Citizen Journalism Site Sued Over Content Posted By User

from the no-surprise-there dept

We’ve seen way too many cases where people blame service providers for the actions of their users, despite clear safe harbors found in section 230 of the CDA. The courts have been pretty consistent in throwing these lawsuits out, but it appears the message still hasn’t reached some lawyers. Up in Brattleboro, New Hampshire, someone is suing a local citizen journalism site for comments posted by a user that were potentially defamatory. The woman is suing the person who made the comments — which makes sense — but also the site that hosted them. This, despite the fact that the comments on the site are unmoderated. This would seem like a clear situation where the site, iBrattleboro, is protected by section 230, but the lawyer handling the case doesn’t seem to think so: “I think their defense will be that they don’t read prior to publishing, but I’m not sure that will be enough to avoid some degree of liability.” That seems like an odd statement as the law is pretty clear: “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.” Plus, there’s a wide assortment of precedent cases that all seem to back up very similar situations as being protected.

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Comments on “Citizen Journalism Site Sued Over Content Posted By User”

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Online Liability Blog (user link) says:


I don’t know all of the facts of this case, but it appears to be a conventional online defamation suit targeting the alleged author and intermediary website.

Section 230 has been on the books for over ten years now, and its application to websites in this context is well established – it’s unlikely you (plaintiff or plaintiff’s lawyer) are going to get a judgment against an ISP or website operator in connection with materials written by a third party and posted by such third party on the subject website. And I don’t recall reading any opinions where notice/knowledge precluded immunity under the statute.

Eventually courts may begin sanctioning plaintiffs and/or their attorneys for bringing such lawsuits in the first place.

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