Posting Someone Else's Defamatory Article Isn't Defamation In California

from the good-decision dept

We've pointed out in the past why section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes a lot of sense, even as lawsuits keep trying to limit the scope. The idea is that you can't sue someone for defamation just because they're the easy target if they weren't the ones who actually said the defaming content. The law clearly protects service providers who simply host a platform -- but what about cases that involve more proactive participation? Back in 2003, a US court of appeals held that forwarding on an email that someone else wrote was still protected -- even though the person doing the forwarding chose what emails to forward. The fact that the forwarder did not write the original email protected him, according to the court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in the case, so the law isn't totally settled (though, the ruling will guide others in the same district where the case was last heard).

It appears that there was a similar case in the state courts in California, involving two doctors suing a woman who posted articles in various forums that the doctors felt were defamatory. The problem was that while the woman did post the articles to the forums, she was not the original author of the articles -- and thus claimed that she should be immune from defamation charges. A local court found in the woman's favor, saying that not only were the doctors public figures, but that section 230 protected the woman from being sued over comments she didn't make. A California appeals court disagreed and overturned that decision. However, the California Supreme Court has weighed in and reversed the ruling again, saying that the woman should not be liable since she did not write the offending content. The ruling noted that section 230 isn't just to protect service providers, but also users of the services. It's a good decision that, once again, highlights that you can't just sue the easiest target for defamation if they weren't the ones actually responsible for the statements.
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  1. identicon
    Brad, 20 Nov 2006 @ 7:11pm

    Dorpus, you're still an idiot

    Do you even read the stories, or just spam every one with a half-assed comment.

    In California, if I read an article that talks about, say, Dr. Dorpus being a known molester of patients, and turn around and post that on another page, I'm not held liable. The original author of the story is.

    By contrast, if I post it and claim it to be my own knowledge, then get sued and say "well, I read it someplace else" I am still responsible, since I claimed them to be my own.

    Sort of like how you claimed an old man's apology was "haha I'm sorry" when in fact it was his physical health that kept him out of jail, a standard applied to all prisoners at the time of their sentencing. Sending that man to jail would have been a death sentence, which isn't what the court felt he deserved. Also, it would have put the burden of his health and medical expenses on the taxpayer, rather than on himself.

    Think, then speak.

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