Imposing Tort Liability on Websites for Cyberharassment
Yale Law Journal Pocket Part, Vol. 118, p. 115, 2008
5 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2009 Last revised: 6 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 17, 2009
Several female law students were the subject of derogatory comments on AutoAdmit.com, a message board about law school admissions. When one of the women asked the website administrator to remove certain comments, the administrator posted her request, prompting further attacks. An undergraduate student’s rape was revealed on a gossip site, JuicyCampus.com, where posters engaged in a cruel session of “blame the victim.” Another student on that site was falsely identified, by name, as being a stalker, bi-polar, and suicidal. When officials at her university asked JuicyCampus.com to remove the most egregious posts, the company refused. These recent cases have brought the vexing problem of cyber harassment to the public’s attention. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, websites are not liable as publishers for the content on their sites so long as they are not involved in its creation. Accordingly, much of the relevant scholarship has focused on repealing Section 230 or imposing liability upon posters. The immunity that website sponsors have as publishers should not mean that they have no obligation whatsoever for the activity on their website. Website sponsor - the entities that own the domain name and control the activity on a website - have a proprietary interest in their websites. Accordingly, they should be subject to the same standard of conduct as other proprietors.
Keywords: internet, tort, defamation, cyberlaw, Communications Decency Act, cyberharassment, cyberbullying, Section 230
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