iBrattleboro Founders Move to Dismiss Libel Lawsuit Under Section 230 of Communications Decency Act

Last week, I blogged about a lawsuit filed by Effie Mayhew against Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, co-founders and owners of iBrattleboro.com, in which Mayhew claims that Grotke and LePage bear liability for a comment a user posted on the iBrattleboro site. Today, Grotke and LePage filed their anticipated motion for jugdment on the pleadings, arguing that they are immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA 230").

As I mentioned in my previous post, Grotke and LePage are almost certainly shielded from liability under CDA 230. After reading their motion and re-reading Mayhew's complaint, it is clear that the court should dismiss the claims against them. Of course, the case would continue against David Dunn, who is the author of the allegedly defamatory comment, as he does not have a basis for immunity under CDA 230.

According to Grotke and LePage's motion, this case meets all of the requirements for immunity under CDA 230:

iBrattleboro.com fits the definition of an interactive computer service as contemplated by the CDA because it provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server and access to the Internet. See 47 U.S.C. ยง 230(f)(2). . . .

The complaint [treats Grotke and LePage as publishers of the allegedly defamatory comment] when it asserts that iBrattleboro's disclaimer of authorship of the content of the Dunn message "is insufficient to escape liability for the libel committed in the article." Complaint at para. 11.

[T]he information subject to the claim has been provided by a third-party information content provider. To find that this element is unquestionably fulfilled the court need look no farther than plaintiff's complaint itself. Plaintiff states that "On or about Sunday, September 30, 2007, Defendant Dunn authored an article on the website known as iBrattleboro . . . ." Complaint at para. 7.

Because Vermont doesn't have an anti-SLAPP statute, it's unlikely that Grotke and LePage will be entitled to recover their attorney's fees once the claims against them are dismissed. In any event, let's hope the court moves quickly and dismisses them from the case so they can focus their attention on continuing to make iBrattleboro.com an exemplary platform for community journalism.


Subject Area: