Web sites that publish inflammatory information written by other parties cannot be sued for libel, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The ruling in favor of free online expression was a victory for a San Diego woman who was sued by two doctors for posting an allegedly libelous e-mail on two Web sites.
Some of the Internet’s biggest names, including Amazon.com, America Online Inc., eBay Inc., Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc, took the defendant’s side out of concern that a ruling against her would expose them to liability.
In reversing an appellate court’s decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides broad immunity from defamation lawsuits for people who publish information on the Internet that was gathered from another source.
“The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications,” Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion. “Nevertheless … statutory immunity serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation, as Congress intended.”