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Missed this yesterday … In a ruling that could cloud the level of protection for online web forums, a federal judge in Chicago has ruled that Craigslist is not liable for allegedly discriminatory housing ads, the Chicago Tribune reports. The classified listings company was sued in February by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claiming it was breaking the Fair Housing Act by running the ads. The 1968 law said publishers could be held liable but the 1996 Communications Decency Act provided a shield for web forums. That would explain why Craigslist was supported by filings from Amazon, Google, eBay, AOL, and Yahoo.
Judge Amy St. Eve wrote that Craigslist fits the definition of an interactive computer service — a conduit of information provided by others, which the Trib says “effectively dismisses the case.” The lawyers’ plans to ask the judge to reconsider or to appeal. It’s not all glee for the winning side: St. Eve appeared to narrow the reach of the CDA by rejecting the notion of unlimited immunity.
Susan Crawford peels the ruling apart. Her conclusion: “This case isn’t the last word or even (arguably) an important word on online liability.” The real problem could come from the way a federal appellate court responds. Full decision (pdf).