There is a new case involving a website being sued for a vicious posting. A 27-year-old woman in La Porte, Texas is suing thedirty.com site for a posting that she was humiliated her over the posting that called fat, sexually promiscuous, cocaine using herpes carrier. She is suing Dirty World Entertainment and Hooman Karamian, the founder of the site who uses the alias “Nik Richie” online.
The posting with a picture included a question to the site’s founder “Nik Richie” who works out of Scottsdale, Arizona. The poster asked if Richie would sleep with her and he responded: “No, I don’t want to get infected.” She says that the site refused to take down the posting until it received a threatening letter from her lawyer.
The case will turn on whether the site is protected under the Communications Decency Act, which has been used repeatedly by Web providers to bar liability. These cases highlight the protection given to Internet companies like Craigslist and Facebook from defamation lawsuits. Under a federal law and the ruling in Zeran. The Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the 1996 Act gives protections to online service providers from being sued for the actions of others. That section states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Kenneth Zeran sued America Online for negligence. On April 25, 1995, an unidentified person posted a message on an AOL bulletin board advertising “Naughty Oklahoma T-shirts.” It was a prank that featured offensive products about the Oklahoma bombing and told interested buyers to call “Ken” at Zeran’s home phone number in Seattle. Zeran notified AOL in a series of telephone calls and letters about the bogus posting. But AOL allegedly refused to take down the material. Then the prankster put more messages on the site from Ken, not only producing more calls but leading an announcer for the Oklahoma radio station KRXO to read the messages and encouraged listeners to call Zeran.
The Fourth Circuit held that Section 320 blocked any liability, even if AOL was informed of the falsity and harmfulness of the information. It was a very harsh decision and it is not clear that the federal law was truly intended to protect these companies for any liability under any circumstance for false and harmful postings.
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