Subtitle: 
What Small Businesses Can Learn From The Failed Lawsuit
Important Tip The Communications Decency Act immunizes web sites from liability for content posted by third parties.

You may have read in the papers about a lawsuit filed by St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa against the website Twitter.  An unknown person set up a Twitter account called “TonyLaRussa,” and “tweeted” messages casting the real Tony LaRussa in a negative light.  LaRussa sued Twitter, raising claims, including defamation, trademark infringement, and misappropriation of name.  LaRussa withdrew his lawsuit last week, most likely because of the obstacles presented by the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Section 230 of the CDA immunizes web sites from liability for content posted by third parties.  Thus, while the court did not have an opportunity to reach the merits of the issue because LaRussa dismissed his case so quickly, it would seem that under the CDA, Twitter could not be held liable for statements posted by its users.

This lawsuit serves as a reminder to small businesses of the difficulties in seeking redress when unknown individuals make unfounded accusations and disparaging remarks on websites such as Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook.  It is very difficult to hold a website responsible if they act merely as a passive host of content published by third party users.  

That’s little comfort for small businesses trying to uncover the identity of someone engaging in defamation, cyber-crime, or trade secret misappropriation.  The question becomes – how can you identify the person responsible?  In some cases, it simply can’t be done.  But in others, you may find answers by issuing subpoenas to the right parties.  The potential success of this strategy will vary depending on several factors, including the unknown person’s internet sophistication, the web sites they operate on, and how long you wait to issue the subpoena (since many web sites do not retain user information after a certain period of time).  

 

Additional Information
Important Tip: 
The Communications Decency Act immunizes web sites from liability for content posted by third parties.
Marketing copy: 
protecting your online reputation