A Kansas City federal judge on Monday threw out a suit filed by an area woman who alleged that an Arizona website had libeled her.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple agreed with other courts that the protections offered websites under the federal Communications Decency Act are “broad” and “robust” when such sites merely allow third parties to post unedited material.
“This is precisely the type of situation that warrants CDA immunity,” Whipple wrote.
Broadly speaking, the 1996 law immunizes providers of “interactive computer services” against liability arising from content created by third parties, such as commenters on website message boards.
The woman, who worked for a Kansas City-area church and filed under her initials, S.C., brought the action last year against the website, www.TheDirty.com, and its owner, Nik Richie, after a former friend posted her photo along with a stinging critique of S.C.’s new romantic relationship.
David Gingras, a Phoenix lawyer representing the website, applauded Whipple’s order Monday.
“He did the right thing and followed the law, and that’s what we hope all judges will do,” Gingras said. “The law here is particularly clear. Some areas of law are well settled, and some aren’t. This is.”
Both S.C. and her lawyer, Matt O’Connor, had acknowledged that winning the suit would be difficult. O’Connor said he plans to appeal, and work on the notion that Richie helps to develop such lurid posts by soliciting them, being the forum host, writing the headline and adding his own comment.
“The whole idea of the website is to promote filth and lewd and lascivious accusations against people,” O’Connor said. “He posts the headline and his comment.”
In his ruling, Whipple said the plaintiff does have at least one other avenue for relief. She always can sue the former friend who wrote the item, Whipple noted.