More details emerge in California online free speech ruling
Website internetnews.com digs further into Monday's California Supreme Court ruling that Internet providers are exempt from libel laws if the posts they distribute contain statements that could be considered libelous.
The decision took place in the case of Stephen J. Barrett v. Ilena Rosenthal. Barret and medical fraud web site operator Dr. Timothy Polevoy filed a defamation and libel suit against Rosenthal, who in her role as the director of the Humantics Foundation for Women, runs an online discussion group about alternative medicine.
In the discussion group, a commenter described Barrett in far less than praiseworthy language.
The commenter called Barrett an "arrogant, bizarre, closed-minded, emotionally disturbed, professionally incompetent, intellectually dishonest, a dishonest journalist, sleazy, unethical, a quack, a thug, a bully, a Nazi" and a "hired gun for vested interests."
Well, Justice Carol Corrigan said that speech is protected under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and its safe harbor provisions for ISPs and other passive republishers and carriers.
"We conclude that [the CDA] prohibits 'distributor' liability for Internet publications," Justice Corrigan wrote in the unanimous decision that overturned an earlier Court of Appeals finding for the plaintiffs. . "We further hold that [the CDA] immunizes individual 'users' of interactive computer services, and that no practical or principled distinction can be drawn between active and passive use."
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