One of our commenters left THIS post last night. I felt it needed a little bit more prominence because it can’t be said often enough. Apparently Bill Schmalfeldt thinks that if he keeps beating this particular drum, it will all of a sudden make it true, contrary to actual law.
“But Bill is obviously attempting to chill speech here (like he always does – TDPZ) by claiming that our hostess is responsible for the accuracy of comments on this blog by third parties because she is allegedly not an internet service provider. He is wrong.
“Of course all of this concerns the communication decency act, codified as 47 U.S.C. Sec. 230. The key portion of the law is Sec. 230(c)(1), which says:
““No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
“That issue of who is the publisher mentioned toward the end of that sentence is the key. If you are not treated at law as the publisher or speaker, you are not liable for what that person says. This is in contrast with books, where the people printing the book are treated as a publisher, not just as a matter of nomenclature, but as a matter of liability. That is why virtually every defamation case involving books includes both the publisher and the writer as defendants and so long as other elements are met.
“So who isn’t a publisher? Well, certainly a “provider… of an interactive computer service” is not. That would be WordPress and many would argue (correctly in my opinion) that this includes our gentle hostess.
“But we don’t have to settle that last question—whether our hostess is a provider—because well… look at that first part of the quoted passage again, without the elipses: “No provider OR USER of an interactive computer service…” (emphasis added)
“Now, Schmalfeldt can debate whether our hostess is a provider, but even he isn’t stupid enough to claim she isn’t a “user” of of an interactive computer service. (You are being inordinately kind, I think, at your assessment of the level of intelligence being exhibited by Bill. – TDPZ)
“So, the short answer is that you are only responsible for what you write on the internet, and only you. So you should be concerned for your own potential liability for what you say, but you can rest assured that it is *only* your arse on the line in any civil action. Why? Because Congress wants to encourage people to create forums like this where there is a great deal of freedom of discourse (while also saying in Sec. 230(c)(2) that forum creators will have a great deal of freedom to protect the level of discourse in such forums). (Go figure. Logic and common sense in the law. GENIUS! – TDPZ)
““B-b-but Aaron,” I hear you say, “are you saying that Bill Schmalfeldt is an idiot who can’t understand what a law says even though it is plain English and judges have explained it to him twice?”
“Yes, I am saying exactly that.” (After all, it is a day that ends in a “y” so I don’t know why we all aren’t surprized. – TDPZ)