Two recent cases confirm that web publishers and operators of other on-line forums cannot be held responsible for content provided by others.
In a case filed in Chicago, a federal district court judge ruled that the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 barred a federal housing discrimination claim against the popular Craigslist web site. A public interest group filed the action, charging that the site allowed individuals to post discriminatory housing ads. While a publisher of discriminatory ads can be held liable under the Fair Housing Act, the Communications Decency Act states that a provider of "an interactive computer service" cannot be treated as a publisher of content provided by others. This broad protection of on-line forums prompted the judge to dismiss the action.
The California Supreme Court last week similarly held that the Communications Decency Act shielded the operator of an on-line news group from liability for defamation arising from a letter she posted on her site. The court expressed concern about the policy of "blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the internet," but concluded that the law required dismissal of the action.