Free Speech

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
liability, new york, section 230

NY Court Says Even Promoting Alleged Defamatory Content Is Protected By Section 230

from the broad-safe-harbors dept

Often when we discuss the broad safe harbors of Section 230 of the CDA, which make sure that service providers are not held liable for content created by users, we have commenters who insist that if the service provider does anything touching the content, that Section 230 doesn't apply. That's simply untrue. There's now a growing body of case law that protects third parties in such circumstances. For example, people forwarding an email from someone else -- even if they write an intro -- have been found to be protected by Section 230. A recent ruling in a NY state court of appeals appears to have taken that broad immunity much further, protecting a blog that reposted someone's (allegedly) defamatory comment as a post and then added a title, some commentary and a graphic to the work. And... they were still found to be protected:
Plaintiff Christakis Shiamili, CEO of Ardor Realty Corp. (Ardor), had brought a defamation suit against a competing company, The Real Estate Group of New York, its principal and his assistant (collectively TREGNY), who administered a blog about the New York real estate industry. A user of the TREGNY blog (who signed on as “Ardor Realty Sucks”) posted a comment to a discussion thread on the blog, making several allegedly defamatory statements suggesting that Shiamili mistreated his employees and was racist and anti-semitic.

TREGNY allegedly: (i) moved the comment from the discussion thread to a stand-alone post, “prefacing it with the statement that ‘the following story came to us as a … comment, and we promoted it to a post’”; (ii) added a headline, “Ardor Realty and Those People,” and a sub-heading, “and now it’s time for your weekly dose of hate, brought to you unedited, once again, by ‘Ardor Realty Sucks.’ and for the record, we are so. not. afraid.”; (iii) added an illustration of Jesus Christ with Shiamili’s face and the caption “Chris Shiamili: King of the Token Jews”; and (iv) pseudonymously egged on another commenter to provide additional dirt on Shiamili.

Despite these contributions by TREGNY, the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Shiamili’s defamation suit based on the immunity provided by Section 230.
The full ruling (embedded below) highlights that the additional content (header, intro text, image) etc. do not rise to the level of defamatory content on its own, and since the main crux of the content is provided by a third party, even if highlighted by TREGNY, the site is protected by Section 230. This is very much in line with previous rulings, and it's nice to see another court recognize this.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    JustMe (profile), Jun 20th, 2011 @ 4:38am

    This is good news

    Freedom of speech should not be constrained by one's choice of ISP or bulletin board.

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

  2. icon
    Svante Jorgensen (profile), Jun 20th, 2011 @ 6:16am

    Copyright infringement

    I wonder, does this also apply to copyright infringement? So if you just quote a person violating a copyright, is it ok?

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Re: This is good news

    Unless one's comments are Conservative in nature.

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

  4. icon
    Jan Breens (profile), Jun 20th, 2011 @ 7:43am

    Re: Copyright infringement

    That is a good question that will be defined by case law I would imagine. I would say it does already, in that section230 should protect any website/person from actions of it's users, right?

    Read here, it appears to apply to all information provided by 3rd parties.

    Your question reminded me of 2 guys (I can't seem to find a link to meaningful article, it was several years ago) who tried to use a defence against CI charges, saying the program (executable file) they shared on their website, was actually not intended to be a program, but rather a random part of the number pi. They tried to argue, that because pi is infinite, any given number sequence appears in it somewhere (which I guess would be true), including their binary executable code. So their binary shared file was just that, a part of pi, which also happened to be a executable for software x. That didnt go down well with the courts at the time.

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

  5. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 20th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    Re: Copyright infringement

    I wonder, does this also apply to copyright infringement? So if you just quote a person violating a copyright, is it ok?

    Section 230 specifically exempts intellectual property. So, no.

    Copyright and third party liability is covered by the DMCA's safe harbors.

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

  6. icon
    Shine (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 10:55am

    I think it's just ethical when reposting or forwarding content to make sure you put the author's name.

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

  7. identicon
    Nicole, Jan 16th, 2012 @ 7:22am

    How would you know that a comment or post is violating a copyright? There are lots of really nice posts, quotes and comments that one would like to quote.

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

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