ONLINE LIABILITY BLOG

Section 230 On Appeal (47 USC 230(c)(1))

Roskowski v. Corvallis Police Officers’ Association

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DATE: Filed October 10, 2007.

COURT: United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Before Fernandez, Silverman and Graber, Circuit Judges. Graber filed separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Court directs that the disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by 9th Cir. R. 36-3.

PLAINTIFF: Pamela Roskowski

DEFENDANTS: Corvallis Police Officers’ Association (“CPOA”), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 223

MATERIAL ALLEGATIONS: Pamela Roskowski is a former police chief of Corvallis, Oregon. The subject website “allowed, if not encouraged, the public to post messages about Plaintiff. The website was advertised in the local newspaper and was intended to be used as a public forum for discussion about Plaintiff and her service as chief of police.”

“The information complained about is the anonymous e-mails critical of Plaintiff’s performance as chief of police that were made available through the website. Defendants claim that each of these e-mails was posted directly to the website by the anonymous author and that Defendants had no control over who posted or what was posted on the website. Plaintiff has offered no evidence to the contrary. All of the e-mails presented to the court were addressed to the mayor, members of the Corvallis city council and/or radio talk show host Lars Larson and were written by individuals under fictitious names. There is no evidence that the e-mails were forwarded to Defendants prior to being posted to the website or that Defendants had any control over the information contained in the e-mails that were posted on the website. The information complained about by Plaintiff was provided solely by an information content provider other than Defendants.”

CAUSES OF ACTION: Roskowski claimed that the defendants published numerous false and defamatory statements (“unverified” anonymous e-mail) on a website created by CPOA. Claims included libel, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Magistrate Judge Donald C. Ashmanskas of U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon concluded that “[p]laintiff is clearly treating Defendants as publishers or speakers of the information. Defendants qualify for protection under [Section 230] and can not be held liable for any defamatory information posted by others on its website.” District Judge Anna J. Brown adopted Magistrate Ashmanskas’ Findings and Recommendation and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

PROCEDURAL ACTION TAKEN HERE: Affirmed

OUTCOME: Citing Section 230 and several Ninth Circuit decisions, the panel ruled that Roskowski did not demonstrate that CPOA itself made the subject postings, thus, “she cannot hold CPOA liable for the content of the postings.”

See my post on the opinion here.

Written by Michael Erdman

Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 12:33 pm

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