Section 230 in the Communications Decency Act has typically been asserted as a defense by any website owner subject to a defamation claim based upon comments by a third party poster. However, a recent case from Kentucky highlights the fact that where the website owner actually participates in the comment creation, that website owner may not be able to avail itself of Section 230 immunity. In particular, a Federal Judge on Monday found that thedirty.com's owner was not able to use the Section 230 defense after having been sued for defamation by a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader based upon a post involving her sexual activities. The judge found that thedirty.com was not entitled to immunity because Section 230 does not apply when the owner added his own comments ratifying or adopting the posts posted by a third party contributor. In particular, the Federal Court opinion stated; "that is, a website owner who intentionally encourages illegal or actionable third party postings to which he adds his own comments ratifying or adopting the post becomes a "creator" or "developer" of that content and is not entitled to immunity".
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Defending yourself against a defamation lawsuit when you are a content publisher typically involves a defense of Section 230 Immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In the case Parisi v. Sinclair, 2011 WL 1206193 (D.C. D.C. March 31, 2011), Amazon and other book publishers were able to successfully file a motion to dismiss against the plaintiff, dismissing the internet defamation-based claims under Section 203 of the CDA, and the remaining claims (offline book sales) because they did not act with the required malice. You can check out the rest of Eric Goldman's analysis of the case in his post, "Online Booksellers Get 47 USC 230 Immunity for Publisher-Supplied Marketing Collateral--Parisi v. Sinclair."
Internet Defamation and Libel Update:
Our internet lawyers receive dozens of emails and calls from prospective clients each week complaining about defamation on the internet. Ripoff Report, found at www.ripoffreport.com, is all too often the publisher of false statements of fact. In a somewhat ironic twist, Ripoff Report screwed up one of their Google Webmaster Tools settings causing the entire site to be removed from the Google Search results. The incident is reported here.
Click the following link for more information about lawsuits filed against Ripoff Reports for defamation and libel.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides immunity from liability to providers of interactive computer services who publish information provided by others. If you are a provider of interactive computer services, you need to know what you are liable for if someone makes defamatory comments using your services or technology. Online Libel Lawyer Enrico Shaefer discusses this landmark piece of internet legislation with Damien Allen on today's program.
- Section 230 deals with the issue of third party providers of internet and web hosting services and what exposure they have for user generated content on their website.
- Provides immunity from liability to providers of interactive computer services who publish information provided by others
- Defamation, liable, negligence, even criminal law claims, have been held to be covered by Section 230 Immunity.
Announcer: Welcome to Defamation Law Radio. Internet defamation is as easy to perpetuate as a blog post or forum comment. Your online reputation is measured by the websites’ return as Google search results. Do you know what people are saying in writing about you? This program is brought to you by Traverse Defamation Law. Internet lawyers with frontline experience handling Internet Defamation and Libel cases for clients like you. Contact Traverse Legal today and find out how to protect your online reputation.
Damien Allen: Good morning and welcome to Defamation Law Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and joining me on the phone is Enrico Schaefer of Traverse Legal, PLC. Good morning and welcome to the program, Enrico.
After Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act Provides Blanket Immunity For Interactive Computer Service Providers
Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, providers of interactive computer services will be treated as a publishers under the law, which means that they will not be held liable for the defamatory statements of their users. Section 230 exempts those from liability that take action to restrict users’ access to objectionable material. But this wasn’t always the case.
TorrentSpy, the popular BitTorrent search engine, has voluntarily shut down to protect the privacy of its users in light of its ongoing legal battle with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Visitors to the torrentspy.com website are now greeted with a message decrying the state of American privacy and copyright law. Proponents of the BitTorrent movement argue that torrent files do not themselves store copyrighted data; they liken their search engines, such as TorrentSpy, to other sites that index data, e.g. Google. The MPAA, on the other hand, believes that torrent search engines contribute to and encourage copyright infringement. They have filed lawsuits and issued tactical cease and desist letters to the internet service providers hosting the torrent files, as well as end users.