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Bad Words and Good Samaritans: Defamatory Speech in Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  11 or state law that might impose liability on ISPs. As these cases use similar reasoning, they can be quickly summarized as follows: • In Blumenthal v. Drudge (1998), the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that Congress had conferred immunity on ISPs, and hence ruled that Blumenthal could not sue AOL for a story in the Drudge Report alleging Blumenthal had abused his spouse. In an effort to distinguish these facts from Zeran, Blumenthal argued that Section 230 did not apply in this instance because Matt Drudge was not an anonymous third party using AOL’s service, but rather that AOL had contracted with Drudge and paid him to provide the Drudge Report to AOL’s subscribers. Although sympathetic to the plaintiff’s claim that “AOL has certain editorial rights with respect to the content provided by Drudge and disseminated by AOL” (p. 51), the court nonetheless concluded that “Congress has made a different policy choice by providing immunity even where the interactive service provider has an active, even aggressive role in making available content prepared by others” (p. 52). This result is significant because it broadens Section 230 to include content provided by service partners like the Drudge Report, in addition to content provided by paying subscribers. • In Lunney v. Prodigy (1999), the New York Court of Appeals held that Prodigy could not be held accountable for defamatory emails or postings to a bulletin board about a local scout master made by an anonymous user who had opened a fictitious account under Lunney’s name. While the court “declined the invitation” to decide whether Section 230 could be retroactively applied to statements made before the statute was enacted (p. 543), the decision is significant as the court

Authors: Herbeck, Dale.
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or state law that might impose liability on ISPs. As these cases use similar reasoning, they can be
quickly summarized as follows:
In Blumenthal v. Drudge (1998), the United States District Court for the District
of Columbia held that Congress had conferred immunity on ISPs, and hence ruled
that Blumenthal could not sue AOL for a story in the Drudge Report alleging
Blumenthal had abused his spouse. In an effort to distinguish these facts from
Zeran, Blumenthal argued that Section 230 did not apply in this instance because
Matt Drudge was not an anonymous third party using AOL’s service, but rather
that AOL had contracted with Drudge and paid him to provide the Drudge Report
to AOL’s subscribers. Although sympathetic to the plaintiff’s claim that “AOL
has certain editorial rights with respect to the content provided by Drudge and
disseminated by AOL” (p. 51), the court nonetheless concluded that “Congress
has made a different policy choice by providing immunity even where the
interactive service provider has an active, even aggressive role in making
available content prepared by others” (p. 52). This result is significant because it
broadens Section 230 to include content provided by service partners like the
Drudge Report, in addition to content provided by paying subscribers.
In Lunney v. Prodigy (1999), the New York Court of Appeals held that Prodigy
could not be held accountable for defamatory emails or postings to a bulletin
board about a local scout master made by an anonymous user who had opened a
fictitious account under Lunney’s name. While the court “declined the invitation”
to decide whether Section 230 could be retroactively applied to statements made
before the statute was enacted (p. 543), the decision is significant as the court


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