Broadcaster Gets 230 Defense for Readers’ Website Comments–Miles v. Raycom

By Eric Goldman

Miles v. Raycom Media, Inc., 2010 WL 3419438 (S.D. Miss. Aug. 26, 2010).

WLOX is a TV broadcaster in coastal Mississippi (although with those call letters, I expected it would be located in Brooklyn). Toni Miles, a WLOX anchor at the time, was arrested during a drug bust and subsequently fired from her job. WLOX reported on the bust via a story on its website (this story?), allegedly defaming Miles in the process, and user comments piled onto the story with allegedly false statements. Miles ultimately was not indicted for the drug bust.

With respect to the user comments, WLOX claims immunity under 230. This is a super-easy case, especially after the cited Collins v. Purdue case, and the court expends few words granting the immunity. The relevant discussion:

In the present case, Miles alleges that the defendants “ran a news article and subsequently allowed unfiltered online comments which contained false information.” (Compl. at 5). Miles does not allege that the defendants wrote or revised the false comments. In fact, she alleges that the comments were not filtered by the defendants. Furthermore, she complains that the defendants merely allowed the comments, and there is no indication or allegation that the defendants encouraged defamatory comments on their website. As a result, the Court finds that the defendants are immune from liability for the allegedly defamatory third-party comments published on its website pursuant to the Communications Decency Act.

The publisher also avoids liability for defamation and negligent emotional distress, but other claims are still pending.