Appeals Court To Explore If A Site With 'Dirt' In The URL Loses All Liability Protections For User Comments
from the this-is-kind-of-important-for-us dept
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.Yikes! Given the judge's nonsensical rejection of the Section 230 safe harbors, the case went forward and the jury awarded Jones $338,000 from the site. Not surprisingly, Dirty World appealed, pointing out that the court clearly got the Section 230 analysis totally and completely wrong. David Gingras, the lawyer for Dirty World, has provided a plain language explanation of the case, the process and the importance of this, along with the opening brief of the appeal. If you're not a lawyer or haven't followed this case closely, it's a good way to catch up on the details -- including why this case is so important.
As Gingras notes, nearly every circuit in the US has ruled that Section 230's safe harbors apply to websites, and remove liability from the sites for actions taken by their users. The circuit this particular case is in -- the Sixth Circuit -- is one of only two circuits that has not taken on this issue directly. So this is the first chance for the court to do so, and it can either agree with every other court, or it can try to forge its own way, which will almost certainly lead to Supreme Court review over the nature of the Section 230 safe harbors. Given just how key those safe harbors have been to innovation and the growth of the internet, this case is incredibly important on a whole variety of levels.
While I'm most interested in the larger legal questions concerning making sure Section 230's safe harbors are kept strong and intact, there is also (obviously) the issue that impacts us directly about the use of the name and the word "dirt." The brief has a whole section explaining why the name of the site is irrelevant (citing numerous cases that agreed). However, given that our name includes "dirt" as well, I'm tempted to explore filing an amicus brief in this case on that particular issue, given that we have a... unique perspective on this particular issue. While I admit that the other points in this case are clearly more important in the long run, I'm sure that Gingras and other amici will likely be able to handle those arguments easily.
Still, this case is going to be important to follow. Either the court will confirm, yet again, the core ideals that have helped the internet, innovation and user-generated content sites to flourish over the past decade and a half, or it will put all of that at risk. Just the fact that this is up for debate is troubling enough -- and while we're hopeful that the court will rule wisely, the small possibility of a ruling upholding the initial judge is immensely troubling.