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Website operator sued for defamatory third party comments

Anytime a false statement is made that acts to mar the reputation of another person or business in Las Vegas, it may be classified as defamation. For this reason, website operators in particular have to be careful about what they say on their websites.

Although the Communications Decency Act protects website operators from being sued over third party content such as comments on their posts, a website operator was sued for posting submissions from an anonymous party that were deemed by the court to be defamatory in nature. The woman who brought the suit was recently awarded $338,000 in damages.

The website operator plans to appeal the decision, saying that he was not required to check submissions for facts before he posted them to his website. He does admit to screening submissions and deciding which ones to post, something that sets his website apart from other sites where users post their own comments.

The man’s lawyer feels the judge in this case got it wrong. Other lawyers who weighed in on the case say that the lawsuit should have been brought against the people who made the defamatory statements, not the website operator. They fear that this judgment could set a precedent and impede on First Amendment free speech rights. Website operators might balk at posting comments in the future that could be taken as being offensive to some, even if the comments are okay.

Because his reputation and future income earning potential may be tied to this judgment, the website operator would be well advised to proceed with a civil appeal.

Source: Kentucky.com, “Appeal expected in ex-Bengals cheerleader lawsuit,” Lisa Cornwell, July 11, 2013

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