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Craigslist Wins In Federal Court; Not Liable For Housing Ads Posted By Users

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).

One Response to “Craigslist Wins In Federal Court; Not Liable For Housing Ads Posted By Users”

  1. I don't get it: a newspaper gets paid to run a discriminatory ad and is liable if it is published, but a website can run it free and isn't liable?

    And some newspapers are shying away from allowing story commenting without moderation because of liable concerns, this ruling suggests that should no longer be a concern.