There's A Good Reason Why Online Sites Shouldn't Be Liable For The Actions Of Its Users

from the not-this-again dept

Over the years, we've had plenty of stories concerning the liability of websites when users post defamatory or libelous content. The law (section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) is pretty clear, keeping site owners free of liability for the actions of their users. However, as yet another such case comes to light, this time in California, it seems like many people misunderstand why the law is written this way. That article has a typical quote from someone who doesn't seem to understand why the law is written this way, saying: "While protection to ferret out the truth is nice, I kind of wish the courts or Congress would revisit this law. It bothers me to run content online that is clearly defamatory but to get to say it's OK because we can't get sued. It's like a legal neener-neener." That statement is wrong. The law does not say "it's OK." What it does is make it clear who is liable: the individual who actually made the defamatory statements. That's all it's saying. It doesn't make sense for the owner of the site to be liable, since they are not the ones who are making the libelous statements. They may be easier to target and easier to sue, but they aren't the ones who made the statement, and thus, they should not be liable. So, this isn't a case where the law is "different" because "it's the internet" or where one side gets a free pass. The law simply clarifies that the liability for libel should be on those who actually made the libelous statement.

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  1. identicon
    pracheer gupta, 24 Apr 2007 @ 12:33am

    I am on both sides!!

    Well i dunno if the law is totally correct. Let me put both sides of view as i see it.
    If a user puts defamatory comments, of course the site owner is not responsible and its not his fault, but since he has provided a forum for user to comment atleast he should allow comments from user who are authorized to do so. He can even use some text scanning tools to check for absurdity. Its not a fool proof method but atleast there can be some laws mandating owners to check for atleast some level of defamatory comments. Of course its not possible for him to check all the comments but atleast he can try to use stuff that might make it difficult for those kindaa users to post such stuff. Likeways graffiti is not the responsibility of the owners but atleast they can provide some basic checks that might make it difficult for people to put graffiti.
    On the other hand, The main reason net has revolutionised the world is because it knows no boudaries, once any sort of checking starts, it might be start of a much larger threat to the net which might undermine what is stood for in the first place.
    May be i went a bit rational in putting myself forward, I am open for comments and criticism

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