The ACLU and several other legal groups have
filed a legal briefarguing that
gossip website The Dirtyshouldn’t be liable for salacious third-party posts on its site about
former Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones.
The Dirty, which has also posted Anthony Weiner’s “sex messages,” has already been held liable for the posts about Jones and ordered to pay $US338,000. The Dirty is appealing that verdict in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, however, arguing it shouldn’t be liable for the 2009 comments on the site (including an allegation that Jones slept with all the Bengals and had STDS).
On Tuesday the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Digital Media Law Project, and others filed a “friend of the court” brief arguing that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects The Dirty from the third-party comments about Jones.
Section 230 protects service providers — including broadband operators and website operators like The Dirty — from liability for comments posted by third parties, according to the ACLU. From the brief:
Congress established powerful structural protections to guide the Internet’s development: service providers would be uniformly protected from suit based on users’ behaviour, and if service providers voluntarily removed objectionable content, they could do so without fear of legal consequences. These protections are enshrined in Section 230.
In affirming the $US338,000 jury award, Judge William Bertelsman ruled that the Dirty actually played a big role in developing the third-party content and therefore enjoyed no Section 230 immunity. The site invited the salacious comments by naming itself “The Dirty,” the judge found.
Judge Bertelsman also pointed out that The Dirty’s founder Nik Richie encouraged the nasty comments by adding his own comments such as this one: “Why are all high school teachers freaks in the sack?”
For her part, the high school teacher he was referring to has been even more famous by a salacious fact that turned out to be true — that she slept with her 17-year-old former student.
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