College News Site Sued for Posted Comments

Student website editors take note: Here’s an interesting story on the Student Press Law Center website about a former student at Louisiana State University who is suing the college paper, the Daily Reveille, for comments that were posted about him on their website. At the heart of the case is the question of whether newspaper websites are protected from liability for comments readers post on their sites.

Web site operators cannot usually be held liable for anonymous comments on their sites because Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act protects “Internet service providers” from liability for content posted by users. Though courts have widely ruled this protection from liability applies to newspaper Web sites that host comment forums, Esfeller does not believe the Reveille should be considered a liability-free “Internet service provider” since the its editors can choose which comments are posted on the stories.
“As far as I’m concerned the Web site they provide is just an extension of their newspaper,” he said. “It would be the same thing as if they were printing these comments in their newspaper.”
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