Anti-Spammer Wins 230 Defense–Pallorium v. Jared

By Eric Goldman

Pallorium v. Jared, G036124 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2007)

This case is another 230 defense win (using the rarely used 230(c)(2) provision) protecting anti-spammers for their efforts to combat spam.

Jared published a list of IP addresses for open relays so that others could use this as a blocklist. Pallorium’s IP addresses got added to the list, and Jared allegedly refused a request to remove the IP addresses. So Pallorium sued Jared.

Jared defended on 47 USC 230(c)(2)(B), which says “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of…any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material [that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable].” This rarely used provision suggests that filtering software vendors should not be liable for their filtering judgments, so on its face it looks like a useful defense here.

Pallorium attacked the 230 defense on 3 grounds:

1) Jared wasn’t an ICS provider/user. Following the rationale of a long string of courts, the court rejects this by saying that publishing content via a web server accessible to multiple users makes him an ICS provider.

2) The statute does not protect blocking decisions based on a server’s status as an open relay. The court rejects this by saying that so long as Jared deemed the content subjectively objectionable, his judgments were protected even if they were overinclusive.

3) Jared didn’t provide “technical means to restrict access.” The court says that Jared’s system of automatically checking if a server was an open relay qualified as a technical means.

I wouldn’t say that I was persuaded by the judge’s explication on these three points, but the judges reached the right result. I think it’s pretty clear that 230(c)(2) protects filtering judgments, and Jared was squarely in that sweet spot as a filtering database provider.

HT: Declan at News.com.

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