Public Citizen, EFF, CDT And CMLP Team Up To Question Recent Ruling On Section 230 Safe Harbor
from the this-is-important dept
A few weeks back, we wrote about a court ruling that said that Yahoo was protected against actions by users, thanks to Section 230 safeharbors, but that the company had effectively given up some of that protection by promising to remove some content. While the bigger issues in the case seemed to have been decided reasonably, some noticed that many of the finer points in the ruling were both sloppy and troubling. Eric Goldman ran down the details of the problems with the ruling. Now it appears that Yahoo is appealing not the major point of the case, but those specific troubling points made in the ruling, which could severely limit the effectiveness of using Section 230 to protect against frivolous lawsuits.
The issue may certainly sound like inside baseball, but it’s important to anyone who runs an online service of any kind. Traditionally, when receiving a mistargeted lawsuit that tries to pin liability on a service provider, rather than the actual user, it’s common to file a motion to dismiss based on section 230 safe harbors. However, in this ruling, the court said that you couldn’t raise section 230 in a motion to dismiss, and that it could only be used as an “answer” and thus required a more involved (and potentially much more costly) procedure of asking the court for a ruling in the case, rather than just a dismissal. That would significantly raise the cost to many site owners in trying to dismiss these sorts of mistargeted lawsuits. It’s nice to see a long list of defenders of the public and the internet sign on to explain to the court why this dicta is incorrect. Public Citizen, EFF, CDT and the Citizen Media Law Project all joined in with an amicus brief. Hopefully the court realizes the earlier sloppy ruling was a mistake, and the ability to dismiss using Section 230 safe harbors remains.