Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act - Case Law - Defamatory Information

Defamatory Information

  • Zeran v. AOL, 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997).

Immunity was upheld against claims that AOL unreasonably delayed in removing defamatory messages posted by third party, failed to post retractions, and failed to screen for similar postings.

  • Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 49-53 (D.D.C. 1998).

The court upheld AOL's immunity from liability for defamation. AOL's agreement with the contractor allowing AOL to modify or remove such content did not make AOL the "information content provider" because the content was created by an independent contractor. The Court noted that Congress made a policy choice by "providing immunity even where the interactive service provider has an active, even aggressive role in making available content prepared by others."

  • Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, 339 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2003).

The court upheld immunity for an Internet dating service provider from liability stemming from third party's submission of a false profile. The plaintiff, Carafano, claimed the false profile defamed her, but because the content was created by a third party, the website was immune, even though it had provided multiple choice selections to aid profile creation.

  • Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2003).

Immunity was upheld for a website operator for distributing an email to a listserv where the plaintiff claimed the email was defamatory. Though there was a question as to whether the information provider intended to send the email to the listserv, the Court decided that for determining the liability of the service provider, "the focus should be not on the information provider's intentions or knowledge when transmitting content but, instead, on the service provider's or user's reasonable perception of those intentions or knowledge." The Court found immunity proper "under circumstances in which a reasonable person in the position of the service provider or user would conclude that the information was provided for publication on the Internet or other 'interactive computer service'."

  • Green v. AOL, 318 F.3d 465 (3rd Cir. 2003).

The court upheld immunity for AOL against allegations of negligence. Green claimed AOL failed to adequately police its services and allowed third parties to defame him and inflict intentional emotional distress. The court rejected these arguments because holding AOL negligent in promulgating harmful content would be equivalent to holding AOL "liable for decisions relating to the monitoring, screening, and deletion of content from its network -- actions quintessentially related to a publisher's role."

  • Barrett v. Rosenthal, 40 Cal. 4th 33 (2006).

Immunity was upheld for an individual internet user from liability for republication of defamatory statement on a listserv. The court found the defendant to be a "user of interactive computer services" and thus immune from liability for posting information passed to her by the author.

  • MCW, Inc. v. badbusinessbureau.com(RipOff Report/Ed Magedson/XCENTRIC Ventures LLC) 2004 WL 833595, No. Civ.A.3:02-CV-2727-G, (N.D. Tex. April 19, 2004).

The court rejected the defendant's motion to dismiss on the grounds of Section 230 immunity, ruling that the plaintiff's allegations that the defendants wrote disparaging report titles and headings, and themselves wrote disparaging editorial messages about the plaintiff, rendered them information content providers. The Web site, www.badbusinessbureau.com, allows users to upload "reports" containing complaints about businesses they have dealt with.

  • Hy Cite Corp. v. badbusinessbureau.com (RipOff Report/Ed Magedson/XCENTRIC Ventures LLC), 418 F. Supp. 2d 1142 (D. Ariz. 2005).

The court rejected immunity and found the defendant was an "information content provider" under Section 230 using much of the same reasoning as the MCW case.

Read more about this topic:  Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act, Case Law

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