Realty Group Not Liable for Web Posts, Court Says

     (CN) – A New York real estate broker’s claim that he was defamed on an industry Web site is barred by a federal law protecting online publishers, a state appellate division ruled.




     The Manhattan-based 1st Department Appellate Division dismissed Christakis Smiamili’s complaint, reversing a lower court’s decision allowing the case to proceed.
     Shiamili had sued the Real Estate Group of New York, claiming it “published numerous false and defamatory statements” on its online message boards.
     The appeals court said Shiamili’s complaint is barred by the Federal Communications Decency Act, which protects online publishers from content published by other people.
     The message board postings were “provided by another information content provider,” the appeals court wrote, quoting the Act.
     Shiamili had argued that the real estate group was responsible for the alleged disparaging statements because its job was to “administer and choose” content for the site.
     But the appellate division saw it differently, saying the Real Estate Group had simply exercised “a publisher’s traditional editorial functions” in deciding what to post.
     “[T]he complaint does not raise an inference that defendants were ‘information content providers’ within the meaning of the CDA,” the ruling states.
     Shiamili never claimed that the Real Estate Group wrote the statements, but said the group encouraged disparaging posts.
     But a service provider can’t be held liable for statements made by someone else, the appeals court ruled, even if its Web site design might influence content.
     The Act states: “No 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.”

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