Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Craigslist Not a Pimp; Federal Judge Tosses Sheriff's Suit

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A federal court has sided with Craigslist, the online classified advertising colossus, by dismissing a lawsuit brought by Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff Thomas Dart that accused the forum of promoting prostitution in its erotic services listings.

Judge John F. Grady of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois relied on a provision of Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, better known as the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C., sec. 230(c)(1)) in ruling for the defendant in Thomas Dart, Sheriff, v. Craigslist, Inc. (Case No. 09-C-1385).  Specifically, Section 230(c)(1) states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Sheriff Dart alleged many of the ads appearing in the erotic services section use code words that in fact involve payment for sexual services. Craigslist expressly warns users that soliciting prostitution is prohibited and has begun charging posters of erotic services ads.

Congress enacted Section 230(c)(1) to encourage Internet Service Providers to police themselves by shielding them from liability for content they did not create. Without such a provision, online speech could be chilled.
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