United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit, February 23, 2007
In Universal Communication Systems v. Lycos, a company who had allegedly been victimized by defamatory statements on a web site regarding the value of its stock sued Lycos, which operated the web site. The web site allowed users to post comments with minimal moderation, and no one from Lycos was responsible for the allegedly defamatory statements.
The court stated: “In Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 7 U.S.C. § 230, Congress has granted broad immunity to entities, such as Lycos, that facilitate the speech of others on the internet. Whatever the limits of that immunity, it is clear that Lycos’s activities in this case fall squarely within those that Congress intended to immunize.” The court observed that allowing website owners to be sued for the statements of commenters on their sites would have an “obvious chilling effect” on speech. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint against Lycos.
A website owner remains liable for its own speech, but the owner will not be held liable for disparaging speech by other posters.