We've written a few times about former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader/former school teacher Sarah Jones' ridiculous lawsuit against TheDirty.com, because one of its users had posted some claims that were potentially defamatory towards her. The case has been something of a mess. As we noted a few years ago, she sued the wrong company
, filing the actual lawsuit against the company which runs TheDirt.com (not TheDirty.com). Eventually that got sorted out, and what should have been a straight quick dismissal because of Section 230 of the CDA (which says a site is not liable for statements made by users) was muddled because a judge didn't seem to like
the website. The judge flat out claims that if a site has "dirt" in its name, it may not be subject to Section 230 protections. And that's kinda scary for those of us here at Techdirt.
First, the name of the site in and of itself encourages the posting only of “dirt,” that is material which is potentially defamatory or an invasion of the subject’s privacy.
Of course, having allowed the case to move forward and flat out contradicted pretty much every ruling on Section 230 to date, the jury has now said the site needs to pay $338,000
. The lawyer for TheDirty.com is actually happy about this
, because he can finally get the case out of that judge's court and bring it to an appeals court which might actually understand Section 230.
“I’m happy,” says David Gingras, lawyer for the TheDirty.com. “We have spent three and a half years litigating against a federal judge who thinks the Internet is an Atari video game. To have an adverse judgment is never a good thing, but it’s good for us to get out of that court.”
Of course, Kash Hill, at Forbes, also points out that Jones -- who claims her reputation was harmed by the claims on TheDirty.com -- seems to have done some damage to her own reputation, well beyond just suing the wrong site:
The three and a half years since the case was filed have been drama-filled. Jones originally sued the wrong site. She then amended her complaint to sue the right site, but had to take time off for her own criminal suit after she was charged with having sex with a minor. Her first trial against The Dirty ended in a hung jury. Meanwhile, she got engaged to the minor, a former student of hers. Needless to say, she is no longer teaching. Richie was happy to point out on his blog (repeatedly) that Jones ruined her own reputation in the years after his site published a warning about her.
Hopefully, we won't get sued for reposting that comment. After all, we are a website with "dirt" in the domain name.