Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Consumer Complaint Site, Highlights Section 230 Protections
from the good-ruling dept
Eric Goldman discusses the latest ruling, in which the appeals court upheld the dismissal by the district court, using Section 230. In the ruling, the court rejected two specific claims that Nemet made to try to get around Section 230. First, Nemet claimed that since ConsumerAffairs solicits complaints and asks users questions to draw out the details, it is partially responsible for the content (an attempted misreading of the Roommates ruling). However, the court tossed this out, saying that the problem with Roommates was that the questions asked specifically requested illegal information. That is not the case with ConsumerAffairs.
The other attempt by Nemet to get around the Section 230 issue was to say that because it couldn't figure out who one of the complaints came from, ConsumerAffairs must have made it up, and thus it was liable since it created the content. That didn't work either. Eric Goldman points out how silly this logic is on the part of Nemet:
This allegation has an obvious (and IMO embarrassing) logic flaw. Even if Nemet can't use its records to validate the facts in a consumer review, ConsumerAffairs.com's fabrication of the post is only one of many possible explanations. The court notes some other possible explanations: "the post could be anonymous, falsified by the consumer, or simply missed by Nemet." (I would also add the possibility of weak recordkeeping by Nemet).So, once again, we see that Section 230 is working properly, requiring that liability be properly applied. It does not mean that there is no liability at all -- just that you can't blame the tool or platform provider for the work of a user. The user may still be liable -- which is fine -- but the service provider is not.