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Forwarding A Defamatory Email Is Not Defamation

from the yet-again dept

We've seen some folks claim in the comments that Section 230 safe harbors go away if the person or company is involved in forwarding or posting the material of others -- but courts have repeatedly held otherwise. Now we've got yet another such case, that actually has pretty a pretty similar story line to some previous lawsuits. Basically a guy forwarded an email to a mailing list, which someone claimed was defamatory -- and they sued the guy who forwarded the email. But, once again, a court has found that the mere act of forwarding the email does not take away section 230 protections. The fact that the guy added a brief intro to the email also didn't change this -- though, the content of that intro could be reviewed for defamation (the court found there was none), since that was actually written by the guy.

Once again, this is exactly how Section 230 should act. It's designed to make sure liability gets applied to the right party -- the one actually making (for example) the defamatory remarks. Merely passing along what someone said shouldn't have the liability passed on to you as well, and that's exactly what the court found.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  • identicon
    anti anti mike, Mar 1st, 2010 @ 6:28am

    so hes says

    that he didn't write it.....
    big diff too:

    some corporation say sending you an email stating
    your a child molestor without proof

    email in canada is considered legal documents
    this may be case in usa but not canada

    the email headers would tell him who originated the mail

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Comboman (profile), Mar 1st, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Media protection

    This is basically the same protect the media has. If a newspaper says "President Obama is having an affair" (and it's not true) then defamation (or rather libel) has taken place. But if they say "Highly-placed sources say President Obama is having an affair", they're more-or-less off the hook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ethorad (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 5:04am

      Re: Media protection

      Reminds me of "Have I Got News For You" satirical news quiz show here in the UK.

      They seem to act as if they can say anything they like, provided the finish with "allegedly". Allegedly.

      (Having said that, I think Ian Hislop holds the record for being sued for libel ...)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ethorad (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 5:06am

      Re: Media protection

      Also, would you consider yourself a "highly-placed source"? If so, do you also have CNN's number as I need to call them about ... something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ant anti mike, Mar 1st, 2010 @ 8:04am


    hi TAM are you female maybe or did someone accuse you of rape or child molesting?

    what part of that was a poem? What part you not understand . WE'll break it down for a high school level reading ok....

    AS stated in canada if I send an email to TAM calling him a child molestor , and it originates in canada as i do and live there it would be an offense. BOTH criminal and civil.

    IF however i first gave the email to MIKE who forwarded it to TAM, then mike has no part in it other then being a 3rd party. SEE how "FORWARDING" works.

    NOW you have to find me then prove that the headers on the email match what the server had and hope that the server keeps records. IT should not escape the originator form defamation , i btw have a copy of Canadian law printed out a few days ago about another matter. UNLESS you have proof of what you speak you should never speak ill , AND OR make sure its known that its an opinion and not based on fact.

    AND apologizing only lessons damages not eradicates them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ant anti mike, Mar 1st, 2010 @ 8:07am


    to be defamation YOU HAVE to tell someone somehting false badly harmfully false
    now go back up and see how the original poster forwarding to mike is at fault for defamation and Mike is not ( unless he posts here that TAM is a child molestor )

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ant anti mike, Mar 1st, 2010 @ 8:11am

    ALSO libel and defamtion have differant criteria for suit

    this is hte legal page which you could base things on.
    IT is very well written and you get a very good idea how often and how stupid some people really are and why somedays being anonymous is cool and some times its not

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Overcast (profile), Mar 1st, 2010 @ 8:12am

    I can't believe that in any way, shape or form email would be admissible as evidence, it just shows how little the legal system knows about technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2010 @ 12:40pm


      Quote: I can't believe that in any way, shape or form email would be admissible as evidence, it just shows how little the legal system knows about technology.

      Cause its never been useful. Ever. Enron, many ponzi schemes, most whistleblower cases. etc. etc. etc.

      Digital is forever and you ought to treat it that way when you push the send button.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mike allen (profile), Mar 1st, 2010 @ 8:27am


    some one forward me the Email calling TAM a child molester i will send to FBI

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Korben, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 2:54pm

    An attempt to clarify the posts of [anti anti mike]

    The following is an attempt to re-write and correct the improper grammar, formatting, and spelling errors made by the original poster.

    Anti Anit Mike Said (re-written)

    (1) As it was said by him

    He claims that he did not write the document that he forwarded. There is a significant difference that should be recognized. Is a corporation sending an email to you states that you are a child molester sans proof?

    On another related topic, email sent from Canada is considered a legal document. It may be possible for people in the US to send email that is not considered legal documentation, but email sent from Canada is.

    This person should have been able to determine who originated the email, by reading the email headers.


    "Hi Tam are you a woman, or did someone accuse you of rape, or child molestation?"

    What part of that was a poem, I am confused? What part do you not understand? It appears to me that there might be some confusion on the part of the posters in this thread, so I will try to simplify.

    As noted in my previous comment, were I to send an email to Tam refering to him as a Child Molester and the email originates in Canada (as I live there), it would be a Criminal and Civil offense.

    If however, I first sent the email to Mike, who then forwarded it to Tam, Mike is the third party and would have no legal recourse in the issue between myself and Tam. This is how "forwarding" works.

    In order to find me, the originator of the email, it would be appropriate to examine the headers of the email (presuming that the forwarding servers retain that information). The originator should not be allowed to escape merely because I have redirected the email through another party. As proof, I printed out documents containing Canadian law as it pertains to this situation.

    I advise to anyone that it is inappropriate to speak as an authority on something that you are unfamiliar with. If you plan on speaking on it, make sure that your readers are aware that you are stating an opinion.

    (3) By the way

    Defamation is defined as false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another. If you refer to the original poster who forwarded the email to Mike, it is plain to see that Mike is not at fault, unless he also posts that Tam is a child molester.

    (4) Also, libel and defamation have different criteria for this suit

    The above link is to page that confirms my previous posts.
    The page is very concise as to its purpose. It is quite easy to determine how often people may act inappropriately and that they might find solace in anonimity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    shawya, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    How widely known is section 230 protections? Would it really matter?

    Apparently, sending an email to forward a link to a potentially defamatory posting, even when the third party requested you to send it to them so they could have another look at what they had already been independently made aware of prior, CAN be cause for holding you liable in a defamation claim. Furthmore, the posting of defamatory content need not be specifically identfied either, and the jury is allowed to not only infer "from" the evidence, but also infer "what" the evidence is. Additionally, it doesnt matter if the jury verdict states no injury to reputation.
    I'm proof to all of this, and as a result having received a $188k judgment against me for alleged damages that were speculated for future lost profits to a non-established start up business of the Plaintiff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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