Federal Court Upholds Tossing Craigslist Lawsuit

By March 18, 2008

Federal Court rules Craigslist.com is not liable for discriminatory housing ads posted on the Web site. On Friday, March 15, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsupheld a November 2006 ruling by the US District Court for the No

rthern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

In dismissing the case, the courts ruled that Craigslist.com serves as an intermediary party, not a publisher, and should not be held liable for discriminatory housing ads posted on the Web site.

In February 2006, civil rights group, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed a lawsuit against the popular online bulletin board. The lawsuit alleged that Craigslist published housing ads that discriminated against future tenants on the basis of race, gender and religion. In particular, Craigslist was accused of violating fair-housing laws by allowing users to post ads with language including "no minorities" and "Requirements: Clean Godly Christian male."

A Techdirt blog post, however, affirms that as a service provider Craigslist is protected under section 230 of the CDA. Craigslist is a platform for individuals to publish their ads. According to Techdirt, the fair housing group would better serve the public by targeting those responsible for writing the ads rather than Craigslist.

Experts said Friday’s verdict is not only a win for Craigslist, but also for Internet sites dependent upon user-generated content and for those against legal restrictions for the Web.

The decision means "the soapbox is not liable for what the speaker has said," said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that advocates online rights.

Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craistlist, is relieved by the court ruling.

"We're pleased the Court agreed that online service providers like Craigslist should not be held liable as `publishers' of content submitted by their users, and view this outcome as a win for the general public's ability to self-publish content (such as free classified ads) on the Internet," Buckmaster said in a statement Friday.

By Kathleen Clark
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