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Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Internet Harassment and Defamation

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

Under both statutory and judge made law, a person cannot be held liable for posting on the Internet a hyperlink to, or repeating a quote authored by another person that was published on a website, regardless of the content; and the immunity from defamation claims afforded such users of the Internet is absolute.  See Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 230.

In Barrett v. Rosenthal, 40 Cal. 4th 33 (2006), the Court ruled that a user of interactive computer services was immune from defamation liability for posting information passed to her by a third-party publisher. In Barrett, Plaintiff sued Defendant for republishing what she considered was a defamatory email onto a third party website. The Supreme Court held that Defendant was a “user” as defined by the Communications Decency Act, and therefore did not re-publish content for the purposes of bringing a defamation claim. Rather, the Supreme Court told Plaintiff that she would have to sue the originator of the defamatory Internet publication.

Further, “subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability [for third-party published content] would tend to chill online speech”. ); Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 331–33 (4th Cir. 1997).

For more information, call Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.