QUESTION: Can CheaterPicture.com be held liable for the posts of its users even if it is proved in court that a post is inaccurate and/or libelous or defamatory?
ANSWER: No, CheaterPicture.com may not be held liable for such posts pursuant to the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C.A. § 230) Under the particular circumstances of the following cases, the courts in the United States have consistently held that, where allegedly libelous statements are made available by third parties through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or are posted by third parties on the server’s billboards, the ISPs are immune from liability for defamation as they are within the scope of 47 U.S.C.A. § 230, which provides that 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.”In Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 25 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 2526 (4th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 524 U.S. 937, 118 S. Ct. 2341, 141 L. Ed. 2d 712 (1998), the court affirmed a judgment in favor of an Internet interactive service provider based on the statutory immunity granted Internet servers under 47 U.S.C.A. § 230, where an impostor posted messages anonymously on the server’s bulletin board advertising T– shirts with tasteless slogans concerning a bombing of a federal building that had occurred just a few days earlier, with a named individual’s home phone number included, and where the individual later alleged that the server had unreasonably delayed in removing the defamatory messages, refused to print retractions, and failed to screen for similar postings.The court noted that 47 U.S.C.A. § 230 states that 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.”The court explained that the statute creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third–party user of the service, by precluding courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publisher’s role.
The court further explained that Congress recognized the threat that tort–based lawsuits posed to freedom of speech in the new and burgeoning Internet medium, so that § 230 was enacted, in part, to maintain the robust nature of Internet communication and, accordingly, to keep government interference in the medium to a minimum.
Continuing, the court said that, as the amount of information communicated via interactive computer services was staggering, the specter of tort liability in an area of such prolific speech would have an obvious chilling effect, because it would be impossible for service providers to screen each of their millions of postings for possible problems. Faced with potential liability for each message republished by their services, the court observed, interactive computer service providers might choose to severely restrict the number and type of messages posted.
The court explained that Congress considered the weight of the speech interests implicated and chose to immunize service providers to avoid any such restrictive effect.
Similarly, in Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 26 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1717 (D.D.C. 1998), where certain White House employees brought a defamation action against an electronically published gossip columnist and an interactive computer service provider, the court, granting the service provider summary judgment, held that the service provider could not be held liable for making the allegedly defamatory gossip column available to its subscribers, under 47 U.S.C.A. § 230(c)(1).
The court explained that the statute, under which 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,” made the legislative judgment to effectively immunize providers of interactive computer services from civil liability in tort with respect to material disseminated by them but created by others. The court deemed irrelevant the plaintiffs’ argument that a newspaper would be liable if it had done what the server did, which was to publish the story without doing anything whatsoever to edit, verify, or even read it.
QUESTION: What can I do if someone posts inaccurate information about me or my company?
ANSWER: If you feel you have been unjustly posted, please take the time to “Write a Comment” to the particular REPORT. This will provide you with the opportunity to set the record straight.
QUESTION: Will CheaterPicture.com provide me with any information concerning the individual who posted a Cheater Report?
ANSWER: CheaterPicture.com will not provide you with any information concerning any individual who has posted a Cheater Report other than what that individual has voluntarily provided pursuant to his or her post.