Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Another Court Recognizes Site Owners Aren't Liable For Site Comments

from the seems-obvious-enough dept

It happens all too often that some website owner in the US is sued with claims of libel over comments on that site in an open forum. We usually point to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and note that it's pretty clear that service providers of such forums are not liable for content they didn't write themselves. We also like to point to a 9th Circuit ruling, noting that, even when such comments are moderated or approved, the site owner or moderator isn't responsible. While the Supreme Court later refused to hear an appeal on the case, meaning the ruling really still only covers the 9th Circuit, the ruling is so reasonable, you'd have to hope other courts would agree with the logic. It appears some already are. Tech Law Advisor points us to a few different sources covering a District Court ruling (outside of the 9th Circuit) that comes to similar conclusions (even if the article is improperly headlined). The case involves the somewhat infamous TuckerMax forums, which are known for being a bit on the... free wheeling side of things. Apparently, a bunch of anonymous commenters there were upset about a party thrown by some publicist, and posted some relatively mean comments about him in the forums. The publicist then sued Tucker Max, claiming that he was liable for the comments, even though it was clear they weren't made by him. The actual court ruling (warning: pdf) is an enjoyable read, as the judge clearly explains why he's throwing out the case. He even cites the ridiculous number of censors China employs to filter the internet to explain why it's not reasonable to expect internet site owners to police their forums more carefully -- even as he notes that Tucker Max clearly admits to moderating comments on his site. The ruling also refers back to an older ruling pointing out the importance of protecting free speech, even when vulgar. It's another reasonable ruling concerning these issues. Hopefully, once enough of these pile up, most lawyers will know better than to file such lawsuits.

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