CDA Protection Stays Strong

In legal circles, CDA stands for the federal Communications Decency Act. That law does a lot of things, but the thing that gets the most attention is the protection it offers Web site hosts. In short, anyone who provides an “interactive computer service” is not considered the “publisher” of content provided by third parties. So, if some third party posts a defamatory comment on this blog, the target of that post can’t sue me. That’s different from, say, a letter to the editor in the print version of a newspaper. In that case, the paper is potentially liable if the letter defames someone. But tracking down and suing the anonymous blogger is often not worth the hassle. So in some respects, CDA means “Can’t Do Anything” about the offensive post. But the law certainly protects the free flow of information online, and courts have generally applied it pretty broadly. The latest example came for a Texas court, which recently ruled that a Web site did not lose the CDA protection when it stated that all information on its site is “believed to be accurate.” The plaintiff in the case argued that by vouching for the information, the Web host effectively became the content provider, and lost the CDA protection. The court found that the equivocal nature of the statement (“believed to be accurate”) hurt the plaintiff’s argument. It also felt that the statement “augmented” the third party content, but did not make the Web host the creator of that content. Which meant it still qualified as “third party content” for purposes of the CDA. Any comments?