Craiglist Sure to Be Pleased by Judge's Ruling in "Erotic Services" Lawsuit
In another win for interactive service providers under the Communications Decency Act, a federal judge in Illinois has granted Craigslist's motion for a judgment on the pleadings in a suit over the website's former "erotic services" listings.
In the lawsuit, Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, alleged that Craigslist's erotic service category facilitated prostitution and constituted a public nuisance. Dart asked for an injunction prohibiting Craigslist from publishing erotic services listings, and sought to recover the money that his office has spent investigating prostitution occurring on the site.
The lawsuit gained national notoriety when it was filed in March. In response to the suit, Craigslist changed the title of the erotic section to "adult services" and implemented a manual review process for the listings in the category. Dart pressed on with the lawsuit, however, declaring that the changes did nothing to address his complaints.
Judge John Grady of the Northern District of Illinois decided that Craigslist was shielded from liability by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, though. Section 230 states that a provider of an interactive service can't be held accountable as a publisher of third-party material. In other words, websites that allow third-parties to post content - such as message boards or social networks - generally can't be sued because of the content that those third-parties place on the site. Responsibility for the content falls on the author of the content, not the website.
In this case, the judge ruled, that means that Dart could not seek an injunction or recover money from Craigslist since that would punish Craigslist as the publisher of the listings.
Sheriff Dart has suggested that he may appeal the ruling.
Dismissal of Chicago Sheriff's Craigslist Erotic Services Lawsuit