Section 230 Ruling Against Airbnb Puts All Online Marketplaces At Risk–Airbnb v. San Francisco

19 11 2016

San Francisco wants to curb Airbnb listings. It adopted a license-and-tax requirement for Airbnb vendors (who Airbnb confusingly calls “hosts”). Vendors widely ignored SF’s rules. To minimize its enforcement obligations, SF sought to deputize Airbnb as its enforcement agency. Thus, SF criminalized providing booking services to unlicensed vendors, which requires Airbnb to confirm that its vendors have the necessary licenses before closing a reservation at the peril of criminal punishment. This kind of “verification” obligation on intermediaries seemingly runs headlong into Section 230, where a series of Backpage cases held that such verification obligations violated Section 230. Nevertheless, a judge rejected Airbnb’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law, and his reasoning rips open another major hole in Section 230’s immunity.


Case citation: Airbnb, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, 2016 WL 6599821 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 8, 2016)

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