to cover that scenario.

Maybe you should read the CNN article, which clearly says the man was not apologetic.

Will we see copycat crimes all over California now, with old men who decide to end their lives with a bang? Or would that be thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud?

Sanguine Dream says:

So off topic...

You all can say what you want about dorpus but I have kinda agree with him/her. I personally don’t think failing health should be a get out of jail free card.

Either way you look at it he will still be a drain on taxpayers til he dies. Prison or medical insurance.

Now back on topic. This seems to open the door for people to make a deformatory comment and when called on it they can just say (without real proof) that they heard it from someone/somewhere else to escape punishment.

Steve says:

What a world we live in!!

You know what’s really going to baffle your mind is, what would of happen if things didn’t change and the law was what is was say back in the 1870’s or so when there was no remorse for any crime you committed. I always heard if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, works for me. One more thing, In GOD I Trust!! Just had to say that. That’s all from me. Rock on!

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