On Mon, 28 Jul 1997, Emily Christensen wrote:
> Here's a request for info re: legal consequences of chat hall/bulliten
> board regulation.
> I have questions about whether or not this will make us
> liable for everything else that is posted in the site, or whether we
> could be sued for censorship over blocking someone (or not blocking
> someone, whatever the case may be).
The Communications Decency Act contains a provision that specifically
protects ISPs from responsibility for content when the ISP is not
involved in the creation of content. This provision was tested in a libel
case in May and the defendant won. I don't have the citation with me, but
can send it if you're interested. I do not know if this provision protects
owners of a discussion list or chat room. I am not a lawyer but my opinion
is that it is a logical extension. I would first contact a lawyer or law
professor for an opinion.
Unless the chat room or discussion list is an OFFICIALLY sanctioned forum
created and maintained by a government body, it is not subject to First
Amendment protection. The First Amendment doesn't apply to forums created
by private entities. Also, it isn't enough that the forum resides on a
government owned server. For instance, a chat room created by a student
and residing on his/her personal web site on a university server would be
considered a private forum. Interestingly, the web site is most likely
protected from censorship by the University but the owner of the web site
or chat room, as a private individual, does not have to extend First
Amendment privileges to the chat room. Again, check with a lawyer or law
professor for more specific details.
David NL Day
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