OPINION: Others post, you get sued

October 24, 2007
The stakes are enormous. The question is serious. Under what circumstances will the law hold interactive computer services liable for content posted by others on their sites?
     This issue surfaced recently in a dispute involving Roommates.com, a Web site where applicants complete online questionnaires to locate roommates. In a federal lawsuit, the Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego in California complained that the Web site violated the Fair Housing Act and certain state laws.
     A federal appellate court was called upon to determine whether the site was entitled to immunity under the terms of the Communications Decency Act. The CDA provides that "(no) provider...of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
     The key point is that interactive computer services are granted legal immunity with respect to content created by others. Indeed, the grant of immunity applies to a defendant that is the "provider...of an interactive computer service" and that is being sued "as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by" another.