Adam Wins… A Free Lesson In How Section 230 Protects Service Providers
from the adam-doesn't-win-this-time dept
800notes is one of those sites that gets even more bogus legal threats than we do. The site which lets its users track and discuss telemarketers recently received a threat from a lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, representing a guy named Adam Meyer, who sells some sort of “Adam Wins” sports betting thing. Not surprisingly, the 800Notes page for “Adam Wins” has a number of comments, many of which are from people who are not fans of Adam or his telemarketing. Adam’s lawyer, Hirschhorn, mistakenly threatened the site 800Notes with defamation for the comments on those pages. Of course, as is well established in both the statute and in the case law, 800Notes is protected from liability on the comments of its users thanks to both Section 230 of the CDA and basic common sense about who’s legally liable for statements.
800Notes’ operator, Julia Forte, who’s been through this plenty of times before, responded to Hirschhorn with a quick primer on the law, which you would think he would know seeing as he’s a lawyer and a proud, past president of the “First Amendment Lawyers Association.” Forte, in her email, also pointed out that if Hirschhorn decided to sue, that 800Notes “will fight back, will win, and you will be responsible for our legal fees.” Hirschhorn responded mockingly to Forte, noting: “I presume with your confident attitude you must have graduated at the bottom of your class from a third world law school…. No lawyer I know worth his/her weight would ever guarantee a win (you just did) as I have learned in my 43 years of practicing law there are far too many variables.”
Paul Levy, representing 800Notes then called Hirschhorn to explain the law to him… only to have Hirschhorn abruptly hang up on him:
I then called Hirschhorn myself to try to discuss the law with him and to give him the names of cases from both the Florida Supreme Court and federal trial and appellate courts in Florida that support the immunity of Forte’s company; I also hoped to explain the Dendrite process to him so that, assuming he could prove falsity and damages, he could pursue the anonymous posters if that was his client’s choice. Hirschhorn bragged that he is not just a member but the founder of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, but acknowledged that he himself did not know anything about the law in this area; instead, he said, he hires others who know the law to help him. But when I suggested that Forte?s confidence in the immunity of her hosting company is justified, and tried to explain where the law is on this topic, he abruptly hung up the phone.
Much more amusing, as Levy notes, is the fact that for all his talk about how Forte shouldn’t have “guaranteed” a win, Hirschhorn’s own website appears to promise that he will “acquit” everyone who cannot properly spell acquit, in that it is at aquitall.com. Again, as Levy notes this website:
[This domain] could be interpreted as a claim that he always obtains acquittals in all his criminal-defense cases (it also may suggest that he hopes to appeal to clients who can’t spell). The domain name may, in fact, violate the Florida Bar’s advertising rules, which forbid lawyers to promise results; the Florida Bar has applied such restrictions to Internet domain names. Public Citizen has challenged those rules under the First Amendment; we have also brought First Amendment challenges against similar advertising restrictions in other states like New York and Louisiana.
I get the feeling that Adam isn’t winning this time.