Internet mudslinging is under attack, according to Patti Waldmeir, the legal columnist in the Financial Times. Citing a recent lawsuit involving Roommates.com, she notes that free expression is hampered by a ruling from the 9th circuit Federal appeals court in California. The court found the site liable for discrimination because the it asked online questions that provoked discriminatory responses (like “no straight roomies” or “no drama”).
Heartened by this news is DontDateHimGirl.com “victim”, Todd Hollis, a Pittsburgh attorney, who lost the first time, but is re-filing his case. In court papers, he says the site is liable for anonymous postings that claim (untruthfully, he says) he a) has herpes b) has multiple children and c) “wears dirty clothes”.
The Federal Communications Decency Act protects website owners against liability for the defamatory, libellous and otherwise harmful postings, but the Roommates.com ruling could change that–and the whole spirit of the internet would be lost.