MEDIA

Federal Judge: Website Not Liable For User Comments

07/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A federal court has thrown out a defamation lawsuit against the site ConsumerAffairs.com, which posts people's complaints about retailers.

Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of Alexandria, Va., ruled that the site is protected from suit based on user comments under the federal Communications Decency Act.

The case involved a franchise of car dealers--Nemet Chevrolet of Jamaica, N.Y., and Thomas Nemet, the proprietor of Nemet Motors--who sued the Fairfax, Va.-based site in March after users complained about the dealerships.

Nemet listed seven examples of posts to the site that were allegedly defamatory. For instance, one unhappy buyer wrote: "We were trying to lease a car. Unfortunately, we got too excited so they took advantage by adding a lot of extras to the car without informing us."

But Nemet alleged that the author of that post had "signed a valid, binding retail agreement with the plaintiffs and then attempted to back out of the contract."

ConsumerAffairs.com argued that the case should be dismissed under the Communications Decency Act, which generally holds that Web sites are immune from liability for comments posted by users. The court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit last week.

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