Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Cecilia Barnes v. Yahoo Inc.
2005 WL 3005602, Civ. No. 05-926-AA (D. Or., November 8, 2005)
Communications Decency Act Immunizes Yahoo From Tort Claims Arising Out Of Alleged Failure To Timely Remove Third Party Content
Court holds that the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230 ("CDA"), immunizes defendant Yahoo, Inc. ("Yahoo") from tort claims arising out of its alleged failure to timely honor promises to remove from Yahoo's web site objectionable content about plaintiff posted by a third party. The content consisted of "profiles" contained both nude photos of plaintiff, and accurate contact information.
Yahoo Employee Allegedly Promises To Remove Unauthorized Content
Plaintiff's ex-boyfriend created and posted unauthorized "profiles" about plaintiff on Yahoo's website. These profiles, which appeared to come from plaintiff herself, contained nude photos of plaintiff, as well as accurate contact information. Plaintiff's ex-boyfriend, impersonating plaintiff, also solicited men for sex in various chat rooms. The combination of these activities caused plaintiff to be solicited by various men, with understandably unpleasant results.
Plaintiff alleged that she contacted Yahoo on several occasions in an effort to have these profiles removed, without success. According to plaintiff, approximately three months after the first of these contacts, plaintiff was contacted by a Yahoo representative who advised plaintiff that Yahoo would put a stop to these unauthorized profiles. Unfortunately, according to the complaint, this did not occur in the ensuing three months, and, in fact, did not occur until plaintiff commenced suit.
Claim Barred By Communications Decency Act
Plaintiff's Complaint advanced a tort claim against Yahoo arising out of the commitment its employee allegedly made to have the offending materials removed. By agreeing to act, the Complaint alleged, Yahoo assumed a duty to act, which duty it breached.
Yahoo argued that plaintiff's claim was barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Court agreed, and dismissed the complaint.
Section 230 of the CDA provides that:
Section 230 has been broadly construed by the courts to afford providers of interactive computer services such as Yahoo broad immunity from liability for content that such computer services make available on the web which is originated by others. Such broad immunity encompasses tort claims arising out of Yahoo's alleged failure to honor its promise to remove third party content from its site. Such failure sought to hold Yahoo liable for a role in the publication of these third party statements, a liability the Court determined it could not impose under the CDA. Said the Court:
In reaching this result, the Court relied on the Fourth Circuit's decision in Zeran v. America Online, 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997) cert. denied, 524 U.S. 937 (1998). In Zeran, like the case at bar, the court held that plaintiff's claims that AOL failed to promptly honor commitments to remove content posted by third parties were barred by application of the CDA.