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Court absolves craigslist in housing bias controversy

November 15, 2006

Let's say someone goes on craigslist and posts a housing ad expressing a restriction against members of a particular race, religion, or lifestyle.

Can craigslist be held liable for such noxious content? Well, yesterday a U.S. District Court in Chicago said no.

The action was brought by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Craigslist held that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act specifically absolves hosts of interactive computer services from liability in order to encourage free discourse and robust debate.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation backed craigslist with an amicus brief.

"The result is an important win for online forums like craigslist, who would be unable to provide online housing ads without this protection," the EFF said in response to the ruling. 

Despite the favorable decision, the EFF's statement following the edict indicates they may have wanted a different tone.

"This court envisioned a narrower protection, sufficient to protect against the claims at issue, but opening the door for later courts to limit Section 230's important and necessary protections," the EFF said. "In doing so, the court misreads the key cases, and creates a needless limitation that is contrary to the plain reading of Section 230, the intent of Congress and the needs to have open forums on the Internet."

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