Internet Decency Act

Your reputation is priceless. But in today’s internet age that reputation can be tarnished with the click of a mouse. Before the internet age, decades of case established that if someone defamed you, you could sue them and any publisher of the defamation to seek damages and a retraction. Unfortunately, the ability to sue the publisher or distributor of the defamatory statement is very limited if the statement is published on the internet.

In 1996, Congress passed the Communication Decency (the “Act”). Tucked inside Section 230 of the Act is a provision that states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another…”  While you still have the right to sue a person that posted the harmful statement, the website provider may be immunized from liability for publishing the defamation. Similar protection also extends to a blogger for comments left by readers on the blog.

Our firm has litigated several cases where a client’s reputation has been damaged by defamatory statements on the web. If the person posting the statements identified themselves on the web, finding them, demanding they remove the defamatory statements and pursuing them for damages can be accomplished routinely. But when someone fails to identify who they are on the post, the injured party faces a real challenge in the effort to obtain justice.

In one recent case, the slanderer anonymously created an entire website devoted to defaming our client. We were able to subpoena the website hosting company to identify the website creator. After obtaining the identity of the wrongdoer, we convinced him to remove the website, write an apology to our client and recovered money for our client as well. In a second recent case, the person who posted the defamatory statements on a half dozen websites could not be found. Despite the Act, after contacting several of the website providers directly, we were able to convince them to remove the defamatory statements. Unfortunately, one refused at first; but, after we convinced the court to order the wrongdoer to remove the defamatory statements from the final website, we used that court order to convince the remaining company to remove the defamatory statement.

At Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC we are here to help you if someone is damaging your business or personal reputation. We can advise you on your rights and offer strong legal representation to assist in protecting you.

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