A little over two years ago, a civil rights group sued Craigslist
, blaming the company for the fact that some of its users were posting discriminatory housing/roommate offers -- which could violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968. However, as plenty of people noted at the time, section 230
of the CDA protects Craigslist as a service provider, not a publisher, meaning that Craigslist isn't the party to sue here. The group could certainly go after the original posters for violating the law, but Craigslist is just the service provider and has no say in the content. That seemed obvious right from the beginning, but the civil rights group pushed forward and lost its case
. The judge explained all of this to the lawyers... who filed an appeal anyway. The appeals court has now ruled as well, and (no surprise here) affirmed the original ruling
, saying that Craigslist is a service provider, not a publisher, and therefore is not liable for discriminatory posts. As Eric Goldman points out
, the ruling (again) makes this quite clear:
"Using the remarkably candid postings on craigslist, the Lawyers' Committee can identify many targets to investigate. It can dispatch testers and collect damages from any landlord or owner who engages in discrimination....It can assemble a list of names to send to the Attorney General for prosecution. But given §230(c)(1) it cannot sue the messenger just because the message reveals a third party's plan to engage in unlawful discrimination."
What will be interesting, however, is to see what happens now in a very similar lawsuit involving Roommates.com that is currently being reviewed
in a different Circuit. Hopefully the court there comes to a similar conclusion and we stop getting these types of incorrectly targeted lawsuits.