Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Fair Housing Act - Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions - Updated March 21, 2008
461 F.Supp.2d 681, Case No. 06 C 0657 (N.D. Ill., November 14, 2006) aff'd -- F.3d -- (7th Cir. Mar. 14, 2008)
Court holds that the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") immunizes defendant Craigslist, Inc. ("Craigslist") from liability for publishing housing ads authored by third parties that allegedly violate the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c) ("FHA"). In reaching this result, the Court held that the immunity afforded internet service providers under section 230(c)(1) of the CDA only extends to claims seeking to hold an ISP liable as a publisher for content authored by third parties, and not to all claims arising out of the ISP's role in giving the public access to such content. Because the FHA claims at issue were premised on Craigslist's publication of offensive ads authored by third parties, the Court held they were barred by the immunity granted under Section 230(c)(1).
No. 07-1101 (7th Cir., March 14, 2008)
Affirming the District Court below, the Seventh Circuit holds that Craigslist cannot be held liable for violating the Fair Housing Act as a result of its online publication of discriminatory housing ads authored by third parties. To hold Craigslist liable for such conduct would require it to be treated as a ‘publisher’ of these advertisements, which is prohibited by Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act. As a result, the Seventh Circuit affirms the District Court’s grant of summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s Fair Housing Act claims against Craigslist.
489 F.3d 921, CV-03-09386-PA (9th Cir., May 15, 2007) aff'd en banc 2008 WL 879293 (9th Cir., April 3, 2008).
A divided three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit limited the immunity afforded by the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), 47 U.S.C. section 230, for website operators involved in the publication and distribution of the responses to questionnaires completed by third parties concerning their roommate preferences.
By a vote of 2 to 1, the Panel further held that the CDA did not immunize Roommates.com from potential liability under the FHA for publishing and distributing member profiles created in response to Roommates.com’s questionnaires. Roommates.com used the content of a user’s responses to its questionnaires to determine who among its members should receive notice that they were seeking a roommate, and/or be permitted to view that user’s profile. For example, an individual with children was not shown a listing for an apartment occupied by an individual seeking a roommate without children. The court held that by categorizing, channeling and limiting the distribution of user profiles, Roommates.com was sufficiently involved in the creation of the distributed information to lose the immunity afforded by the CDA to interactive service providers who make available content drawn by third parties. As a result, the Ninth Circuit allowed plaintiffs to proceed with claims that by such conduct, Roommates.com violated the FHA.
Finally, by a vote of 2 to 1, the Court held that the CDA did immunize Roommates.com from potential FHA liability arising out of its publication of users’ responses to Roommates.com’s requests for “Additional comments” concerning their roommate preferences. In this section of its questionnaire, Roommates.com “strongly recommend[ed the user] tak[e] a moment to personalize your profile by writing a paragraph or two describing yourself and what you are looking for in a roommate.” This question produced the most provocative – and potentially discriminatory - responses found in user profiles. The court held that the responses to this question constituted content created by third parties within the meaning of the CDA. As a result, held the Court, by application of the CDA, Roommates.com could not be held liable for publishing these responses on its website.