Forwarding Defamatory Email Immunized by 47 USC 230–Mitan v. A. Neumann

By Eric Goldman

Mitan v. A. Neumann & Associates, 2010 WL 4782771 (D. N.J. Nov. 17, 2010)

This is another email forwarding case. Others in this line include Phan v. Pham (2010), John Doe Anti-Terrorism Officer v. City of New York (2008), Barrett v. Rosenthal (2006) and Batzel v. Smith (2003).

In this case, a third party sent Neumann an email warning about Mitan and his family. Neumann then “forwarded the Mitan Alert and accompanying message in an email to attorneys and individuals he had worked with in a recent business transaction, adding the following text to the email chain: ‘He is our guy, a known convicted federal felon. Tried several deals before with other companies, supposedly tried the out-of-the-country store before . . .'”

The application of 230 to the forwarded contents is straightforward: 230 “provide[s] immunity from common law defamation claims for persons who republish the work of other persons through internet-based methodologies, such as websites, blogs, and email.” Mitan tries to undercut 230 by saying that the forwarded email’s substance originated from a print newsletter, but the defendants in this case received and sent the contents by email, making 230’s application unambiguous.

The court says that the introductory text added by Neumann does not refer to the plaintiff, so this completes the liability analysis. Case dismissed.

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