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Suing for Web Defamation

Posted by attorney Olesia Boulaev

Web defamation lawsuits are not easy ones to bring because of the immunity granted to internet service providers by the federal Communications Decency Act Section 230. However, there are a few helpful cases to help plaintiffs combat the immunity.

In one case, the website filtered the results displayed to users based on the preferences they selected. The court decided that such collaborative efforts by the website were not entitled to Section 230 immunity. Fair Housing Council v. Roommates, Inc. (9th Cir. 2008) 521 F.3d 1157. Therefore, in cases where an ISP actively participates in creating content, immunity may not apply.

In another case, the court denied immunity because the website went beyond mere hosting and specifically encouraged the development of offensive and defamatory content. The court looked at the very name of the site, the posts the site selected to publish, the site's taglines, and the site's added comments to encourage offensive dialogues. Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings (E.D. Ky. 2012) 840 F.Supp.2d 1008.

The above decisions may allow plaintiffs to avoid dismissals under the Communications Decency Act Section 230.

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