Good News For Social Networking Web Sites

The California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, ruled today that the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") immunizes the popular social networking web site MySpace from lawsuits brought by minors who have been sexually assaulted by adults that they met on the web site.

Were the law any other way, social networking sites would have to shut down as there is no way that a site could economically monitor, much less edit, all of the content that gets posted to a social network site on a daily basis. The Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. Section 230, enacted in 1996, provides Good Samaritan protections from civil liability for providers or users of interactive computer services for actions to restrict or to enable restriction of access to objectionable online material. The courts that have considered the matter have universally ruled that this statute provides a very broad immunity covering cases arising from the publication of user-generated content.

The courts have now found this immunity applicable to user generated content posted on social networking sites, dating service sites, web advertising, auction sites and company intranet sites. As one court so aptly noted, users who are hurt by a web site's publication of user-generated content do have recourse – they may sue the third party user who generated the offending content – but they can't sue the interactive computer service, the web site, that enabled those third parties to publish their content on line.