by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 4th 2008 1:16pm
Time and time again we hear stories of various online "gripes" sites getting sued. Every time it's the same basic story. Some company that some person complained about gets upset about the complaint and sues the site. Of course, in every one of these cases, the lawsuit gets tossed out, because the site itself is protected thanks to CDA section 230 safe harbors that protect the site from liability for content written by users. Yet, the lawsuits just keep on coming. This latest one is a little different. It's been filed by a car dealer against the website ConsumerAffairs.com, which hosts some complaints about his dealership. The dealer has actually sued ConsumerAffairs.com twice before, only to pull both lawsuits right before they were about to be tossed. This time, though, he swears things are different, though it's still not at all clear how he gets around the section 230 issue (answer: he probably doesn't). However, to take the claims a bit further than the usual complaints, he's alleging two points: first that the domain name ConsumerAffairs.com is deceptive in that it confuses users into thinking it is associated with various state government offices of consumer affairs -- making the site seem more "official." He also complains that the site is simply designed as a lead generator for class action lawyers, which the site owner disputes, noting that they make no money from such lawsuits and receives no referral fees. It's difficult to see how either of these issues gets around the core issue, which is that it's still not the site itself that's liable. If the guy wants to sue those who posted the complaints, he could go after them -- but the site itself is immune.
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