Sunday, June 04, 2006

Blogging: Making the Law Books

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell has ruled:

"Bloggers cannot be hit with libel suits on the basis of anonymous postings on their Web sites because federal law grants them immunity by explicitly stating that they cannot be treated as the "publisher" of such comments." (Case: DiMeo v. Max)

In this case, the comments that "Max" was being sued for by "DiMeo" were comments published by his readers. That is a chilling thought --being liable for someone else's comments... Thankfully the judge decided with the defense here:

"[The judge] found that Congress enacted Section 230 for two reasons -- to "promote the free exchange of information and ideas over the Internet," and to "encourage service providers to self-regulate the dissemination of offensive material over their services."

Dalzell concluded that the purpose of Section 230 was to provide immunity from libel suits for Internet providers -- including bloggers. Without such immunity, Dalzell said, the freewheeling nature of speech on the Internet would suffer.

"Absent federal statutory protection, interactive computer services would essentially have two choices: (1) employ an army of highly trained monitors to patrol (in real time) each chatroom, message board, and blog to screen any message that one could label defamatory, or (2) simply avoid such a massive headache and shut down these fora," Dalzell wrote.

"Either option would profoundly chill Internet speech," Dalzell said.

Before the CDA was passed, Dalzell noted, courts had held that interactive service providers that removed offensive material from their sites risked liability." (source)

Of course, "DiMeo's" lawyers are going to appeal --but for the time being, score one for free speech...

(H/T: FreeMOM)

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