July 22, 2015
Since Ripoff Report hit the scene in the late 1990s, people have been trying to sue the website for defamation over user-generated content. But the people who’ve tried, have failed….miserably.
Why? Because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act confers third-party slander and libel immunity on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), in addition to Web-hosts and –operators. This means they can’t be held liable for posts by third parties on their sites.
Despite Case Law, Man Tries To Sue Ripoff Report Over A User Post
But considerable Section 230 case law did not dissuade a New York man from filing a libel lawsuit against Ripoff Report, the site’s owner, and the site’s parent company. The man also included four individuals, whom he accused of authoring the allegedly defamatory content, as defendants.
In his claim, he argued that not only did third parties post damaging commentary about him on ripoffreport.com, but that Xcentric – the site’s parent company – played an active role in defaming him by creating a file heading that specifically named him, followed by terms including “scams,” “complaints” and “lawsuits.”
He also claimed that Ripoff Report has, in the past, redacted or modified reports posted on the site after ripoffreport.com made the call to do so, adding that site executives had redacted “numerous postings.” These statements, however, could not be proven in Court.
Court Sides With Ripoff Report In Defamation Lawsuit
In the end, the court ruled in favor of Ripoff Report on account of Section 230 protections enjoyed by the web service operator.
According to the decision issued by Arizona District Court Judge David G. Campbell:
“Xcentric’s efforts to screen content submitted by third parties does not disqualify it from immunity under the CDA.”
Further, Campbell ruled that Xcentric may have provided the platform’s software, but that fact does not weaken Xcentric’s claim to immunity under Section 230. Since Xcentric is not considered an “information content provider”, but rather an “interactive computer service”, the company enjoys CDA protections. The law states that information content providers are either solely or partially responsible for crafting offensive content, while interactive computer services should not be treated as “the publisher or speaker of any information” posted by a third-party.
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