RipOff Report Rides Roughshod in Court

Posted on April 11, 2016 in Disputes

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In a recent round of litigation concerning online content hosts, the online complaint site Ripoff Report won a defamation (and trademark) lawsuit filed in Florida by a Colorado company.

According to the site, the Ripoff Report is a worldwide consumer reporting website and publication by consumers, for consumers, to file and document complaints about companies or individuals. Apparently, it provides users with pre-programmed categories, or labels, for classifying their posts. The defendant, Whitney Information Network, became riled when it discovered that the posts complaining about it had been tagged with labels such as “corrupt companies” and “false TV advertising,” in addition to the more banal (and benign) “seminar programs” and “trade schools.”

The Florida federal district court relied on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects content hosts from liability for the comments and information placed on the site by users. Even though the Ripoff Report site provided the “categories,” the court found that that was not sufficient to move it out of the realm of mere host (where it is protected) and into the realm of content provider (where it would be more vulnerable).

To learn more about the case, see Wendy Davis’s article in Online Media Daily.

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