Judge says California can prosecute alleged “revenge porn” site operator

15 12 2014
On Monday afternoon, a San Diego judge ruled in a pretrial hearing that the state of California has enough evidence to proceed with its case against Kevin Bollaert, the alleged operator of the “revenge porn” site ugotposted.com.

Bollaert, 27, was arrested in December of last year and was charged with 31 felony counts of identity theft, extortion, and conspiracy for running a site that asked users to upload nude photos of victims along with their full name, age, location, and a Facebook link. Investigators said that when victims would ask Bollaert to take the pictures down, he would direct them to a separate website that he created, changemyreputation.com, where they would be asked to pay a fee, usually between $300 and $350. Bollaert himself said he made about $900 a month on advertising revenue from the site. The California government alleges he made more than $10,000 off of ugotposted.

Sites like Bollaert’s often believe they are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents operators of websites from being held responsible for the content posted by their users. Bollaert pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in January.

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The content in this post was found at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/judge-says-california-can-prosecute-alleged-revenge-porn-site-operator/ and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Another Section 230 Win For Ripoff Report–Torati v. Hodak

15 12 2014

 

Daniel Hodak posted negative comments about Hezi Torati to Ripoff Report. Torati sued Hodak and, in this ruling, asks for permission to add Ripoff Report and Ed Magedson as defendants.

The court quickly shuts down this request. The court first lays the foundation that Ripoff Report isn’t liable for user posts:

all the causes of action alleged against XCentric are clearly barred by the CDA, insofar as they are based upon XCentric’s publication of comments posted on its website by Hodak or other individuals.

To get around Section 230, Torati trots out some moldy oldy, I-can’t-believe-people-are-still-trying-these arguments:

Ripoff Report solicits users to post complaints. The court replies:

The solicitation of critical statements, alone, cannot subject XCentric to liability. “Creating an open forum for third parties to post content-including negative commentary-is at the core of what section 230 protects.” Shiamili, 17 NY3d at 290-291. The freedom to create a forum would be hollow without the concomitant freedom to invite participation therein.

Ripoff Report adds material to the posts, including headings and logos at the top of the complaint and the domain name Ripoff Report (which plaintiff says “defames every person who becomes the target of a report”). We’ve seen this argument many times already, and the answer this time is the same as all the previous times. The court says adding headings is a traditional editor’s function, and the domain name “merely discloses that a complaint has been made about the subject of the report.”

The plaintiff also cites Ripoff Report’s metatags, which include the keywords “fraud,” “complaint,” “rip-off,” and “scam.” The court responds that the metatags “are no more than an attempt by XCentric to have its postings more widely read. Such an attempt hardly strips XCentric of the immunity extended by the CDA.” The court also notes–correctly!–that keyword metatags are technologically inconsequential, citing Network Automation, Seikaly & Stewart, and Matt Cutts’ video!

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Case citation: Torati v. Hodak, 2014 WL 2620345 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. June 11, 2014)

I’ve blogged more Ripoff Report cases than I can count. You can check some of them out here.

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/06/another-section-230-win-for-ripoff-report-torati-v-hodak.html and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



KlearGear must pay $306,750 to couple that left negative review

15 12 2014
A years-long legal odyssey involving a Utah couple that left a bad review against an online retailer, KlearGear, for an undelivered less-than-$20 order, has finally resulted in monetary damages.

On Wednesday, the judge awarded $306,750 in compensatory and punitive damages plus attorneys fees to Jennifer and John Palmer, who wrote their review in 2009. KlearGear lost in a default judgement in federal court in Utah in May 2014.

The attorney representing the Palmers, Scott Michelman of the advocacy group Public Citizen, told Ars that collecting the money may not be so straightforward.

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The content in this post was found at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/kleargear-must-pay-306750-to-couple-that-left-negative-review/ and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



College Review Website Ordered To Pay $1M For Users’ Disparaging Reviews–Neumont University v. Little Bizzy

15 12 2014

 

Before the headline freaks you out too much, let me highlight the most important fact: this is a default ruling. The defendant was a company but it says it couldn’t find cost-effective counsel, so the company’s principal tried to defend the company’s interests in court individually–a procedural no-no. So the court tosses all of the defendant’s efforts, and the defendant company no-shows for the rest of the proceedings. The result is an unopposed default judgment motion, and as we know, usually those don’t end well for defendants.

The case involves Collegetimes, a website that lets users review colleges. The website has a review page for Neumont University, a for-profit college based in Utah. The page is filled with critical reviews, such as “This school can be summed up in 3 words ‘PIECE OF SHIT.’” The page also has comments indicating that some prospective students reconsidered their interest in Neumont after reading the reviews. The opinion indicates that Neumont tried to post responsive comments, but that triggered Collegetimes to include a banner saying “Warning: We recommend that you avoid this college.” Neumont also alleged that the site deleted positive reviews, blocked Neumont’s ability to access its discussion forum on the site, and posted disparaging tweets such as “# Neumont student reveals that administrators host ‘pizza parties’ to coax students to leave positive reviews online answers.yahoo.com.”

Neumont claims it lost at least 12 matriculants due to Collegetimes, resulting in $1.02M of lost revenues ($85k/student). How does one prove that negative online reviews from one particular website are the legally responsible cause of a company’s lost revenues?

Case citation: Neumont University, LLC v. Little Bizzy, LLC, 2014 WL 2112938 (D. Nev. May 20, 2014). A backgrounder on the case. For more filings in the case, see Justia, Scribd and SCU’s Digital Commons.

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The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/05/college-review-website-ordered-to-pay-1m-for-users-disparaging-reviews-neumont-university-v-little-bizzy.html and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Legal Blog Faces Defamation Liability for Mischaracterizing Prior Legal Proceedings–Huon v. Above the Law

14 12 2014

Plaintiff, a lawyer, was charged with assault in 2008 and charged in 2009 for cyberstalking and witness harassment (based on one of his blog posts?) involving the same alleged victim. He was acquitted of both charges. His charges and trial received publicity. Popular law blog Above the Law wrote two stories about plaintiff’s brush with the legal system.

The court dismisses the bulk of the lawsuit, but a portion of the claims against ATL survive.

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Case citation: Huon v. Breaking Media, LLC, 2014 WL 6845866 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 4, 2014).

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/12/legal-blog-faces-defamation-liability-for-mischaracterizing-prior-legal-proceedings-huon-v-above-the-law.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Section 230 Immunizes Website For Super-User’s Doxxing–Internet Brands v. Jape

9 12 2014

Internet Brands runs a UGC website for boating enthusiasts. It gives some super-users the power to delete promotional posts, but “Spam deleters are not authorized to ban users, remove posts or delete discussion threads,” and they don’t get paid. Although super-users aren’t called moderators or administrators, Internet Brands’ system doesn’t let other users mute the super-users’ posts because they are classed equivalently to administrator/moderators in the system.

Alderson was a super-user/spam deleter. Jape was a regular user and posted some comments on the website under his username. For reasons that aren’t fully explained, Alderson decided to investigate Jape. Alderson then responded to Jape’s post by doxxing him–outing Jape’s real name and posting links to documents suggesting that Jape’s prior post may not have been fully forthcoming. Jape sued Alderson and Internet Brands for defamation.

The trial court denied Internet Brands’ summary judgment motions on Section 230 grounds. Apparently influenced by the bad Jones v. thedirty opinion, the trial court concluded:

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Case citation: Internet Brands, Inc. v. Jape, 2014 WL 2853849 (Ga. Ct. App. June 24, 2014)

Related posts:

* Section 230 Doesn’t Protect Employer From Negligent Supervision Claim–Lansing v. Southwest Airlines
* Site Moderators Weren’t Agents of the Site–Cornelius v. BodyBuilding.com
* Troubling Ruling About 47 USC 230 and Moderators–Cornelius v. DeLuca
* Stress-Relieving Company Gets Anti-SLAPPed Per 230

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/06/section-230-immunizes-website-for-super-users-doxxing-internet-brands-v-jape.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Want To Encourage Gossipy Content Online? Go For It–Jones v. TheDirty (Forbes Cross-Post)

8 12 2014

In 1996, Congress enacted a crucial Internet law, 47 USC 230 (Section 230), which says that websites aren’t liable for third party content. This law, though sometimes counterintuitive, has played a huge and helpful role in the Internet’s growth by fostering user-generated content websites.

The law also means that victims of online content sometimes might not have a place to turn for legal relief. Occasionally, sympathetic judges twist or distort Section 230 to let victims sue websites for third party content.

We saw an example of this judicial activism in a case involving Sarah Jones, who was the victim of several posts on a gossip website called TheDirty.com. Jones sued TheDirty for posting third party submissions containing defamatory claims about her. TheDirty repeatedly insisted that Section 230 preempted Jones’ lawsuit against her, but the district court judge rejected the arguments each time. The case proceeded to a trial, where the jury awarded Jones $338,000.

In a rousing victory for Section 230, TheDirty and all websites publishing user-generated content, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s Section 230 denials and the jury verdict, awarding a complete victory to TheDirty. It’s frustrating that the legal system took so long to reach this obvious conclusion, but the resulting appellate opinion is a satisfying denouement, providing substantial protection for TheDirty and other user-generated content websites.

Case citation: Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings LLC, 2014 WL 2694184 (6th Cir. June 16, 2014).

UPDATE: Richie’s lawyer, David Gingras, outlined his thoughts about the ruling.

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The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/07/want-to-encourage-gossipy-content-online-go-for-it-jones-v-thedirty-forbes-cross-post.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



The Right of Publicity: Cashing in on Being Famous

7 12 2014

In part 2 of my interview with Kristina Dinerman we discuss how aggressive celebrities are becoming with respect to protecting their right of publicity in the age of social media, whether the Supreme Court may interject itself at some point and decide whether tweeting constitutes commercial speech, and the growing phenomenon of people becoming celebrities as the result of being famous for, well… being famous.

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The content in this post was found at http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2014/12/04/right-of-publicity-cashing-in-on-being-famous/id=52381/ and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Section 230 Precludes Injunctive Relief Against Message Boards–Medytox v. InvestorsHub

7 12 2014

 

InvestorsHub runs message boards on financial topics. A user, Hawley, posted several messages on InvestorsHub about Medytox and its principals. Medytox and the principals sued Hawley for defamation and contacted InvestorsHub for its help. InvestorsHub removed two Hawley posts but kept 2 others. Eventually, Medytox sued InvestorsHub for an injunction ordering the removal of the remaining posts.

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2014/12/section-230-precludes-injunctive-relief-against-message-boards-medytox-v-investorshub.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.



Woman files $123M suit against Facebook over photoshopped nude photos

4 12 2014

Houston woman Meryem Ali has filed a $123-million lawsuit against both Facebook and a former friend who posted a picture of her on an “imposter” Facebook profile under her name, according to Texas Lawyer.

Photographs “that depict the true face of plaintiff” were altered with Photoshop and “attached to false, phony, naked body shots, and at least one pose where there is plaintiff in a graphic pornographic-like photo,” states the complaint, which was filed on July 25 in Harris County.

“These phony photos falsely and maliciously depicted plaintiff in a clearly derogatory and false light … as some overly bold and overly aggressive sexual person, which plaintiff in fact and truth is not,” writes Ali’s lawyer.

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The content in this post was found at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/07/woman-files-123m-suit-against-facebook-over-a-photoshopped-revenge-porn/ and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.