Two Tough Section 230 Rulings From Last Week–General Steel v. Chumley & Xcentric v. Smith

28 08 2015
[Ed: again.. we have to pay a little more attention to the cases and a little less to Professor Goldman’s “take” on them. He’s supportive of very wide 230 protection, and the Google business model, sometimes to the point of unwillingness to consider some real, underlying, problems with both. But as always, his work is excellent in terms of drawing our attention to important cases and his opinions about them cannot and should not be ignored. We simply disagree about some preferences and outcomes]

Last week, we saw two Section 230 losses. Initially I was troubled by this confluence, but after digesting these opinions, I’m pretty certain they both involve unusual facts that limit any real damage to Section 230’s immunity. However, as usual in the case involving bad facts, the courts’ opinions are filled with loose and sloppy language that inevitably will be misused by future plaintiffs.

General Steel Domestic Sales, LLC v. Chumley, 2015 WL 4911585 (D. Colo. August 18, 2015)

I previously blogged an interesting keyword advertising ruling in this long-running dispute. The latest ruling involves a page where one competitor posted snippets/summaries about its rival’s legal cases with links to the original sources. Naturally, the snippets/summaries highlighted problems with the rival, so the page’s overall message wasn’t flattering to the rival. Some of the snippets/summaries were direct quotations from third party sources; the court implies that others were paraphrases written by the defendants.

The court says that Section 230 protects some, but not all, of the snippets/summaries. The court starts by correctly noting that Section 230 isn’t limited only to content submitted by third parties (see, e.g., the uncited D’Alonzo case)


Xcentric Ventures, L.L.C. v. Smith, 2015 WL 4940812 (N.D. Iowa August 19, 2015)

The underlying facts in this case are so messy, I’m not even going to try to recount them (they go on for about 15 pages in the opinion). I’m going to focus on a rural Iowa county prosecutor, Smith, who threatened to prosecute Ripoff Report (a/k/a Xcentric Ventures) and its principal Ed Magedson and allegedly committed various prosecutorial abuses along the way. Ripoff Report and Magedson sued to try to get Smith to leave them alone, similar to the Google v. Hood lawsuit.


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