A court seems, according to this synopsis by Eric Goldman, to lay it out straight in dismissing a case brought in California against Craigslist. The claims was that the classified-ads site should be held responsible for “discriminatory” housing listings submitting submitted by third parties and posted on Craigslist with no meaningful involvement of the website operators. This is precisely the activity 47 U.S.C. 230 is meant to exempt from liability.
Eric has taken us here before, and he’s rather tired of the journey himself. First, the good news (I’ve added links for non-experts on this statute, like me):
[I]n a single paragraph . . . the judge reinforces the case’s complete lack of merit, succinctly dismissing the claim on its pleadings. The court says that (1) websites are [Interactive Computer Service] providers, (2) the classified ads on Craigslist originate from “another information content provider,” and (3) the Fair Housing Act statutory language uses the verb “publish” as one of the restricted activities and the plaintiffs characterize Craigslist’s behavior as “publishing” in their pleadings, so the plaintiffs are trying to treat Craigslist as a publisher of that third party content. All of the elements of a successful 230 defense are satisfied, so just like that–boom, boom, boom–case over.
Unfortunately, says Eric, that analysis took place on page 26 of 27. Why?
But…what about those other 26 pages? Unfortunately, the judge joined the burgeoning trend of adding dicta suggesting limits to 230’s parameters–other prominent examples of this trend include the 7th Circuit Doe v. GTE case and two recent 11th Circuit cases. …
I really wish that judges would reconsider indulging themselves through 230-bashing dicta. All it does is encourages more plaintiffs to bring futile and wasteful lawsuits that impose real costs on defendants (like this case–which was inspired partially by the dicta from the Doe v. GTE case).
But then, what would all those law clerks do all days with their law-review sharpened pencils, Eric?
UPDATE: More from Evan Brown.