Monday, June 13, 2016

CDA Section 230 Takes a Big Hit in California

Business defamation lawyers need to take note of the Hassell v. Bird decision in California.  This published case signals a shift in California jurisprudence which has typically favored review sites like Yelp, Glassdoor and Ripoff Report.  As discussed in the video, Bird defamed Hassell in three anonymous Yelp reviews.  Hassell sued and obtained a default judgment including an injunction requiring Bird and/or Yelp to remove the defamatory postings.  Yelp refused on the grounds that its due process rights were violated since it was not a party to the litigation.  Additionally, Yelp refused on the grounds that section 230 of the CDA provided total immunity from liability and, as such, Yelp need not comply with the Court's order.

Yelp's arguments were not convincing to the Court.  Under California law a non-party may be compelled to comply with an injunction.  Under the CDA, state laws not inconsistent with the federal statute are unaffected.  The Court reasoned that non-party compliance with an injunction is not the same as a finding of liability for purposes of the CDA.  Thus, in California, non-party websites like Glassdoor, Yelp and the like may be compelled to remove material determined to be defamatory.

Businesses and executives have a new tool in California for eradicating defamatory material even when the website itself, like Ripoffreport, refuses to remove such content.

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