“Perverted Justice” Still A Defendant

“Perverted Justice” is a Web site devoted to identifying and assisting with the prosecution of sexual predators. It is also a defendant in a defamation suit in an Arizona federal court. It seems a post on its site identified the plaintiff as a “Child Molester”, a “Convicted Child Molester”, a “Convicted Child Abuser”, a “Predator”, a “Pedophile” and a “Pro-pedophile.” The post also noted that the plaintiff had “starved a child.” The plaintiff had in fact been convicted of misdemeanor sexual conduct with a minor, so the court determined that almost everything said about her was true, and therefore not a proper basis for a defamation claim. But there was no evidence that she’d ever starved anyone, and so the court allowed her case to continue. And that brought up point two. Perverted Justice argued that as a Web site host, it was protected from liability for the content posted by the federal Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of that law provides that a Web site host is not the “publisher” of content posted by a third party. The problem for Perverted Justice, though, is that the plaintiff alleged that the site operator participated in the creation of the post. At this stage in the case, that’s enough to avoid a motion to dismiss. And so Perverted Justice remains in the case. No telling at this point what facts will emerge from the discovery process. The lesson is clear, though. If you maintain a site and want to avoid liability, don’t create content.