Yet Another Case Says Section 230 Immunizes Newspapers from User Comments–Hadley v. GateHouse Media

By Eric Goldman

Hadley v. GateHouse Media Freeport Holdings, Inc., 2012 WL 2866463 (N.D.Ill. July 10, 2012)

One of the safest bets in Section 230 jurisprudence is that a traditional media publisher won’t be liable for user comments to its website. Last year I posted some research on Section 230 cases and message boards, and I showed that traditional media publishers easily won all of the cases I knew about.

This case adds to the canon. In a brief opinion, the court easily finds that the Stephenson County, Illinois Journal-Standard isn’t liable for a comment by pseudonymous user “Fuboy” implying that Hadley (apparently a local politician) had committed sex crimes. Hadley half-heartedly argued that because Fuboy’s identity was unknown, it could have been a Journal-Standard employee. This argument is a truism, yet it can work with judges who are dislike Section 230 and want some reason to deny the motion to dismiss (see, e.g., Vo v. PissedConsumer and my discussion about this topic). However, this judge was properly unswayed, saying that, at most, the allegation would be “sheer speculation.” Without any reason to bypass Section 230, the court grants the 12b6 motion to dismiss.

Related Section 230 cases (all easy defense wins):

* Spreadbury v. Bitterroot Library

* Delle v. Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

* Miles v. Raycom Media

* Collins v. Purdue University