Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Case That Threatened CDA 230

from the good-news! dept

As we noted earlier this year, the California Supreme Court wisely sided with Yelp in a legal fight over whether or not the company could be forced to remove reviews based on another legal dispute of which Yelp was not a party. The crux of the case was about Section 230 of the CDA. As we detailed back in 2016, a lower court had initially ordered Yelp to take down a review that the court found to be defamatory (though, it was on default judgment as the defendant in the case decided to not show up in court). The case was brought by a lawyer, Dawn Hassell, who sued a former client, Ava Bird, claiming that Bird had posted a negative review of Hassell's legal work. Bird then ignored the lawsuit, leading to the default judgment -- all of which is fine. But then the court issued an injunction against Yelp, ordering it to take down the review, despite Yelp not even being a party to the lawsuit.

The California Supreme Court properly ruled that the injunction should be thrown out, based on CDA 230, which (as we've discussed over and over again) says that an internet service provider (such as Yelp) cannot be held liable due to the speech of a user (such as Ava Bird). This was a pretty standard and "easy" ruling on CDA 230, and the court had many cases to cite. And thus, it's good news that the US Supreme Court has denied Hassell's cert petition to hear the case -- meaning the California ruling stands. It shouldn't be a surprise that the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, as there is widespread agreement that this is exactly how CDA 230 is meant to work and it's how basically every circuit that has ruled on this issue has found, sot here's no circuit split to deal with. Having the Supreme Court refuse to hear a case isn't always newsworthy, but it's at least a bit of a relief that the court apparently didn't think this one was an issue worth reconsidering. The internet and the services we all use, remain protected... for now.

Filed Under: ava bird, california, cda 230, dawn hassell, free speech, hassell v bird, intermediary liability, reviews, section 230, supreme court
Companies: yelp

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 24 Jan 2019 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re:

    But taking away CDA 230 protections in such cases would create lots of new harms in the form of takedowns.

    Perhaps, but judicially-mandated takedowns are exactly what we need to fix the far, far greater problem of extrajudicial takedowns.

    I don't think any reasonable person would claim that there does not exist any content that is unworthy of being posted online. There's plenty of room for debate on exactly what it is and how to define bad content, but we can safely take as a given that there is some content that needs to be taken down, and that some standard to define such content should be established.

    The question then becomes, by what mechanism should content be found to offend against this standard and required to be removed? The current system of DMCA takedowns is a massive mess from beginning to end, for reasons I shouldn't need to explain to anyone on this site, yourself least of all! But then what is the alternative?

    The only alternative to a system of extrajudicial takedowns is a system of judicially-mandated takedowns. And before someone inevitably says it, yes, this article is about defamation whereas the DMCA is about copyright, but even raising that objection illustrates the problem: having multiple different mechanisms and rules overcomplicates the system. Better to have one unified system with one unified set of rules.

    As for the other objection:

    As we've discussed in the past, people started forging court orders, or suing "fake" defendents who would immediately admit guilt and "settle" the case, just to get a court order that could be sent to a site to remove content.

    This is true. But as you have also discussed in the past, people, both website administrators and judges, are beginning to wise up to this tactic. Its days are numbered, especially if people start going to jail for fraud when they do it.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.