Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Score One for the First Amendment
Web sites that publish inflammatory information written by other parties cannot be sued for libel, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday. [...] In reversing an appellate court's decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source. "The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. "Nevertheless ... statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended."The reason I approve of this ruling, even though there is the real risk of defamatory material being spread far and wide, is that even more damage would be done by holding "distributors" liable for material they may not even know is defamatory. It's easy to imagine Certain People putting pressure on ISPs, web-site hosts, and sites like Blogger to shut down sites that publish material that isn't defamatory but only politically inconvenient. The people with more money to pay for lawyers would win every time. And that's not good for democracy.
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