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.