Are bloggers liable for defamatory third party comments to their posts?

We don’t know yet. But probably not.

The headline to this article from law.com is a bit misleading. It reads, “Judge: Bloggers Entitled to Immunity Under Communications Act.” While that is probably true, the case that the article covers did not address the defendant’s status as a blogger. Yes, the defendant Tucker Max has a blog, but the alleged defamatory comments at issue in the case were posted to a message board, not as a blog post or blog comments. The case is called Dimeo v. Max, (Slip Op.) 2006 WL 1490098 (E.D. Pa., 2006).

So the case really wasn’t much different from a lot of other cases applying 47 U.S.C. 230 to communications posted online. The leading case on Section 230 immunity, Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997) provided immunity to AOL for messages posted to a forum board. More recently, courts have found message board operators protected under Section 230 in cases such as Donato v. Moldow and Roskowski v. Corvallis Police Officers’ Association.

Section 230(c) provides, in relevant part, that “[n]o 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.” As far as I know, there have not yet been any reported court decisions addressing the question of whether Section 230 immunity applies to bloggers. We came pretty close to seeing the issue addressed earlier this year with the case of TrafficPower.com v. Seobook.com in a federal court in Nevada, but that case was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. [Read Eric Goldman's coverage of that case.]