All Academic, Inc. Research Logo

Info/CitationFAQResearchAll Academic Inc.
Document

Bad Words and Good Samaritans: Defamatory Speech in Cyberspace
Unformatted Document Text:  2 It would, of course, be impossible to do justice to all of the issues related to defamatory speech in cyberspace in a single presentation. Recognizing that fact, this paper focuses on the narrow question of whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are legally responsible for third party speech. Simply put, can a plaintiff sue an ISP like America Online (AOL) for something said by one of AOL’s subscribers? In an effort to answer this question, the paper begins by identifying two models—ISPs as distributors and ISPs as publishers—considered by the courts. In Cubby v. CompuServe (1991), a federal district court held that CompuServe analogized the ISP to a distributor. Since CompuServe was unaware of the content of the bulletin board, the court ruled the ISP could not be held responsible for a defamatory posting on one of its bulletin boards. In Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy (1995a), a New York state court held that Prodigy exercised editorial control, and could therefore be held responsible for a defamatory account published on a bulletin board it maintained. The second section of the paper revisits this controversy in light of the United State Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision in Zeran v. America Online (1997a and 1997b), a case involving Section 230—the so-called “Good Samaritan” clause—of the ill-fated Communications Decency Act. The final section of this paper briefly summarizes the growing scholarly criticism of Section 230 and the Zeran decision. In the final pages, the paper directly responds to this criticism, arguing the Section 230 was intended to immunize ISPs, and that Zeran was correctly decided. Distributor or Publisher? Cubby and Stratton Oakmont The first cases considering the culpability of ISPs for defamatory postings forced the courts to consider whether ISPs are properly regarded as distributors or publishers. Since

Authors: Herbeck, Dale.
first   previous   Page 2 of 28   next   last



background image
2
It would, of course, be impossible to do justice to all of the issues related to defamatory
speech in cyberspace in a single presentation. Recognizing that fact, this paper focuses on the
narrow question of whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are legally responsible for third
party speech. Simply put, can a plaintiff sue an ISP like America Online (AOL) for something
said by one of AOL’s subscribers? In an effort to answer this question, the paper begins by
identifying two models—ISPs as distributors and ISPs as publishers—considered by the courts.
In Cubby v. CompuServe (1991), a federal district court held that CompuServe analogized the
ISP to a distributor. Since CompuServe was unaware of the content of the bulletin board, the
court ruled the ISP could not be held responsible for a defamatory posting on one of its bulletin
boards. In Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy (1995a), a New York state court held that Prodigy
exercised editorial control, and could therefore be held responsible for a defamatory account
published on a bulletin board it maintained. The second section of the paper revisits this
controversy in light of the United State Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision in Zeran
v. America Online (1997a and 1997b), a case involving Section 230—the so-called “Good
Samaritan” clause—of the ill-fated Communications Decency Act. The final section of this
paper briefly summarizes the growing scholarly criticism of Section 230 and the Zeran decision.
In the final pages, the paper directly responds to this criticism, arguing the Section 230 was
intended to immunize ISPs, and that Zeran was correctly decided.
Distributor or Publisher?
Cubby and Stratton Oakmont
The first cases considering the culpability of ISPs for defamatory postings forced the
courts to consider whether ISPs are properly regarded as distributors or publishers. Since


Convention
All Academic Convention can solve the abstract management needs for any association's annual meeting.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.
Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!
Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!
Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

first   previous   Page 2 of 28   next   last

©2012 All Academic, Inc.