Recently, a federal district court in Utah declined to dismiss claims of false advertising, deceptive trade practices, as well as including a claim of defamation against Eccentric Ventures, a company that operates Ripoff reports. Relying on 10th Circuit precedent in the case of FTC v AccuSearch, Inc., 570 F3d 1187 (10th Cir. 2009). The Court denied Ripoff Reports motion to dismiss based upon §233 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
In Vision Security, LLC and Rob Harris v Eccentric Ventures, LLC, the plaintiff had a former employee post false and defamatory content on Ripoff Reports concerning Vision Security and its owner. The former employee acknowledged in an affidavit that the posts were false and defamatory and were intended simply to dissuade people from patronizing Vision Security. The former employee submitted the affidavit with a request to Ripoff Reports that the content be removed. Consistent with its policy, Ripoff Reports declined to remove the post from the employee. Vision Security then requested removal and in return Rip-Off Reports joint its paid corporate advocacy program in an effort to mitigate the damaging content, but again refused to remove the content. The Court noted that Vision Security pled facts that would demonstrate that rip-off reports was motivated by their own commercial interests in declining to remove the defamatory content pursuant to the poster’s own affidavit and request for removal and that Ripoff Report could be found to have had an interest in and encouraged negative content which the 10th Circuit has concluded is sufficient to state a claim under the CDA. The 10h Circuit is alone in construing the CDA so broadly.
We will update the post as the case unfolds, but it is surely a signal that courts are increasingly finding ways to address these injustices against innocent individuals under the CDA where web posts have an absolute policy concerning the posting of content and can be considered to in some fashion to be promoting the negative content that results in false and defamatory posts. Based on the significant volume of victims who are the subject of defamatory content which remains posted under the CDA, it would not surprise this writer that that there would be some legislative action to provide a mechanism for content found to be defamatory or otherwise unlawful by a court of law, arbitrator or verified acknowledgement from the poster of the content.