Florida Judge Rules Section 230 Bars Defamation Claim Against the Wikimedia Foundation


    The Wikimedia Foundation wins Florida defamation case; intermediary protections effectively protect Wikipedia article. From a story: On September 15th, in a victory for the Wikimedia movement and for all user-driven projects online, a Florida judge dismissed claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and infliction of emotional distress against the Wikimedia Foundation. The judge found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes the Wikimedia Foundation from liability for third-party content republished on Wikipedia. In other words, Section 230 helps Wikimedia safely host the work of Wikipedia’s contributors and enables the effective volunteer-led moderation of content on the projects. The case began when plaintiff Nathaniel White sued [PDF] the Wikimedia Foundation in January 2021, claiming that the Foundation was liable for the publication of photos that incorrectly identified him as a New York serial killer of the same name. Because of its open nature, sometimes inaccurate information is uploaded to Wikipedia and its companion projects, but the many members of our volunteer community are very effective at identifying and removing these inaccuracies when they do occur. Notably, this lawsuit was filed months after Wikipedia editors proactively corrected the error at issue in September 2020. Wikimedia moved to dismiss the amended complaint in June, arguing that plaintiffâ(TM)s claims were barred by Section 230. In its order [PDF] granting the Wikimedia Foundation’s motion to dismiss, the court affirmed that “interactive computer service providers” such as the Foundation generally cannot be held liable for third-party content like Wikipedia articles and photographs. The ruling also pointed out that the plaintiff’s amended complaint attempted to “hold Wikimedia liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional function.” In other words, the plaintiff argued that the Foundation should be treated like a traditional offline publisher and held responsible as though it were vetting all posts made to the sites it hosts, despite the fact that it does not write or curate any of the content found on the projects. The court rejected this argument because it directly conflicts with Section 230, which clearly states that when third-party content is involved (as was the case here), the online host is not liable for it. Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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