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LEGAL DISCLAIMER


Question: Can an ISP or the host of the message board or chat room be held liable for defamatory of libelous statements made by others on the message board?

Answer: No.
Under 47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1): "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This provision has been uniformly interpreted by the Courts to provide complete protection against defamation or libel claims made against an ISP, message board or chat room where the statements are made by third parties. Note that this immunity does not extend to claims made under intellectual property laws.

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Question: Must an ISP or message board host delete postings that someone tells him/her are defamatory? Can the ISP or message board delete postings in response to a request from a third party?

Answer: 47 U.S.C. sec. 230 gives most ISPs and message board hosts the discretion to keep postings or delete them, whichever they prefer, in response to claims by others that a posting is defamatory or libelous. Most ISPs and message board hosts also post terms of service that give them the right to delete or not delete messages as they see fit and such terms have generally been held to be enforceable under law.

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Question: Can my ISP or the host of a message board be held liable for defamatory statements I make on the grounds that they are a "publisher" or "republisher" of the information?

Answer: No.
Federal law provides: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This has been interpreted to protect hosts of discussions between other people against defamation and libel claims as a "republisher" of the information. Note that this protection does not extend to claims under intellectual property laws.

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Question: How do CyberSLAPP plaintiffs discover the identity of anonymous Internet critics?

Answer: CyberSLAPP plaintiffs usually get the personal information you gave an ISP or online message board when you signed up (name, address, telephone number, etc.). Some web sites that host discussion boards might only have your e-mail address, in which case a second subpoeana to the ISP that hosts that address will reveal your identity. In many cases, even more detailed information about your use of the Internet can be obtained; it's important to realize that when you go online, you leave electronic footprints almost everywhere you go. (With advanced knowledge of the Internet, however, there are ways to cover your tracks.)