Monday, March 5, 2012

Internet Defendants Dodge Liability in 'Sex Toy' Defamation Case

Seal of the U.S. District Court of OregonImage via Wikipedia
In Kanal V. Gaston v. Facebook, Inc., Maria Raquel Rivas et al. (Case No. 3:12-cv-0063), the United States District Court for the District of Oregon last week tossed defamation claims against Facebook, Google and Lexis-Nexis arising from the plaintiff's dispute against the mother of his child and his former employer that involves a missing sex toy.

Now that we have your attention, the litigious, unemployed, asset-free Gaston  filed multiple lawsuits principally targeting Rivas, a former coworker at Stamford Financial Group with whom he had a child, and the Harris County (Texas) District Attorney's Office, for whom he worked from 2007-2011. He alleged he was sexually harassed by the DA's office during an office party and that his ex-employer burglarized his vehicle and threatened him, all over his refusal to return a sex toy that is not further identified in the complaint.  Gaston further claimed that Rivas threatened to release a newspaper article and personal information about him that would depict him as "crazy and a trouble maker."

What does all this have to do with social media giant Facebook, A-list Internet search engine Google, and computer-assisted legal research maven Lexis-Nexis, readers may wonder? Well, Gaston alleges Facebook gave Rivas access to spread purported lies about him on the Internet, while Google and Lexis-Nexis purportedly conspired with Rivas and the DA's office to retaliate against him by publishing allegedly defamatory statements, that's what ("TUOL" isn't fooled, and knows readers haven't gotten past the missing sex toy to contemplate the legal ramifications of the case).

In mercifully allowing the Internet defendants out of the case, the district court cited Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") that shields Internet Service Providers from liability arising from content created by third parties. The court held that Google, Lexis-Nexis and Facebook are all Internet Service Providers, as defined  by CDA Sec.230(f)(2) as: "any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions." 

The decision marks the first time Lexis-Nexis has benefited from the immunity offered by CDA Sec. 230(c), noted the always informative Eric Goldman Technology & Marketing Law Blog. It appears Gaston won't be tapping any social media deep pockets for dough (dill or otherwise).

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment