Section 230 Protects Another Newspaper From Liability For User Comments–Hupp v. Freedom Communications

Hupp v. Freedom Communications, Inc., 2013 WL 5947033 (Cal. App. Ct. Nov. 7, 2013)

This is a minor case involving a pro se plaintiff and a straightforward application of the law, so normally I wouldn’t blog it. However, over the years I’ve tracked the cases where newspapers have gotten a Section 230 win for readers’ comments to their stories, and this case adds to the canon, so I figured it was worth sharing.

The Orange County Register published a story. Two readers, Hupp and Bishop, got into it in the comments. The court suggests that Hupp demanded that the story author remove Bishop’s comments. I infer that didn’t happen, so Hupp sued Bishop and the Register. Hupp claimed the Register breached its user agreement by not removing Bishop’s comment, an obvious misreading of the Register’s user agreement that is typically made by plaintiffs looking to make something out of nothing.

The Register moved to dismiss the breach of contract claim under California’s anti-SLAPP law. Hupp protested that contract breach claims aren’t covered by anti-SLAPP laws, but that gets swatted down. Citing Barrett v. Rosenthal and Wong v. Jing, the court then holds that websites can be public fora, Bishop’s posts alleged a matter of public concern (whether Hupp was a vexatious litigant), and the Register wasn’t liable for Bishop’s posts due to Section 230. Case over and an attorneys’ fee award coming.

Related posts:

* Newspaper Not Liable for Moderated Online Reader Comments–Gains v. Romkey
* Yet Another Case Says Section 230 Immunizes Newspapers from User Comments–Hadley v. GateHouse Media
* Another Newspaper Isn’t Liable for User Website Comments Per 47 USC 230–Spreadbury v. Bitterroot Library
* Newspaper Isn’t Liable for User Website Comment Per 47 USC 230–Delle v. Worcester T&G
* 47 USC 230 and Message Board Cases
* 230 Protects Newspaper from Liability for Reader Comments–Collins v. Purdue
* Broadcaster Gets 230 Defense for Readers’ Website Comments–Miles v. Raycom